Mae Mae Cafe — 68.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Mae Mae Cafe is located in what is now called Hudson Square, that formerly unnamed few blocks south of the West Village and west of Soho.  It is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday, with dinner served only on Wednesday evenings.

We visited during a Friday lunch time and found it to be a comfortable space.  There were some kitchen sounds, but not many.  Music played very softly in the background, for the most part, with the volume creeping up a hair louder than we would have liked when a Nirvana song came on.  When it ended, the volume eased down to its previous level.

The room was at least half full when we entered, but the place emptied over our short lunch.  It is unlikely, we assume, that the space would be under 70 decibels if completely full, but it should be manageable.  Mae Mae Cafe is a small place, and while there are no textiles or other soft surfaces, there is a lot of wood and not as much glass, tile, and metal as one finds in a typically loud, live place.

In the end, we can safely recommend that you check out Mae Mae Cafe.  The space is mostly comfortable, and both the food and service were very good.

HOURS

Monday and Tuesday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Wednesday: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Thurssday and Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Closed Saturday and Sunday

LOCATION

Street (betw. Hudson and Varick Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Mae Mae Cafe

 

Russ & Daughters Cafe — 78.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were pleasantly surprised about the noise level at Russ & Daughters Cafe–it wasn’t bad at all for a very busy, celebrated place.  Every food site has written it up, and the food is very good, so of course there was a wait (45 minutes at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday in August).  As a consequence, almost every seat was taken during our brunch time visit, so we think the decibel reading can be relied on for lunch and dinner as well.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were seated in the front dining space.  The music was a bit louder than we would have liked, but in the end it was tolerable and sometimes more than tolerable (depending on the song), which was astonishing given that every surface in the front was hard.  We can only speculate that something was done to mitigate the noise.  Did the rounded ceiling helped to deflect sound?  Maybe, but we can’t be sure.  The back dining room is separated from the front, which helped, but the kitchen was open.  That said, the open kitchen occupied the space between the front and back dining areas, so kitchen noises didn’t intrude as much as one might have thought.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Whatever the reason, the space was not as loud as we anticipated.  In fact, we thought the space felt more comfortable than 78.5 decibels.   So, despite the hype and crowds, Russ & Daughters Cafe is worth a visit.  Yes, it could be a bit more comfortable, and it would have if they just lowered the music, but in the end it’s tolerable and the smoked salmon makes the visit worth it.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Russ & Daughters Cafe

180 Maiden Lane – 65.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

180 Maiden Lane’s newly renovated lobby is a privately owned public space (POPS) offering plenty of seating and amenities for the public.  The POPS has only been available from mid-summer 2016 because an extensive renovation was required after Superstorm Sandy.  A couple of years later and the lobby has finally been opened.  It is a clean, bright, and attractive space, but despite an otherwise excellent reading of 65.7 decibels, the soundscape at 180 Maiden Lane could be better.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There is a lot of seating inside the public lobby, and the design of the space is mostly thoughful.  It’s clear that attempts were made to introduce softer objects and materials–plants, trees, and a very comfortable and cushy astroturf in one seating area–that could mitigate the sound amplification caused by all of the hard surfaces, but there is a lot of glass and stone and the space felt live.  The only obvious and loud sound came from the security officers’ walkie-talkies which were set on loud.  Every screech, every beep, every word bounced around the space, leaving us to wonder just how loud it would get if the place was packed (which, we acknowledge, may never happen).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Since seating is provided throughout the main floor lobby, there are some smaller seating areas that will likely be more manageable than others.  It felt quieter, for example, on the east side, which bordered South Street.  That said, there was a constant mechanical hum throughout the lobby–we think was coming from the escalator leading to the second level, as the sound got louder as we walked towards it.  The hum wasn’t awful but it was constant; it sounded like white noise.

The lobby has one cafe (it was closed during our visit) that offers the usual deli staples of sandwiches, coffee, bottled drinks, etc., but you can bring your own food and drink and enjoy the space.   It was not crowded during our visit, and given how live the space was with a small group of people about, we suspect it could be significantly louder if fully occupied.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

180 Maiden Lane provides two public bathrooms that are clean and disabled accessible.   And it also offers one amenity that no other POPS offers: free charging stations for public use.  Both bathrooms and the charging stations can be found near the Pine Street entrance.

If you are wandering around the Seaport area and want to grab a quick lunch from one of the food trucks in the area, head on over to 180 Maiden Lane to enjoy your nosh, rest your feet, and charge your devices.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

180 Maiden Lane (betw. South and Front Streets), New York, NY 10038

WEBSITE

180 Maiden Lane

Madman Espresso — 75.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The music was louder than is should have been at Madman Espresso, and the espresso maker was, without doubt, the loudest we have ever heard.   But the service was perfect and the small space was not crowded.  If the music volume had been lower, the space would have been more than tolerable.  As it was, tolerable is the best one could hope for.

That said, there aren’t many coffee options around New York Eye & Ear and Madman Espresso is right across the street, so it is worth considering a visit there if you are in the neighborhood.  The coffee was very good and the barista couldn’t have been nicer.   You could do worse.

HOURS

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

Saturday and Sunday: 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st and 2nd Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Madman Espresso

 

Clinton Hall — 87.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

It’s early evening and you’re in the Financial District looking for a place to chill with your friends.  You spy Clinton Hall and see that there is plenty of seating and a nice crowd.  Should you pay a visit?  Nope.  Why?  We have 87.7 reasons why you should avoid Clinton Hall (with a proviso below).  Which is sad, really, because Clinton Hall has the potential to be a good bar option as it has a very good beer list and tasty snacks.  But a good beer list and tasty snacks cannot make up for a punishing noise level.

We were seated inside during our visit and wondered if the noise level might be more tolerable sitting outside during the warmer months, but we were advised by someone familiar with the place that it is just as loud outside as it was inside.   So what was the culprit?  The usual, very loud music.  And once again it was very loud bland, nondescript music.  We didn’t recognize a song–it was nonstop forgettable corporate pop drivel.  Why do places do this?  If they are going to bombard their guests with loud music, they should at least have the decency to play something interesting.  But we shouldn’t have been surprised as Clinton Hall smells like it’s owned by one of those hospitality partnerships.  That said, it has the potential to be a mostly fun place as they have lots board games, including some oversized games meant for groups, and plenty of seating inside and out.  That is, It could be fun if one could hear one’s companions, but it was really difficult to do so during our visit.

We must note that within minutes of turning off the decibel meter the music volume dropped off dramatically.  Why?  It was 10:00 p.m. and we assume that they were observing the New York City Noise Code rules governing places that play music.  Good for them for being observant.  One hopes they eventually recognize that the bar becomes comfortable only after the music volume is lowered.  And yes, it was actually comfortable once the volume was lowered.

Generally we would advise you to avoid a place with a decibel reading this high, but the Financial District has few real options and there are ways you could negotiate a visit to Clinton Hall.   Long and short, we advise that you visit only if the temperature is warm enough to allow you to sit outside, you aim for a table furthest away from the indoor space, and the place is fairly empty.  Or you could stop by after 10:00 p.m.

NOTE: Our visit occurred before the scaffolding appeared.  With the scaffolding there could be a difference in noise level, certainly for the outdoor seating.  Proceed with caution.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Thursday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

90 Washington Street (betw. Rector and Joseph P. Ward Streets), New York, NY 10006

WEBSITE

Clinton Hall

 

Cafe Luka — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Cafe Luka is more of a diner than cafe.  It serves standard American diner favorites, like wraps, sandwiches, and a pretty good burger.   It’s fine for what it is but it could have been a lot more pleasant if they just lowered the music (or shut it off as no one was listening to it).

Other than the music, the other layers of sound were manageable.  A flat screen tv was prominently placed, but we couldn’t hear the audio.  The chatter was fairly quiet even though the place was full.  In fact, we had to sit at the counter as no tables were free.  Kitchen sounds occasionally colored the soundscape as a bussing station was situated near us, but the bussing noise was manageable,  as was the staff chatter as they ran the orders back and forth.  The only reason for a lackluster review was the music.  It was unnecessary and intrusive.

In the end, Cafe Luka was tolerable.  If you are in the neighborhood and looking for a quick, basic meal, you could do worse.

HOURS

6:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day (may be open slightly later on Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate customers)

LOCATION

nue (betw. 70th and 71st Streets), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Cafe Luka

 

622 3rd Avenue — 66.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The indoor portion of this privately owned public space (POPS) is tolerable, barely.   A POPS is “an amenity provided and maintained by a developer for public use, in exchange for additional floor area.”  POPS can vary in quality, but the covered public spaces tend to offer more amenities, like cafes and public restrooms, and they tend to be better maintained.

The covered POPS at 622 3rd Avenue is, essentially, the lobby of an office building, and it is not used much by the public for good reason.  There were some stone benches for the public to use, but the absense of softer surfaces or materials–everything was glass or stone–made the space an echo chamber.   The space was so live that the sudden chatter of workers leaving the lobby elevators was startling.  So this public space could be useful if one had to escape a sudden storm, but 622 3rd Avenue is not a place to linger or enjoy.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The nearby outdoor POPS looked nice, though, and there are tables and chairs for public use in the  adjacent court yard.  There is also a second level terrace that’s the public may use, and an elevator is provided for access by the physically disabled.

Unlike other covered POPS, the public space at 622 3rd Avenue does not provide public bathrooms.   In short, the indoor POPS will serve in a pinch but it is less than inviting.

HOURS

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

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Landscaped Terrace w/ access for disabled open same hours from April 1st through November 1st, but weekdays only from November 2nd through March 31st (winter hours)

LOCATION

622 3rd Avenue (at 40th Street), New York, NY 10017

WEBSITE

APOPS/MASNYC’s review of 622 3rd Avenue

Sweet Life Cafe — 72.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Sweet Life Cafe is a neighborhood diner in the far West Village populated with a steady crew of regulars.  We stopped by for a quick lunch.  The music was a hair louder than necessary but most of the sound came from the chatter between the owner, waitresses, and customers.  In fact, we were asked if we were familiar with a recently released movie (we weren’t) out of the blue by the affable owner/manager.  It’s that sort of place, where anyone at any time may ask you a question as if you were part of the general scene.

In fact, Sweet Life is the sort of place that you assume exists only in other neighborhoods but you don’t expect to find in the West Village with its astronomical commercial rents.  Fortunately, you would be wrong.  Sweet Life Cafe is a genuine neighborhood place, an old-school diner where you can have breakfast all day or sandwiches, burgers, and other typical offerings.  The burgers were tasty and reasonably priced for the village, too.

The decor is nostalgic–tin ceiling, a couple of banquettes, old-fashioned tables and chairs–and it had an older crowd during our visit.  Even with the music and convivial group conversation, the place is fairly comfortable.  Definitely check it out if you want a tasty, inexpensive meal in one of the friendliest places in the West Village.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Greenwich and Washington Streets), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Sweet Life Cafe

 

Brandy Library — 78.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Brandy Library was much more pleasant than the 78.3 decibel reading would suggest.  We think the meter may have picked up chatter between the bartender and a nearby guest, which artificially elevated the reading, because we found the space to be really pleasant and did not feel that we were straining ourselves to have a conversation.  The bar top was made of copper, so perhaps that effected how sound was reflected.  In any event, sometimes a reading is higher than a space feels–this was one of those times.

We have been advised that Brandy Library doesn’t get louder than it was during our visit, which was fairly crowded.  But be advised, reservations are a must if you wish to visit Thursday through Saturday.

Brandy Library’s selection of brandies, whiskeys, and other liquors is extensive, and there is a smaller beer and wine menu.  It also has a food menu offering sandwiches, entrees, and small plates.  The bartenders are very knowledgeable, so if you want some guidance when you order, you are in luck.  In fact, Brandy Library offers a roster of classes to guide you through the world of whiskeys, scotches, and other spirits.

Brandy Library is where grown ups go to drink.  It is, in a word, civilized.  Well worth a visit.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

Thursday: 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 4:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Hudson and Varick Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Brandy Library

Malatesta Trattoria — 88.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

What a disappointing visit.  We enjoyed the food and loved the look and layout of the space, but  Malatesta Trattoria is the single loudest restaurant that we have visited to date.  The design elements did not bear the brunt of the blame this time.  No, it was the combination of unnecessary background music, an open kitchen,  yelling staff, and overwhelming street noise that combined to make for one of the most unpleasant dining experiences we have ever had.

August 2016 will be remembered as a particularly uncomfortable, hot, and humid month; it was a real struggle slogging through the month.  Opening the windows may have seemed a sensible choice, particularly as Malatesta is located close to the Hudson River and the open windows invited in the occasional breeze.  But you know what also helps?  Air conditioning.  And under the circumstances–it was hot as hell and muggy to boot–air conditioning was called for.

There was some air conditioning or a strong fan going in the space, but the open windows meant the space was not going to approach cool.  And if the windows were closed, at least the traffic noise could have been kept out.  That said, if the windows were closed and the music was kept at the same volume, the experience might have been worse since glass is unforgiving.  So what could they do to mitigate the sound overload?

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As usual, the simple act of shutting off the music that no one was listening to would have gone a long way to make the space more hospitable.   We could hear the other patrons screaming over the music but we could not hear the music clearly enough to “enjoy” it.  In short, it simply added a thick layer of unnecessary sound that brought no pleasure to anyone.  The only reason we didn’t run from the place was because the open windows kept the space from being live and, to be frank, it was too damn hot to contemplate finding another place for a nosh.

The physical space is charming and the food was lovely–we wanted to fall in love with Malatesta Trattoria.  Sadly, we could not, and must regretfully recommend that you avoid it.

HOURS

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

Saturday and Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (on the corner of Christopher Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Malatesta Trattoria