Peter McManus Cafe — 65.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

What a pleasant surprise we had when we ducked into the Peter McManus Cafe, an Irish pub located in Chelsea, for a quick midweek lunch.   The pub, which was founded in 1932,  has been in its current location since 1936.   We can vouch that it looks like very little has been done to the interior since that time (which we think is a good thing).  The cafe has a bar in the front that is lined with stools, with a few tables and two or three flat screen tvs playing the game du jour.  In the back there is a dining room that is open to the bar area, but somewhat shielded from bar noise.

When we arrived all the tvs were on in the bar and dining room, but only one tv in the bar had the volume turned on.  This was not a problem at all, as it could easily be heard by the patrons sitting at the bar but was merely a background hum in the dining area, where we had our meal. With a decibel reading of 65.3, this was one of the most peaceful lunches we have had in a long time.

There is no question that the place was so quiet because is wasn’t crowded. In fact, the bar was only half full and the dining room was mostly empty.  That said, we think lunches generally should be comfortable, particularly in the dining space.  Our suspicion was confirmed by our friendly and efficient waitress who said that lunches tend to be quiet unless there was a big game on tv.  She noted that the space tends to be louder at dinner, but added that the jukebox in the front did not play in the dining area.   And no surprise, she confirmed that the place will be packed and noisy anytime there is a big game.

Peter McManus Cafe felt more like a pub with food than a restaurant, but they turned out a very freshly made and tasty club sandwich.  There are at least a dozen beers on tap and another dozen in bottles, plus an extensive list of whiskies from around the world.   More importantly, the place felt like a real neighborhood bar, and it was clear that the patrons lining the bar were regulars.

If you want to enjoy a beer and a burger in relative peace, head on over to the Peter McManus Cafe.   Neighborhood bars are a real rarity in Manhattan.  Enjoy this one while it’s still around (just don’t come during the Superbowl).

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 am.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Peter McManus Cafe

Winston Churchill Square — 73.5 decibels

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Sir Winston Churchill Square is a little pocket of serenity in the sea of insanity that is the conflux of 6th Avenue and Carmine and Bleecker Streets.  The square is directly across from the much larger, and much louder, Father Demo Square, which is always crowded on mild days and overwhelmed by small children (and their minders) who flock to its fountain in the summer.  With the commotion going across the street, it is easy to miss Winston Churchill Square entirely, which explains why it is generally quiet(ish) and calm.

That said, our sound meter registered at 73.5 decibels during our visit to the square.  At first that seemed anomalous, because we have been to the square a number of times and it was always calmer.  But then we recalled that during the reading period a couple of purposely loud motorcycles passed by, increasing the overall reading by at least two or three points.  [Aside: Why do people like to make that much noise and why do cities tolerate them?]

In any event, the immediate space of the square is lovely but street noise does intrude.  If the city were to ban the toys of the desperately insecure (look at me!), the square would be almost perfect.  Almost perfect because outdoor spaces are always vulnerable to the sounds and smells of the city.  For example, on the August afternoon that we took our decibel reading there was the occasional whiff of eau d’New York City (stale urine).  It wasn’t overpowering or constant, just noticeable with the intermittent breeze.

Winston Churchill Square is heavily shaded by mature trees, which cools the space down by about ten degrees–a very good thing on hot and humid days.  But be sure to keep an eye out for the bench under the pigeons’ toilet (no worries, it’s easy to spot).

If you are in the West Village near Bleecker Street and 6th Avenue on a muggy summer afternoon, grab a treat from one of the nearby ice cream shops, walk past Father Demo Square, and head on over to Winston Churchill Square to enjoy the (relative) serenity.

HOURS

Dawn (generally 7:00-7:30 a.m.) to dusk

LOCATION

1 Downing Street (where Downing, Bleecker, and 6th Avenue meet), NY, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Winston Churchill Square

 

Terrior Tribeca — 85.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We wanted to love Terrior Tribeca but we love our hearing more.  Terrior is located on quiet cobblestone street in Tribeca.  We liked the feel of the space, the selection of wines, beers, and ciders is extensive, and the cheese board was lovely (though small for the price).  What’s not to love?  The noise.   We visited on a Monday night–not Friday or Saturday–and yes there were a fair number of people in the space, but Terrior Tribeca was surprisingly and disappointingly loud.   The usual suspects were present, of course: louder than necessary background music, hard surfaces, et cetera.   We had assumed that a wine bar might be a bit more subdued or relaxing than an ordinary bar.  We were wrong.

Terrior Tribeca is a great place for a glass of wine and a nosh, but only if you are prepared to wear a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.  If not, avoid.

HOURS

4:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. every day except Sunday (closes at 11:00 p.m.)

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Terrior Tribeca

Bengal Tiger — 78.2 decibels

Bengal Tiger is a decent no-frills Indian restaurant located in midtown.  Ordering takes place at the counter, but it’s not a typical steam table affair.  Rather, the food comes out from a concealed kitchen.  Our meal was good, not great, but it was filling and inexpensive for its location (a little under $10 for two entrees, rice, and naan).

The sound level was manageable by the counter but loud where we were seated (near the exit) due to unnecessarily loud music and three loud customers.  As soon as two of the loud customers left things noticeably improved, even though the last loud customer was exuberant and occasionally squealed with laughter.   This cannot be helped and was not the fault of the restaurant, but the loud music made screaming (and squealing) inevitable.

Bengal Tiger was never peaceful or serene, and the noise level only improved after the loud couple  left, leaving the room a lot more tolerable and allowing for conversation without much strain.  Because it offers good food at a great price for its location, Bengal Tiger is going to be busy at lunch time and one should expect that it will be fairly loud.  Your best bet is to visit during off hours or take your food to go.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 5th and 6th Avenues, closer to 6th), New York, NY 11019

WEBSITE

Bengal Tiger

 

12 Chairs Cafe — 76.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

12 Chairs Cafe was mentioned in one of those compilations of quiet restaurants that appears every now and again in the mainstream media, so it went on our list of places to check out.  We had high expectations because it was on a very short list, but those expectations were not met.  Frankly, we didn’t think 12 Chairs Cafe was very quiet at all.

Almost every tightly packed table was taken during our lunch time visit (and there are more than 12 chairs, by the way), so we can fairly say that our visit should give a good approximation of what the space would be like during dinner service.  The noise came was mostly from our fellow diners, work colleagues out for a leisurely lunch, but the background music didn’t help.  Although the music wasn’t overpowering, it was unnecessary.  No one was there for the music; rather, the other diners clearly wanted to have a conversation with their table mates.  Had the music volume been lowered, the space could have been pleasant.  We should note that our table was under a speaker, so it’s possible that another table may have been marginally quieter.  Possibly.

We liked the food at 12 Chairs Cafe and the lunch time crowd suggests that it’s a neighborhood favorite.  Given how busy it was and the number of people packed into the space, it could have been worse.  But that shouldn’t be the measure.  Long and short, 12 Chairs Cafe was sort of tolerable but it could be so much more.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

12 Chairs Cafe

Patisserie Claude – 72.3 decibels

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Claude retired years ago, but this small French patisserie is still going strong (the current owner was trained by Claude).  You wouldn’t call Patisserie Claude pretty, but you don’t come here for the decor.  The patisserie is noted for its outstanding croissants and pain au chocolat, but you can’t go wrong with anything here.  The pastries, cookies, quiches, tarts, and cakes are all first-rate (the hazelnut buttercream cake is particularly fabulous).  Coffee and tea are also available.

There are only a few tables available should you wish to eat your purchase in situ.  But you may have no option other than taking your things to go.  Fortunately, Sheridan Square is nearby, so, weather permitting, you can have your coffee and pain au chocolat al fresco.  Because the space is small, it can occasionally get a bit busy and crowded, with customers waiting to purchase hovering over those enjoying their purchases in the shop.  That said,  except for the Spanish music playing softly in the background and the occasional burst of noise coming from the espresso machine, the place is generally peaceful.

If you love pain au chocolat, Patisserie Claude is not to be missed.

HOURS

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

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Patisserie Claude

Keko Cafe — 70.7 decibels CLOSED

Keko Cafe is a restaurant/coffee shop featuring breakfast all day, sandwiches, and Tunisian couscous and salads.   It was absolutely serene for the first ten minutes of our visit, with the sound meter hovering around 67 decibels.  The reading was impressive given that the cafe occupies a small space and was about half full.  Then, sadly, someone turned on the background music.  The volume wasn’t that loud, but the selection had an urgency that didn’t jibe with what had been a peaceful Friday morning.  We could have asked to have them lower the music, but opted not to as we had stopped by for a quick coffee and our visit was going to be short.  That said, even with the background music the place was pretty comfortable.

Given the neighborhood, which is short on good, independent restaurants and coffee shops and long on national chains, Keko Cafe is probably your best shot for a civilized meal or coffee break (and the coffee was good).

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 9:00 a.m. to 7:45 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Keko Cafe

Fika Duane Street — 72.2 decibels

Fika Duane Street

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Fika is a New York City chain of Swedish coffee shops featuring very good coffee, Swedish pastries, and chocolates (some locations also offer breakfast and lunch options).  Most of the Fika locations we have visited have lots of hard surfaces–tile, marble, glass, and metal–and the Duane Street location was no exception.  But the noise level at Fika Duane Street  was very manageable, partly due  to its high ceilings but mostly because all of the other customers were staring into laptop or cell phone screens.   That is, this location appears to have been adopted by the laptop brigade and, as a consequence, it’s almost library quiet.  Almost.  There was, of course, unnecessary and distracting background music, but the music was only noticeable because the other customers were so quiet.  Without the music we reckon the decibel reading would have come in at under 70 decibels.   Worth checking out, and try the delicious cardamom buns.

HOURS

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

Closed Saturday and Sunday

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Fika

Blossom Restaurant — 74.1 decibels

Blossom Restaurant is one of three restaurants that make up a vegan restaurant chain in New York City (the other locations are in the West Village and the Upper West Side).  We ate at the Chelsea location, which offers vegan fine dining in an attractive space–something you don’t always find at vegan restaurants.

We arrived for a relatively early dinner, so not surprisingly the place was fairly quiet when we were seated.  In fact, we were the only table in the upstairs dining room at first, but the place filled up quickly.  The meter went up when the table for two next to us was seated, as one of the diners was quite loud.  Sadly, there is little you or the restaurant can do when a loud customer is placed near you.  That said, the background music could have been a bit lower, but it was tolerable.

Overall, the space was relatively comfortable, and, importantly, the food was very tasty.   If you need to find a restaurant to impress a vegan friend or colleague, Blossom should be high on your list.

HOURS

Lunch/brunch daily: 12:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

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

Dinner Monday through Thursday: 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Dinner Friday and Saturday: 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Blossom Restaurant

Looking for some peace in London?

Look no further!  Run, don’t walk, to  A Peace of London, where Charlotte, the proprietrix, seeks out and reveals peaceful places throughout the city.  Her aim is clear and compelling:

A Peace of London is about relaxed, interesting and inexpensive places to eat, write and explore in London. Whether you’re a freelancer looking for a quiet place to work or you just want somewhere peaceful to switch off and while away your weekend, then this blog is for you.

If you love London (as we do), and are desperately seeking a little peace and quiet, go to A Peace of London and enjoy.  And don’t forget to subscribe so that every new post will make its way to your in-box.