Ford Foundation Building — 60.6 decibels

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

The public lobby of the Ford Foundation is not to be missed.  Unlike other public lobbies, there are no public toilets, food stands, tables, or chairs.  Rather, there is an absolutely spectacular indoor garden in a soaring atrium, a fountain in the middle of the space, and a low brick bench on the east wall.  What bliss!  When the decibel meter started it read only 57 decibels.  To date, this was the quietest public spot that we found in Manhattan.  What the Ford Foundation lobby lacks in amenities it makes up for in quiet.

No food and drinks are allowed, so come here if you want to chill with a book or meditate for a little while.   There are plenty of restaurants and coffee shops within a few blocks, so there’s somewhere to go if you feel peckish or thirsty or need to use a restroom.

Caution: The building will undergo an extensive renovation beginning October 2016; it is anticipated that the renovation will be completed in the summer of 2018.   The garden will be renovated as well–it will not be removed–but it won’t be open to the public until the renovation is completed.  Go and visit the space while you can.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (no holidays)

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Ford Foundation building renovation information

Ariana Afghan Kebab Restaurant — 74.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ariana Afghan Kebab Restaurant is located in a small space located on 9th Avenue.  We visited on a warm autumn afternoon, which explained the open door that let in street noise from busy 9th Avenue.  And there was a lot of street noise from the usual mix of idling trucks, sirens, honking horns, etc.  The space should be more comfortable during the cooler months when the door is shut.

Despite the street noise, and the exuberant chatter coming from the owner and a long time customer, the space is fine for lunch.  No surprise, as there are lots of textiles, a carpet, and other materials in the space that absorb sound, and the background music was actually in the background.

It’s hard to judge whether the sound levels at Ariana Afghan Kebab Restaurant would be  tolerable for dinner service.  Our guess is that on busy summer nights it could get quite noisy, but, as always, off times or dinner service earlier in the week should be perfectly pleasant.

HOURS

11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Ariana Afghan Kebab Restaurant

Darbar Grill — 63.5 decibels

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  A quiet midtown restaurant!  Darbar Grill wasn’t crowded when we visited for their excellent Indian buffet lunch (a great value for midtown, by the way), but we think that the place should pass with flying colors (green, of course) even when full.  The background music was a hair louder than necessary, but it could generally be called background music.  Although the room was only half full, there was one fellow diner with a booming voice (there’s always one, no?).  He stood out, but he failed to destroy the tranquility of the space.  Why?  Lots of wood (both flooring and paneling), upholstered chairs, table linens, and we were seated in the back dining room (which had a tray ceiling), not the front dining space near the bar.

Whatever the reason for this oasis of calm in midtown Manhattan, embrace it.  We will return.

HOURS

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

Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Darbar Grill

Waverly Restaurant — 74.1 decibels

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

The name maybe be Waverly Restaurant but this West Village mainstay is a quintessential diner with booths and counter service.  There is a full menu offering a wide range of items.  You can’t go wrong with their burgers and sandwiches, but they shine with their breakfasts.  Eggs, meat of choice, and potatoes come to the table in a small frying pan resting on a wooden plank.  The food is hot and the potatoes are actually worth eating.  And service is friendly and efficient.

For an 11:00 a.m.-to-noon visit the sound level was a comfortable 74.1 decibels.  The reading must have reflected the bustle of waiters running back and forth, because the background music was low and the surrounding chatter was manageable.   In a different space 74.1 decibels could have been uncomfortable, but not here.  That said, the restaurant was busy but not packed.  A line forms at the door after 12:00 p.m. during busy weekend brunch hours, so go earlier or be prepared to wait 15 minutes or so.

HOURS

Open 24 hours every day

LOCATION

385 6th Avenue (at the corner of Waverly Place), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Waverly Restaurant

 

Matryoshka — 64 decibels

Photo credit: GMB

It’s in here somewhere

Finding Matryoshka, an old-school restaurant featuring Russian comfort food, takes some effort–you have to walk through a labyrinthian space to find it, as it is hidden within a Russian bathhouse (the front desk clerk will give you directions).

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

At first, we were the only patrons during a lunch time visit, but other diners followed (including a table of chatty, jovial co-workers).  When we first walked in the waitress went up to the wall mounted tv and lowered the volume on her own initiative, so that the program played softly in the background.  The channel was one we never heard of, OANN, which reported on worldwide weather anomalies, followed by a documentary on the Hittites.  An odd choice, perhaps, but much better than loud, pulsating music.  There is no doubt that the space would have been louder if the room was full, but at 64 decibels there is room to accommodate additional diners.   [When we visited Matryoshka for lunch a few months later, the experience was the same.  There was one loud table but the tv volume was very low, resulting in a reading of 65.8 decibels.]

Matryoshka offers two prix fixe menus at lunch time ($12.95 or 16.95), both of which include a choice of salads (the house salad was simple but very fresh), soup, and an entrée, along with a basket of brown bread and butter.   The food was very good and filling and service was excellent.  We suspect the space may be louder in the evening when fellow diners are more likely to drink, so we will return to get a decibel reading during dinner service.

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

You just don’t find many places like Matryoshka any more.  If you are in the Financial District/South Seaport area, are very hungry, and like Russian food, we heartily recommend that you check out Matryoshka.  It is well worth the visit.

HOURS

7:00 a.m. to midnight every day

LOCATION

88 Fulton Street (betw. William and Gold, closer to Gold), NY, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Matryoshka

Jack’s Stir Brew (Front Street) — 72.7 decibels

All coffee shops are noisy when baristas are using the espresso machines.  This place was no better or worse than any other, clocking in at 72.7 decibels.  The physical space was fine–not too big, not too small, with a handful of tables and stools at the front window–but the background music was louder than it needed to be and favored the higher end of the hearing range, which we found annoying.  The exuberant coffee maker was chatty and loud as she talked over the espresso machine, but her friendliness was genuine and it was clear that she was speaking to regular customers.

There aren’t many options for good coffee around the Seaport, so if you are in need of a caffeine infusion it’s worth checking out Jack’s.  While the place could have been more comfortable, it was not unpleasant, the coffee is very good, and there is a nice selection of baked goods.  Note, however, that this location of Jack’s Stir Brew does not have a bathroom available for customers.  This is inexplicable.  If they only sold coffee for take out we would understand, but the space has tables and seating and it’s not exactly a secret that coffee is a diuretic.  Given New York City’s notorious lack of adequate public toilets, you may want to look for a more accommodating coffee shop.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

222 Front Street (betw. Beekman and Peck Slip), NY, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Jack Stir Brew

Kaffe 1668 — 76.8 decibels

The first floor space of this popular Tribeca coffee house was pretty manageable when we arrived, but we ducked below expecting a quieter space since the lower level was a magnet for the laptop crowd (who are, bless them, quiet).  We were wrong, however, as the reading during our visit was 76.8 decibels, mainly due to two men who sat down and chatted about business over their coffees.  When they entered, the decibel level immediately increased, but there also was the constant rumble of machinery that could not be ignored.

That said, the two men were distracting simply because they stood out–no one else was speaking.  There was one long table and everyone else in the space was working on a laptop.  We suspect that the space is generally very quiet except for the rumbling, which sounded like a large industrial washing machine.  The spacious and clean bathroom is also on this level.  It is marred, sadly, by the presence of our nemesis, an Xlerator hand dryer.  Why must they be so loud?

Not surprisingly the first floor space was completely filled and noticeably louder when we left–as noted, Kaffe 1668 is a neighborhood favorite and it is often busy.  And when it’s busy, the main level may or may not be tolerable.  If it’s too loud on the main floor, check out the lower level to see if it is manageable.  Kaffe 1668 offers an extensive range of coffees and teas, as well as breakfast and lunch items (oatmeal, yogurt, bagels, sandwiches, wraps, and salads).

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

275 Greenwich Street (betw. Murray and Warren Streets), New York, NY 10007

WEBSITE

Kaffe 1668

575 Fifth Avenue (L’Oreal Building) — 70.7 decibels

575 5th Avenue (L’Oreal Building) is a privately owned private space (POPS).  The lobby is a covered and climate controlled public space with plenty of tables, chairs, and benches for sitting and eating.  Some POPS are obvious afterthoughts, with little effort to make them useful or comfortable, but not this one.  One sure sign that a POPS is considerate and well thought out is whether it actually is used.  By that measure, the POPS at 575 5th Avenue is a success–it was packed when we visited.

Despite the crowds–every table taken and very little seating was available–and even though the lobby was clad in stone with metal and glass accents, the space registered a very reasonable 70.7 decibels.  It’s clear that the high atrium must wick the noise away, because the space was fairly comfortable.

The POPS has a newstand and Starbucks, but you don’t have to purchase anything to use the space.  In fact, many of the people eating at the tables came in with food they had obviously purchased elsewhere.  The lobby also has public bathrooms and they are clean!  And no hand dryers, just paper towels!  This is our favorite indoor POPS.

HOURS

7:00 a.m. to midnight every day

LOCATION

575 5th Avenue (at the corner of 47th Street), NY, NY 10018

WEBSITE

apops/MAS review of 575 5th Avenue

Bel Canto Condominium — 61.1 decibels

Not pretty, but at 61.1 decibels who cares?

Not pretty, but at 61.1 decibels who cares?

The Bel Canto Condominium is home to a publicly owned private space (POPS) that was absolutely serene on our weekday noontime visit.  There were only seven other people present, some eating, some not, and everyone was quiet–no conversations, no cell phones, no extraneous noise.  The building owners must have invested in special windows because the location was busy and there was a lot of street noise outside the building, but inside it was as quiet as a library reading room.

That said, you wouldn’t call this POPS pretty.  According to the APOPS review linked below, there used to be a restaurant in the space but it must have closed some time ago.  On our visit there were simply a number of mismatched chairs in various states of disrepair coupled with plain-bordering-on-ugly utilitarian tables.  There also were absolutely no amenities offered–no cafe, newstand, or public toilets–just peace and quiet.

If you are on the Upper West Side, crave some quiet, and don’t care about being in a beautiful space, try this POPS.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to midnight every day

LOCATION

1991 Broadway (betw. 67th and 68th Streets), NY, NY 10023

WEBSITE

APOPS review of Bel Canto

Connolly’s Pub & Restaurant — 71.5 to 86.7 decibels

You’ll get reliable pub grub from this local chain restaurant (two other midtown locations).  Aim for the first floor back dining room, which is carpeted and, importantly, physically separated from a very popular front bar.  A lunch time visit in that space was a pleasant 71.5 decibels and conversation was easy, though we must note that the room was only half full.  There are flat screen tvs the bar and dining rooms, but the tv volume in the first floor dining room was fairly low.

A visit to the second floor dining room was awful.  The second floor dining room is a large space, with no separation between the bar and the dining tables.  The place was packed, there was unnecessary background music, and anyone attempting to speak was screaming.  No surprise, then, that the visit averaged a punishing 86.7 decibels. Lowering or turning off the background music would have helped, but we don’t think that doing that would have lowered the volume enough to make the room pleasant or even tolerable.  It was simply too big and crowded and there was little available to absorb the sound.

Connolly’s is an obviously popular place, both for eating and drinking.  The front bar is very busy and loud at happy hour.  If you want to grab a bite, stick to the first floor back dining room.  If that room is unavailable, then avoid unless the place is empty.  As with most places, the bar and dining rooms may be bearable during off hours.

HOURS

Wednesday through Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. for food, bar open later

Saturday through Tuesday: 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. for food, bar open later

LOCATION

14 E. 47th Street (betw. 5th and Madison Avenues), NY, NY 10017

WEBSITE

Connolly’s Pub & Restaurant