Blarney Stone — 76 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

You just got out of Penn Station and you’re tired, thirsty, and hungry.  You know there is a high-end food court somewhere nearby, but you’re not sure where it is.   Frustrated you look for the first place that offers something to eat and drink, and there it is: the Blarney Stone.  You’ve read that many other locations of the Blarney Stone have closed in the last few years and you think this may be your only chance to experience it.  So suspending disbelief, you wander in hoping that you may be pleasantly surprised.  Never stop dreaming.

Sadly, your dream will not be realized at Blarney Stone.   Long and short, it’s dark, the music is too loud, and the food is merely adequate.  But it will do in a pinch.   The music was both loud and odd during our visit–we felt like we were sitting in an airport hotel lounge circa 1993.  A couple of regulars lingered at the bar, one of whom slurred a bit too loudly that he couldn’t go to another nearby bar because he got in trouble on account of his drinking too much.  Somehow the waitress was cheery despite her surroundings.

Our lunch at Blarney Stone was okay and we got to cross “check out Blarney Stone” off our bucket list.  There isn’t much right around Penn Station, so you could do worse.   We were there for a late lunch so we can only guess as to how loud the space gets at night.  From reviews left at various sites it appears that the Blarney Stone is a good, cheap place to stop off for a drink or nosh before seeing a game or concert at Madison Square Garden.  Presumably the place will be packed at those times and could be raucous, so avoid if packed.

HOURS

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

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. 30th and 31st Street), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

Blarney Stone

Atlas Cafe — 67.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit to Atlas Cafe was almost perfect.  The background music not too loud though it seemed louder than necessary since the place was otherwise calm and quiet.  The laptop brigade was present, of course, so not a sound was to be heard as they focused on their screens and quietly drank their coffees, bless them.  This is a truly quiet space.  That said, within a second of shutting off our meter someone ran a very small dish washer that was located right behind the counter area.  It was annoying, but not horrible.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Atlas Cafe features very good bagels, but also offers paninis, salads, and coffee.  The bathroom was small and, um, aromatic (not in a good way), but they have paper towels instead of a loud and useless electric hand dryer, so there’s that.

If you need a quiet place to do your work, or you want to linger over a well-made coffee, stare quietly into the distance, and contemplate the world, come to  Atlas Cafe.  You will not be disappointed.

HOURS

Open daily 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Rivington and Stanton Streets), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Atlas Cafe

 

Dough — 75 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We found ourselves on 19th Street because we had hoped to stop by Idlewild Books.  But when we approached Idlewild’s (former) location, we saw a sign saying that they had moved to the village.  Disappointed, we continued a few steps, saw Dough, and decided to drown our sorrow in a freshly made doughnut.

As you enter Dough, you will see a display counter loaded with every donut permutation you could wish for.  Give yourself time to check out all of the options.

 

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Dough provides a fair amount of seating for those who wish to eat their donuts in situ.  There is one long communal table with ten chairs in the middle of the space; a few stools are available at the front window.  Dough was comfortable but louder than it should during our visit because it was hijacked by someone who decided to use it as her office.  She sat at the communal table and proceeded to have a loud conversation with a client.  It was clear that Dough wasn’t a typical remote worker haunt, so this behavior is probably aberrational and the space is likely fairly pleasant most of the time.

And the reason for stopping by Dough are the doughnuts, of course.  Well, Dough succeeds here–the doughnuts are lovely, and the coffee is nice, too.  The space is a bit live, which is why one loud patron was able to raise the decibel level three or more points on her own, but we were comfortable enough during our visit.  If you are in the Union Square area, Dough is worth a visit.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 5th and 6th Avenues), New York, NY 1011

WEBSITE

Dough Doughnuts

 

Corner Bistro — 72.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Corner Bistro’s burger always seems to make the “best burger” lists, no doubt due to its status as a village institution (“the last of the bohemian bars in West Greenwich Village,” proclaims the Corner Bistro website).   We thought the burgers were fine, though not the best we’ve had, but the prices are good (drafts under $5) and the place was surprisingly pleasant at lunch.  The tables in the front were almost all taken when we stopped by, and the bar was about half full.  We avoided the back room because one guy–one very loud guy–made the space noisier than we liked, so we went to the front and took the last empty table.

The Corner Bistro has tin ceilings and corner windows, but the space didn’t feel live or pingy. There’s a lot of wood to absorb and deflect sound.  The tables are fairly close together, but it was fine.   A group of women to our left were great–chatty but not at all loud.  A couple to our right, on the other hand, were loud, with one of the couple  laughing as she spoke….endlessly.  But even with a loud laughing-talker nearby we found the space to be mostly relaxing and would definitely recommend Corner Bistro for lunch.

We couldn’t extrapolate for dinner or later, though, as the room could get packed and the introduction of large quantities of beer could change things.  After all, the following equation is almost always true: people + booze = noise.  That said, we can unreservedly recommend Corner Bistro for lunch, and simply advise that you proceed with caution at happy hour and on busy evenings.

Cash only.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

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

LOCATION

(at Jane Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Corner Bistro

 

Root & Bone — 80.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The music volume was entirely too loud from the moment we entered Root & Bone.  To their credit, when asked if the volume could be lowered, it was done immediately.  Once lowered, the sound quality of the space was far better, but it was clear that loud is the default.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The restaurant’s windows were open to street, allowing in traffic noise.   Fortunately, street traffic wasn’t too bad (although one fire truck did pass by).  Only a few other nearby tables were occupied and they didn’t really add to the noise profile.  No, the main factor  for the high decibel reading was the loud music.  Keep in mind that the meter constantly averages the decibel reading, so 80.8 decibels reflects the noise level before and after the music volume was lowered  on our request.   That is, the much calmer period after the music volume was reduced was averaged with the super high volume before the adjustment.  Had we not asked for the music to be lowered we believe the reading would have been around 85 decibels.

After the music was lowered, the space was pleasant enough but could not make up for the initial blast of sound.  The food was fine, although we weren’t sure if we like fried chicken with a pronounced citrus note (and we still aren’t sure).  One standout was the fabulous service.  Our waiter could not have been nicer–it was he who responded immediately to our request to turn down the music, and he went around the restaurant until he found the person with access to the volume knob.   We mourn for his ears, as one of ours felt a bit numb after we left.  One saving grace: there were no electric hand dryers in the bathroom.  There’s that.

HOURS

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

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

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

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

LOCATION

Street (at Avenue B), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Root & Bone

The Press Box — 69.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We sat at the bar for a mid-afternoon coffee and beer.  A couple of flat screen tvs were on and music was playing softly in the background,  but the space was fairly calm and it was easy to have a conversation–no screaming or straining.  That said, our experience is probably not a good measure as The Press Room wasn’t very crowded during our visit.  But we feel confident that week days at lunch time should be fine, and you could take advantage of The Press Room’s $12 lunch special.

As with most places, we would advise that you avoid happy hour and dinner later in the week.  Our waitress confirmed our suspicions, confiding that happy hour usually isn’t too crowded but it can get loud Thursday through Saturday.  She added that dinner should be played by ear, but said that brunch is almost always low key unless there is a football game on.

HOURS

Open daily 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. 49th and 50th Streets), New York, NY 10022

WEBSITE

The Press Box

 

Elizabeth Street Garden — 65.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Looking for a really peaceful enclave in Nolita?  Then run, don’t walk, to Elizabeth Street Garden.  The garden’s future is uncertain, so use its now and help those who are trying to preserve it by sending an email to Mayor DiBlasio.   The garden is the biggest green space in Nolita and, unsurprisingly, it is under threat of development.   Unlike other green spaces, Elizabeth Street Garden is not a city park though the land is city-owned.  We hope that it is preserved, because it’s a calm oasis in the middle of busy downtown Manhattan.  It also stands out among neighborhood green spaces because of all the statues that are dotted throughout.   At first the effect suggests a lack of restraint, but it very quickly feels charmingly quirky.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The garden is obviously well loved and used.  There aren’t many chairs or benches, but people make do and have impromptu picnics during their lunch breaks.  Some traffic noise intrudes, but it’s more than manageable as the garden runs between Elizabeth to Mott Streets, mid-block. Neither street is heavily trafficked, so there was no honking horns, sirens, or motorcycles during our visit.

Crowded yet calm, Elizabeth Street Garden is definitely worth a visit.

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day, weather permitting

LOCATION

Elizabeth Street (betw. Prince and Spring Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Elizabeth Street Garden

DeSalvio Playground — 69.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

DeSalvio Playground is not a pretty space, nor is it bucolic.  Street noise abounds, so the space is rarely calm, but there are four picnic tables and at least 15 benches available for the weary to rest or enjoy a nosh.  Street noise can’t be avoided at the playground as it’s on the corner of Spring and Mulberry Streets.  A quieter option is available nearby at the Elizabeth Street Garden, but that space has only one or two tables available should you wish to eat.

DeSalvio Playground

DeSalvio Playground

DeSalvio Playground would be a good stop if you have small children to entertain, as the playground has swings and other play equipment to keep them occupied, and spray showers are provided in the summer for the kids to cool off.   As a consequence, it may be crowded with screaming children, so proceed with caution.   If the space isn’t overwhelmed by children, bring your lunch, a coffee, and a book and chill.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to dusk every day

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Mulberry Street), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

DeSalvio Playground

 

Parm (Upper West Side) — 73.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were surprised that our visit to the Upper West Side location of Parm was unexpectedly comfortable.  Why unexpectedly?  Because we’ve been to the original Parm on Mulberry Street and it was LOUD.   And, to be frank, a quick look around the place was concerning because there were lots of hard surfaces–glass, tin ceiling, mirrors, tile floor, and marble bar top–and two flat screens tvs at the bar where we ate our lunch.

So why was the space pleasant?  First, the tv volume appeared to be off–we couldn’t hear it.  Second, while we could hear music, it was playing very softly in the background.  Third, nearby tables were quiet, including a table that had a handful of very small children.   All in all our experience was perfectly fine, but we must note that our visit was at lunch time so it may not be a fair indicator of what the space is like during a busier seating.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The bar counter is in the front of the large space, which also housed a number of tables and an outdoor seating area.  There are larger dining spaces in the back that are separated from the front of the house by a column or archway.  We checked out the main back dining area and it was fine, but not many tables were occupied.  Given the hard surfaces, large flat screen tv, and the bigger space, it is very likely that the back space would be uncomfortably loud when packed, but we think the front dining area would be fine even if the back is busy.

We can certainly recommend this location of Parm for lunch and suggest a seat in the front area, particularly if the back dining area is busy.  The food is good (although the chicken parm sandwich was not quite as good as was at the original location) and at 73.6 decibels the space is quiet…for the Upper West Side (at least at lunch time).

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

nue (betw. 70th and 71st Streets), New York, NY 10023

WEBSITE

Parm

 

Pho Sure — 74.8 to 75 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Pho Sure twice in as many weeks.  Our first visit was for a quick, early-ish dinner on a wet Saturday night.  We were in the front by the counter and cash register.  Music played in the background, but it was too loud.  No doubt the back dining room gets louder when packed, but it seemed fine too (we checked).  Pho Sure is not a place where people linger–diners come in for a good meal and leave.   We think it’s worth a visit because the noise level was more than manageable, the food is very good, and the prices are very reasonable, especially for the West Village.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited a second time in as many weeks as we were in the neighborhood, feeling a little peckish, and remembered Pho Sure’s crispy spring rolls (lovely), which we enjoyed with an iced Vietnamese coffee chaser (we will never sleep again).  This time we sat in the back dining room, which was full.  Once again music was playing in the background, and, as before, the volume was low.  Even though there are plenty of hard surfaces in the dining room, the space was pleasant.  We noted that a soft, textile curtain was decoratively draped over one side of the room.  No doubt it absorbs sound, but the curtain by itself could not explain why the space was fairly comfortable.  Our guess is that the music was low enough that people didn’t feel compelled to shout.  Whatever the reason, we were comfortable and happy for it.  If you are looking for good inexpensive eats in the West Village, you couldn’t do better than Pho Sure.

HOURS

Monday through Wednesday: 11:30 a.m. through 10:30 p.m.

Thursday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. through 11:30 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Bleecker and Bedford Streets), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Pho Sure