Katsu-Hama– 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Katsu-Hama is a calm oasis in midtown.  The menu features panko-breaded fried pork or chicken cutlets.  They offer a number of lunch specials for all appetites, including a seafood katsu option.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The decibel reading for our visit was higher than we would have guessed, because we found the place to be very comfortable, even relaxing.  Although we were seated in the front where parties of one or two are placed, we believe the reading fairly reflects the entire space as we checked out the back dining area and found it to be consistent with our experience up front.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Calm is the word that best describes Katsu-Hama.  Instrumental jazz played very softly in the background.  Nearby diners chatted, in person or, sigh, on their phones, but it wasn’t bad–no screamers.   We did pick up some kitchen sounds, but they weren’t jarring or pingy.  The space is not live, and the low lighting and soft music really make for a relaxing experience.  We highly recommend a visit to Katsu-Hama.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 5th and Madison Avenues), New York, NY 10017

WEBSITE

Katsu-Hama

Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor — 62.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Here’s something we don’t often write: it was almost too quiet at Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, especially since we could have done without the background music, but this location of Sarabeth’s was not live at all and could best be described as sedate.

Upholstered banquettes lining the walls, a drop ceiling, and some structure kept the room calm.  Except for the unnecessary and inappropriate background music, this was one of the most serene meals we have had in a long time.  And the music–current pop hits that were most definitely not being enjoyed by the older crowd–was a mere annoyance in the otherwise comfortable space.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We understand that some of the larger department stores in Manhattan have cafes, and some of them have been well received. The food at Sarabeth’s was fine for what it was, but no one is going to go out of their way to eat there unless they are shopping beforehand or afterwards. This restaurant exists for convenience.  And it’s worth a visit if you have some shopping to do, as it’s nice to have a civilized lunch in chaotic midtown. Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor is definitely a place were you can have a meal and a conversation. We recommend it.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

424 Fifth Avenue (at 39th Street), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Sarabeth’s

Utsav — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were in midtown craving an Indian buffet for lunch in one of the few parts of the city where  they still happen. We love a good Indian buffet, and Utsav did not disappoint. There was a great selection of dishes (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), accompanied by desserts, salads, appetizers, and chutneys. Yes, we did try a little of everything and were completely satisfied with our meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And we were not alone. The place was packed and, given the design choices, it wasn’t exactly  calm. Among other things, the dining area is one large room with no dividers to deflect or segregate sound.  At least there were some textiles in the space–curtains framed the windows running the length of the room, and there were upholstered banquettes spanning the middle of the room–but it’s not clear that they offered much sound absorption or diffusion.

But considering how busy the place was, we thought the noise level was perfectly acceptable.  And we must note that the reading reflects that there was one large and chatty table near ours. Once they left, the space got a lot quieter.

Utsav is a popular lunch spot, so this was its busy time. We think the reading was respectable and feel comfortable recommending it as a midtown lunch option. We were advised that dinner tends to be less crowded and is noticeably quieter.

HOURS

Lunch 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily | Dinner 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily

LOCATION

(entrance on 46th Street betw. 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10036

WEBSITE

Utsav

Bread & Butter — 77.1 to 81.3 decibels

Photo credit: Jeanine Botta

By Jeanine Botta

When it comes to nutrition and healthy eating, salad bars have a bad reputation, and concerns are often justified. People tend to make unhealthy decisions that cancel out healthier choices, selecting all the right vegetables before adding hundreds of calories worth of salad dressing and fats that should be eaten sparingly. But if you make smart choices, you can eat well and get your recommended daily requirements of fruits and vegetables that real world American diets often lack.

Working for several years in Midtown, I’d sometimes fit twenty minutes at a gym, thirty minutes at a salad bar, and a quick walk into my lunch hour. Then my company’s headquarters moved to North Carolina and the rest of us started working from home. How I missed the salad bar! Suddenly I had to be more responsible for buying, cleaning, and preparing my own vegetables.

Bread & Butter on Fifth Avenue is the salad bar I visited most often during those years, and even now I’ll go there sometimes for a quick meal. During peak hours, the food is fresh, the recipes are good, and there are abundant healthy choices. Like most salad bars where food is weighed, prices are on the high side. But without having to tip a server or buy, clean, and prepare fruits and vegetables, you save money and time, and boost consumption of those foods.

When I measured sound levels at Bread & Butter, I was surprised the decibel reading wasn’t  lower, because I’d always considered both dining areas to be moderately quiet. Upper and lower levels each feature a television set and piped in music set at low volumes, and on the lower level, sounds of voices at high occupancy can block out television and music. I measured sound sitting directly under a speaker and sitting several feet away – where you can’t hear the music – and obtained similar sound level readings.

If you prefer a predictably quiet sound level and prefer to avoid any amount of broadcast sound, you’ll be taking your chances at Bread & Butter. It is quieter before noon and after peak hours, but after the lunch rush some food selections are not replenished when they run out. Food is also replenished less frequently in the salad bar, there are fewer food selections, and the lower level may be closed on weekends.

But if you’re happy with moderate sound levels in a busy Midtown eatery, the ease of communication is usually decent at Bread & Butter on Fifth Avenue, especially on the lower level.

HOURS

Open 24 hours

LOCATION

303 Fifth Avenue (at the corner of 31st Street), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Bread & Butter

The Red Flame Diner — 70.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Looking for a no-nonsense place in midtown for a quick meal in relatively peaceful surroundings? Look no further than The Red Flame Diner on W. 44th Street, near 6th Avenue.  The Red Flame Diner has plenty of booths for two or four and a small counter with stools near the back.  This is not haute cuisine–the food is straight forward diner classics done right.  More importantly, you can eat and have a conversation with your guests–and most people were chatting–with ease.  No straining, no screaming.

The Red Flame will have you in and out in short order.  But despite the bustle–and the place was nearly filled to capacity during our Saturday brunch time visit–it’s comfortable.  The only black mark was background music, but the volume was low enough so it could be ignored.  That said, why have it at all?  No one was listening to it and it added an unnecessary layer of sound.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Given that almost every seat was filled, we were pleased with the noise level during our visit.  It’s unlikely that it would be much louder if the few empty seats were filled, so we have no reservations in recommending the Red Flame Diner.  If the music were turned off or lowered, we would give this place our highest mark.  Still, second place isn’t bad at all.

HOURS

Open 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day

LOCATION

67 W. 44th Street (betw. 5th and 6th Avenues), New York, NY 10036

WEBSITE

The Red Flame Diner

La Bonne Soupe — 71.2 to 75.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We’ve visited La Bonne Soupe for lunch on three separate occasions, as it’s conveniently located a few blocks away from The Museum of Modern Art.  On our first visit, we had a very pleasant late lunch at this midtown French bistro.  The door was open to the street–and there was street noise–but it really did not impact the noise level in the place.  The main space was at least half full, and the other patrons were chatty, but the space was really comfortable.  There were a couple of obvious reasons for this: background music was actually in the background, there were upholstered banquettes lining the room, and the cloth-covered walls appeared to be padded.  The design decisions, coupled with restraint with regard to the background music, kept the noise at reasonable levels.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our second and third visits were in late autumn, so the door was not open to the street, but the dining room was packed.  On both occasions we were seated near the loudest part of the first floor dining room–tables situated near the bar.  This area is bustling, as the busboys come over to replenish glassware and to grab utensils to reset tables, and the very friendly bartender has a booming voice.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Still, despite the chatter and glassware noise, we would still recommend a visit but would suggest that you ask for a table furthest away from the bar or ask if there is a free table on the second floor.  While we haven’t eaten in the second floor dining room, we popped up for a quick visit and discovered that it was quieter than the first floor.  There also appears to be a back dining space on the first floor, but it wasn’t clear whether customers were seated there during lunch service.

Long and short, La Bonne Soupe is a good safe option for bustling midtown.  The sound level is mostly manageable, the food is good, service was fine, and the meal was reasonably priced for the location.

HOURS

Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Monday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m..

LOCATION

WEBSITE

La Bonne Soupe

Woorijip Korean Restaurant– 72.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Woorijip Korean Restaurant is a great place for a quick, cheap meal in that sliver of midtown known as Koreatown.  The lunch buffet is only $7.99/lb, and they offer pre-packaged meals too.  It’s perfect for what it is, and its fresh and tasty buffet options include many vegetarian dishes along with bulgogi and other meat-based offerings.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The space was surprisingly calm given how busy it was–almost every seat was taken.  Tables are communal, so if you see an empty chair, it’s yours.  There were some couples and groups, but they chatted quietly to each other.  Korean pop was playing in the background, but the volume was very low.  We were surprised at how comfortable we were in this very busy dining room.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Woorijip is the place to go when you want to eat and run, but not because you are racing through your meal to escape the din.  No, Woorijip is highly recommended if you are looking for good cheap eats in relatively pleasant surroundings in midtown.  You will be hard pressed to find a better value.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. Broadway and 5th Avenue), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

Woorijip Korean Restaurant

Andrews Coffee Shop — 77.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Andrews Coffee Shop is a diner on the corner of 35th Street and 7th Avenue in the heart of midtown.  The noise level was better than the reading may suggest.  The noise profile was higher due, in part, to a manager inexplicably putting a landline phone on speaker, set at the highest volume, while he was trying to contact some who didn’t answer until after 20 rings .

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Even with all the flat screen tvs, most of the sound was due to the very busy staff bustling back and forth and kitchen sounds.  The place was packed during our visit.  In fact, no tables were available so we sat at the counter.  We tried to determine if music was playing in the background, but we couldn’t tell to be frank.  If yes, the music volume was very very low.  The noise level was mostly due to voices and kitchen sounds.  We found the space very tolerable and were surprised by the reading because we expected it to be under 75 decibels.   Finally, the food was fine and everything looked freshly made.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If you are looking for a quick nosh in midtown, you could do a lot worse than Andrews Coffee Shop.  The place is bustling for a reason–it’s a clean space that offers decent diner favorites at reasonable prices for midtown.  Though it was very busy, we found the space to be tolerable.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

nue (at the corner of 35th Street), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Andrews Coffee Shop

Kinokuniya New York — 61 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Bliss.  Kinokuniya is a Japanese-based retailer selling books, magazines, and Japanese pens and stationery.  Those of you who love to try out new pens and pencils already know that Japanese stationery products are compelling, and Kinokuniya has an excellent selection that is unmatched in the city.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

That said, what makes the store so delightful is seeing the interesting array of products displayed in such a peaceful space.  Books and magazines are on the ground floor, stationery and novelties are in the basement. Give yourself some time to look around, because there is a lot more on display than you may first appreciate.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This delightful store is located directly across from hectic Bryant park, a beautiful park marred by constant, jarring street noise.  Check out the park and then escape to Kinokuniya for some peace and more–a recent visit revealed a cafe on an upper level, and quick look around convinced us to come back to check it out.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. 40th and 41st Streets), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Kinokuniya US

Keens Steakhouse — 71.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Lunch was had in Keens’ pub, which was a pleasant 71.4 decibels.  There was unnecessary background music–no one was listening to it–but it wasn’t overpowering.  As usual, one’s experience will depend, in large part, on one’s immediate neighbors–a sad but true fact in any public space.  So, when a loud and whiny customer was seated near our table, the meter jumped a hair.  Fortunately, things improved when lunch was placed in front of him and he tucked in.  Relief!

The pub wasn’t completely filled, so we can’t say whether the space would remain relatively pleasant if packed, but as we walked past the busier bar and dining room we noted that they were relatively quiet as well.

Keens is well worth a visit for very hungry carnivores.  They are known for their mutton chops, which are delicious and huge!  That said, a smaller, more manageable version of the chop is available in the pub.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 11:45 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Saturday: 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

LOCATION

72 W. 36th Street (near the corner of 6th Avenue), NY, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Keens Steakhouse