Cafe Prague — 77.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit at Cafe Prague was more tolerable than the rating might suggest.  The space was fine until someone sat next to us who obviously had untreated hearing loss.  He had a very animated conversation with his guest until he turned his attention to his iPhone.  Before his arrival and during his obsession with his phone, the space was really comfortable.  That said, the basketball game playing on a big flat screen tv to didn’t help, but at least the volume wasn’t too loud, which was remarkable under the circumstances (big playoff game).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

That aside, Cafe Prague is a nice inexpensive place near Union Square for a nosh.  We enjoyed a chicken schnitzel and some very tasty potato salad that accompanied it (the meal also came with lettuce and sliced cucmber and tomatoes).  We must caution that it’s not a place for anyone watching their weight.  As they proudly announce on their website, Cafe Prague is a place “where calories do not count and time slows down.”  And both statements are true, as you will not feel rushed as you dine on your plate of decidedly not diet food.

Cafe Prague gets very good ratings at Yelp and Google, and they are deserved.  The place feels like it’s been around for a while. It’s best described as a mix of an old country restaurant meets New York City deli.  The food looks and tastes fresh and seating is comfortable.  We definitely recommend a visit if you are in the Union Square area.

HOURS

Monday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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

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

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 5th and 6th Avenues, much closer to 5th), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Cafw Prague

 

El Quinto Pino — 73.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

El Quinto Pino is a find.  Located on a quiet street in Chelsea we could tell that we were going to enjoy our visit from the moment we saw it.  We don’t know how long it has been around, but it had the bearing of an old neighborhood favorite.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

When we arrived for a Sunday brunch there was no music playing in the small dining space and the room was about half full.  At some point someone turned on the music.  Fortunately, the volume was set on low and the music was absolutely appropriate–loungy bossa nova, the perfect accompaniment for the look and feel of the place.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

A large table was expected and we have no doubt it could have been uncomfortable had we stayed, but they didn’t arrive while we were there.  Lightly finished wood floors and high ceilings helped to blunt any noise, but the dining space felt somewhat live.   A large tapestry on the back wall appeared to absorb some of the sound.  Whether it was intended only as a decor accent, we don’t know, but textiles are one of the easier ways to mitigate sound.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There is a bar at the entrance that is separated from the dining room.  As no one was there during our visit, we couldn’t review that space.   But it looked inviting  and we could see ourselves stopping by the bar for a happy hour, lingering over a drink and some tapas.

Service at El Quinto Pino couldn’t have been better and the food was delicious.  If you are in Chelsea and want a place to chill, El Quinto Pino should be on your short list.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Friday: 5:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 9th and 10th Avenues, closer to 9th), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

El Quinto Pino

Ost Cafe — 67.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ost Cafe is a very nice little coffee shop offering coffee, tea, and sweet treats.  It’s located on the very edge of the Lower East Side where it meets Two Bridges.  This part of the Lower East Side hasn’t been over-developed yet; many of the nearby stores still have signs written in Hebrew.

Music played quietly in the background during our visit–mostly jazz instrumentals, no voices–and there were only four other patrons working silently on their laptops.   So we were not surprised that the decibel reading was under 70.  Other than the four laptoppers, a couple of people stopped by for a coffee to go, waiting quietly until their drinks were served.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Overall, we had a very pleasant visit to Ost Cafe.  It was very nearly perfect except for one thing– the front door was open to the street.   We assume the door was open because it was a mild late spring afternoon and the space was cooled by the gentle breeze.  Presumably the door is shut during the dog days of summer and in the winter, so street noise should not be a problem most of the year.  But street noise was an issue during our visit because several too-big-for-the-city semi-trailers were stopped outside the entrance, idling loudly as they waited for the green light.  The only other source of noise was the occasional buzz of the bean grinder.

Ost Cafe was very manageable even with the doors open.  It should be absolutely delightful in the height of the summer and winter.   We recommend that you visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. East Broadway and Henry Street), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Ost Cafe

Nom Wah Tea Parlor– 78 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Nom Wah Tea Parlor is an old-school Chinese restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown.  The restaurant was thoughtfully renovated a few years back–the space was cleaned up but the decor was left unchanged.   Some version of the place has been around since 1920.  It’s a very comfortable space that is atmospheric without feeling staged.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited at lunch time.  Nom Wah was pretty busy, which accounts for the 78 decibel reading.  Truth be told, the space was more comfortable than the reading might suggest.  Nom Wah was at least two-thirds full when we first arrived and the sound level was tolerable.   As people left and the space became half full, it was mostly comfortable with the only annoying factor being low but unnecessary music and the sharp sounds of dishes being placed into busing bins (we were seated nearby).

Nom Wah is definitely worth the visit.  Dim sum is offered all day; the place is very popular for a reason.  When full, the sound level could be intolerable, but Nom Wah was almost full when we were first seated and we didn’t run away.  And, frankly, restaurants in Chinatown tend to be very busy and often are loud.  You would be hardpressed to find a better option than Nom Wah.

HOURS

Sunday through Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw.Pell and Bowery Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

Jefferson Market Garden — 74.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Jefferson Market Garden is similar to another of our favorite outdoor spaces, Jackson Square, in that it is an absolutely beautiful, well-tended, and well-loved park, but it suffers from its location.  Located on the site of a former women’s prison, the garden is bordered by 6th Avenue and Greenwich Avenue and is plagued with constant traffic, unrelenting horn honking, and never-ending construction noise of some sort or another.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit was short.  It started off louder than it ended due to a utility truck that was idling very loudly nearby.  There’s a fire house about a block away, so loud sirens are common (one returning fire truck made its way back home during our visit), as are those purposefully loud motorcycles.  There wasn’t one silent moment, not a minute of calm during our visit.

That said, Jefferson Market Garden is still worth visiting.  The plantings are lovely, with bursts of color throughout, and fragrance has not been ignored.  We could smell the roses whenever a breeze swept through.   So come and enjoy the lush plantings and riot of color.  Just don’t expect a peaceful visit, because you won’t get it.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The garden is open when a member is present, which generally is not a problem during the season (April through November).  Some bench seating is provided but is often occupied as the garden is very popular.

HOURS

Tuesday through Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to dusk (from April through October), weather permitting

Closed Mondays

LOCATION

70 A Greenwich Avenue (betw. 6th Avenue and W. 10th Street), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Jefferson Market Garden

Coffee Foundry — 68.5 to 71.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Coffee Foundry is our current favorite coffee shop, so we’ve had a number of visits.  Our first visit clocked in at a surprising 71.5 decibels.  Why was that surprising?  Because we did not expect to find a relatively quiet coffee shop on usually loud, and often raucous W. 4th Street in the heart of the West Village.  Background music was playing but the volume was very low, and only a few people were chatting (and they were chatting quietly).  The space is filled with hard surfaces, but there appears to be acoustic tiles on the ceiling.  That makes sense as  Coffee Foundry is an ongoing pop-up in a karaoke bar (the bar starts after the coffee shop closes).

It’s obvious that the space is a favorite of the laptop brigade, which explains why it is so calm.  And why wouldn’t it be a favorite?  Coffee Foundry offers them useful amenities, such as electric outlets along the bar, co-working spaces for rent, and an $11 unlimited tea/coffee offer (but not special tea or coffees).

Photo credit: Helene Gross

Photo credit: Helene Gross

Our second visit was even better than the first–the reading clocked in at a very respectable 70.1 decibels.  The crowd was very quiet, with most  staring at their laptops.  There was some unnecessary background music but, as during our first visit, the volume was very low.  This time there was one chatty and animated guy who apparently didn’t notice that everyone else was working (or otherwise quiet).  There almost always is one.

Finally, our most recent visit came in at only 68.5 decibels.  The music was a bit louder than we would liked this time, but the reading was under 70 decibels (and we were under the speaker).

The reason Coffee Foundry is so peaceful is that most people come here alone to do work, but it doesn’t feel like a library or an office.  It’s a comfortable space with varied seating (stools and tables/chairs), sweet and savory offerings, and outstanding service.  The two guys who are most frequently behind the bar are friendly and more than accommodating.   So come and visit.  Just don’t be the chatty guy.

HOURS

Monday through Friday:

Saturday:

Closed Sunday

LOCATION

Street (betw. Barrow and Jones), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Coffee Foundry

Cafe Katja — 70.8 to 78.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We decided to check out Cafe Katja, an Austrian restaurant on the Lower East Side, for lunch.  During our visit the decibel meter initially hovered under 70 decibels, closer to 67 decibels.  No surprise, as only one other table that was occupied, and even though the windows were open, there wasn’t much street noise.  But then a party of approximately 20 teenaged girls walked in.  We expected the worst, but the space remained comfortable (it must be noted that the group was very well behaved and, while chatty, not that loud).  No doubt a different group may have resulted in a much different experience.

That said, even with the party of 20 the place was not quite half full and bar was empty, so the noise levels were very manageable.  This made it difficult to guesstimate what the noise level would be like at brunch or dinner.  There is a tin ceiling and large windows in the space, but wood floors and upholstered banquette seating compensate for the hard surfaces, and the space is broken up into distinct seating areas (bar, dining room, and side dining space) by the use of a column or other divider.  We can unequivocally state that for a Thursday lunch, the space was comfortable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

To see how things panned out at dinner, we visited Cafe Katja again.  Our reading of 78.2 decibels shows the space was plainly louder, but it wasn’t as uncomfortable as the reading may suggest.  The culprit was the background music, which was too loud for the first 30 minutes of our visit.  You can imagine how happy we were when the music volume was lowered, because once the volume was adjusted the space was comfortable.

Our comfort level pre- and post-music lowering highlights an obvious problem seen (well, heard) at most restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.  Namely, background music generally encourages people to raise their voice to be heard over the music, which then encourages their neighbors to raise their voices to be heard over the music and the other speakers, and so on.  It’s a known phenomenon, see The Lombard Effect.

In any event, our dinner ended on a high (but not too loud) note.  We must point out that our visit was on the early side on a Saturday evening–the space may have been louder later that night.  That said, we would recommend a visit to Cafe Katja.  The space is very nice, the service is good, and the food is delicious.  Cafe Katja also has a nice selection of beers and very good coffee.  Keep in mind, however, that the menu is meat centric– there aren’t many options for vegetarians.

HOURS

Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Monday: 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Tuesday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Grand and Broome Streets), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Cafe Katja

 

Jean Claude II — 66 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This French bistro was an absolutely blissful 66 decibels!  Yes, it was a Monday lunch.  Yes, the room was not crowded.  But there was background music–appropriate and low–and chatty fellow diners.  No doubt the space is louder at brunch and dinner–will visit then to confirm–but for lunch, very little comes close to this oasis of peacefulness.  Bonus?  The food is lovely.

HOURS

Monday through Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

1343 2nd Avenue (betw. 70th and 71st Streets), NY, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Jean Claude II

Burp Castle — 71.3 to 79.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were told that we must visit Burp Castle because the bartenders were known for shushing the crowd.  Sadly, the rumor appeared to be untrue during our first visit as there was no shushing at all.  We were disappointed, particularly since there was one–and only one–loud guy who threw off the reading.  Once he and his companions left, the place was pleasant.  It was, in fact, the perfect setting for a well-crafted beer and quiet conversation, with its subdued lighting and music played softly in the background.  We must add that the music did not start playing until after the loud table left.  If they had not been present, the place would have been idyllic.

Once Party of Loud left, and even with the music playing, the reading recovered.  In fact, we stopped the first reading, which clocked in at 77.3 decibels, after an hour or so and turned the meter on again to see what the space was like after Boomy McScreamer departed.  The answer?  71.3 blissful decibels.

So why is Burp Castle comfortable?  It has high ceilings, a wool rug, and plenty of wood, all of which help to absorb or deflect sound.  The walls are covered with murals that are appropriate and not hokey, making the space feel like it’s been around for years.  If we lived in this neighborhood, this would be our neighborhood bar.

Burp Castle offers a good selection of interesting beers that are listed on a chalk board behind the bar; the beer menu changes frequently.  There are no food options, but we bet the bartender wouldn’t object if you brought in some nibbly things to go with your beer.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We enjoyed our visit to Burp Castle so much that we followed it up with another a week or so later.  It was louder during our second visit because the place was absolutely packed–standing room only.  That said, the music was turned off as the placed filled up, so the noise volume was created entirely by voices.  And, as rumored, there was shushing from the bartender and at least one patron.  Lots of shushing, in fact, which worked for a few minutes but had to be repeated.  Still, the rumors about this place are true–if you are too loud, you will be shushed (or even asked to leave, or so we’ve been told).  For that reason alone, Burp Castle climbs to the top of the list of our favorite bars.

Even though the reading during our second visit was dangerously close to 80 decibels  we would still recommend Burp Castle.  You may want to give it a pass on a very busy night, but when it’s busy the staff takes measures to keep things in check.  And on a slower night, it’s positively blissful.  Go.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 5:00 p.m. to midnight-ish*

Saturday and Sunday: 4:00 p.m. to midnight-ish*

Closing time is flexible.  It’s more likely that the bar will close after midnight later in the week, but it depends on the crowd.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 2nd and 3rd Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Burp Castle

 

Mon Petit Cafe — 72.2 decibels [CLOSED]

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit to Mon Petit Cafe was brief as we only had time for a rushed lunch, but we wished we could have lingered.  The cafe, which has been a neighborhood staple for over 30 years, offers French bistro classics in a comfortable space.  We enjoyed our meal and found the space to be   pleasant, in large part because the background music did not overwhelm and customer chatter was subdued.  It was only half full during our visit but we were near the busy kitchen, so the 72.2 decibel reading is from the noisiest table in the restaurant.  We suspect that the ceiling tiles (which may be acoustic), cafe curtains, cloth-covered tables, and a long upholstered banquette helped to keep the sound in check.

We were very happy with our decision to give Mon Petit Cafe a try and hope to return for dinner or brunch.  Mon Petit Cafe would be a great spot to visit during a shopping jaunt, as it is near Bloomingdale’s, Barneys, and lots of American and International shops.   A yes for lunch, and given the design elements,  dinner should be manageable, particularly earlier in the week.

UPDATE: After 32 years in business, Mon Petit Cafe, a neighborhood favorite, succumbed to “the crushing force” that is “the climate for [a] small business like ours in New York City.”   Or, in other words, they couldn’t make a penny after payiing the criminal commercial rent demanded by the real estate warlords.  In the end, a city that once thrived with small mom and pop businesses is becoming increasingly overwhelmed by national chains favored by the commercial real estate monsters.  RIP, Mon Petit Cafe.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

nue (at the corner of 62nd Street), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Mon Petit Cafe