Homestead Gourmet Shop — 71.2 decibels

Photo credit: Jeanine Botta

By Jeanine Botta

Online reviewers recommend the Homestead Gourmet Shop in Kew Gardens for its delicious homemade salads, authentic Polish and German specialty foods, highly praised apple, cherry, and cheese strudel, its friendly staff, and its charm. Regular customers and first time visitors enjoy the delicatessen’s authentic eastern European ambience, which will transport you to another place and time. But the Homestead has another authentic dimension, and that is its acoustic quality. You’ll hear sale interactions, conversations, and laughter, but that’s all you hear–there is no music or television playing in the background.

The acoustic dimension of a space is often ignored, but it takes a lot of work to create authentic soundscapes that reflect historical periods in theatrical productions. Soundscape researchers who focus on the aural environments of historic places propose that understanding the soundscape of a historic site has the potential to add a new layer of knowledge about the site’s past. In a space like the Homestead, its uncluttered soundscape may sound much as it did a century ago, when the space’s first occupant was a grocery store and delicatessen.

Photo credit: Jeanine Botta

The Homestead has counter service, and most customers take out their purchases, but there are two tables that each seat four. The closest subway station is Union Turnpike, where the E and F trains stop, and the Homestead is a ten-minute walk. You can also reach Kew Gardens by Long Island Railroad from Penn Station or from Jamaica.

The Homestead Gourmet Shop alone is worth the trip to Kew Gardens, but the village itself is absolutely charming. A few blocks away, Forest Park features several walking paths, and Kew Gardens Cinemas is right up the block, a five-screen multiplex featuring first run independent films and a lobby with its original Art Deco style preserved.

HOURS

Monday  Closed

Tuesday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

81-45 Lefferts Boulevard (at the corner of Cuthbert Road), Kew Gardens, Queens, NY 11415

WEBSITE

No website

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

Delimarie — 70.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Delimarie is a low-cost option in that yet unnamed area where Tribeca meets City Hall and various state and federal government buildings.  It follows the standard lunch buffet model: grab a container, pick and choose among the hot and cold options, and pay by the pound.  But Delimarie is so much better than your average deli buffet place.

Deli buffets usually offer the same choices no matter where you go, and everything looks like it was made in the same offsite industrial kitchen.  Not so at Delimarie.  The entrees and vegetables looked fresher and were tastier; the salmon was moist and tasted of salmon, not some packaged sauce.  Like most delis, Delimarie also offers sandwiches to order, and like their buffet options, the sandwich options were more interesting than what you typically find on offer. More importantly, the long lines of customers waiting to order suggests that they are much better than the typical deli sandwich too.

As if that weren’t enough, Delimarie offers something that no other deli has: beignets.  And these are real beignets, made to order, that are almost as good as those you get in New Orleans (we believe there is a connection to that city).  We didn’t try them during our lunch time visit, but we had heard that they are excellent.  We did try the beignets at Delimarie’s West Village sister restaurant, Cafe Marie (a future review), and they did not disappoint.

Finally, Delimarie offers another option that most delis do not–a relatively quiet eating area that seats at least 25 (look for the stairs in the back of the space).  There was background music playing during our visit but the volume was low, and although every seat was taken, the chatter was more than manageable.  It wasn’t the prettiest space, but it served it’s purpose and it was clean.

If you are in the Tribeca/City Hall area and want an inexpensive, quick, and quiet nosh, head on over to Delimarie.  Just remember to save some room for the beignets!

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (but buffet closes at 4:00 p.m., sandwiches at 5:00 p.m.)

Closed Sundays

LOCATION

Street (betw. Broadway and Church Street), New York, NY 10007

WEBSITE

No website

 

Gotham West Market — 76.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Gotham West, the “first-of-its-kind day & night market dining destination in Hell’s Kitchen,” on a not very busy Monday afternoon for a late lunch.  The space is an open floor plan with mostly shared seating that houses ten vendors selling better than average takeaway fare.  Gotham West Market essentially is a high-end food court.

We enjoyed our meal at The Cannibal.  While we were sitting at The Cannibal’s lunch counter and not the shared seating area, the reading should fairly represent the entire space as there were no walls or other barriers separating the various vendor spaces.  We were a bit surprised with the 76.4 decibel reading, as the sound level did not feel as loud as the reading might suggest.  We suspect the reason for the higher than expected reading was that every surface in the space is hard: glass, cement, metal, and tile.  Not a textile was to be found except for our napkins.  That said, the background music throughout the space was actually in the background, which certainly helps, as do the high ceilings.

While the noise level was acceptable during our visit, we suspect that on a very busy day the place could be excruciatingly loud.   When we chatted up a one of the workers, we were told that lunch hours later in the week and weekends, particularly around brunch, can be very crowded and very loud.  So aim for a visit earlier in the week or off hours.

HOURS

Hours vary according to the vendor, but one or more vendors should be available from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

600 11th Avenue (betw. 44th and 45th Streets), New York, NY 10036

WEBSITE

Gotham West Market

Delimarie — 70.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Delimarie is a low-cost option in that yet unnamed area where Tribeca meets City Hall and various state and federal government buildings.  It follows the standard lunch buffet model: grab a container, pick and choose among the hot and cold options, and pay by the pound.  But Delimarie is so much better than your average deli buffet place.

Deli buffets usually offer the same choices no matter where you go, and everything looks like it was made in the same offsite industrial kitchen.  Not so at Delimarie.  The entrees and vegetables looked fresher and were tastier; the salmon was moist and tasted of salmon, not some packaged sauce.  Like most delis, Delimarie also offers sandwiches to order, and like their buffet options, the sandwich options were more interesting than what you typically find on offer. More importantly, the long lines of customers waiting to order suggests that they are much better than the typical deli sandwich too.

As if that weren’t enough, Delimarie offers something that no other deli has: beignets.  And these are real beignets, made to order, that are almost as good as those you get in New Orleans (we believe there is a connection to that city).  We didn’t try them during our lunch time visit, but we had heard that they are excellent.  We did try the beignets at Delimarie’s West Village sister restaurant, Cafe Marie (a future review), and they did not disappoint.

Finally, Delimarie offers another option that most delis do not–a relatively quiet eating area that seats at least 25 (look for the stairs in the back of the space).  There was background music playing during our visit but the volume was low, and although every seat was taken, the chatter was more than manageable.  It wasn’t the prettiest space, but it served it’s purpose and it was clean.

If you are in the Tribeca/City Hall area and want an inexpensive, quick, and quiet nosh, head on over to Delimarie.  Just remember to save some room for the beignets!

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (but buffet closes at 4:00 p.m., sandwiches at 5:00 p.m.)

Closed Sundays

LOCATION

Street (betw. Broadway and Church Street), New York, NY 10007

WEBSITE

No website