Khe-Yo — 65.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

What a lovely place!  Khe-Yo offers “Laotian-inspired Southeast Asian cuisine” in the heart of Tribeca.  It wasn’t very crowded when we arrived for a Tuesday lunch, and was mostly empty by the time we left.  So while the reading suggests that it was absolutely serene, please keep in mind that  Khe-Yo will be louder when full.

That said, Khe-Yo has a balance of hard and soft surfaces.  The wood floors are unfinished and the brick walls are not sealed, both of which could possibly absorb some sound, something that isn’t likely with more highly finished surfaces.  Fabric wall hangings are placed around the main dining area, and they probably helped to abate sound–they surely didn’t reflect it.  Upholstered banquettes circled the room, adding yet another relatively soft surface.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was music was playing in the background during our visit.  It was at a perfect volume–loud enough to recognize what was playing but not so loud as to force people to scream over it–and the choice of music was neither jarring nor inappropriate.

We enjoyed our meal, and our Vietnamese coffees–one hot, one iced–were first rate.  Khe-yo’s space is attractive and comfortable, and we found it very relaxing.

Given the vibe of the place and the materials used in its design, we think that Khe-Yo should be tolerable even when fairly full.   You will be hard pressed to find a more relaxed, comfortable spot in Tribeca.   We were very happy with our visit and intend to return to confirm that Khe-Yo is  comfortable during dinner or brunch service.

HOURS

Monday through Wednesday: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Thursday and Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Saturday: 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. West B’way and Hudson Street), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Khe-Yo

 

Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen — 68.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen isn’t a calm or peaceful place yet we still recommend it.  The noise level would have been perfect if they weren’t playing Ukranian music videos on a flat screen tv.  That said, the volume was tolerable even if the music was unnecessary.  So why do we recommend a visit?  Because Streecha isn’t your typical Manhattan restaurant.

Streecha feels like a church basement because it is, essentially.  According to EV Grieve,  it “is a fundraising arm of the St George Ukrainian Catholic Church up the street.”   You enter and approach the counter at the end of the dining room to place your order.  Then sit at one of the communal folding tables.  The tables are covered with plastic tablecloths, and the chairs are stackable.  A basket of plastic utensils sits on one of the tables–help yourself.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The menu and hours are limited.  Your choices are borscht, pierogis, cabbage rolls, sausage, or the special.   We got the special, which were pork meatballs with pasta.  It was tasty and it cost $4.  No, that isn’t a typo.  We spent $4 for lunch in the East Village in 2016.

Yes, had they turned off the music videos, or just lowered the volume, the space would been really pleasant.  But to be frank, it may have killed the vibe.  Streecha is perfect the way it is.   Certainly the Japanese tourists who came during our visit agreed.   Just go.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed for the summer

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Foursquare: Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen

Joe Jr. Restaurant — 76.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The decibel reading was a surprising 76.4 for our visit to Joe Jr.  Surprising because the reading was higher than we would have guessed, but Joe Jr. Restaurant is a small space with lots of hard surfaces and plenty of chatter (including a few patrons who appeared to be hard of hearing).  The reading also reflects the hum of the grill and the sounds of dishes being stacked and binned–the kitchen is open, so you will see–and hear–your meal being made.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Every once in a while a space will read over 75 decibels yet will be tolerable.  Joe Jr. Restaurant is one of those places.  And the place was fairly crowded during our lunch time visit, so an off-hours visit should be quieter.

Joe Jr. Restaurant is well worth the visit if you are looking for very good diner fare.  Eater NY rated its burger the best no-frills burger in the city.  We concur, adding that the fries were pretty good, too, and the service was friendly and efficient.   If you want to experience what’s left of old New York City, Joe Jr. shouldn’t be missed.

HOURS

Open 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day (may vary on holidays)

LOCATION

167 3rd Avenue (at the corner of 16th Street), NY, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Joe Jr. Restaurant menu

Teremok — 75.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Teremok is a 300-strong fast food chain in Russia that just recently opened two locations in Manhattan.  We visited their Chelsea location, which had just opened the week of our visit.  True to its roots, Teremok offers Russian fast food: blinys (sweet or savory), kasha, soups (including borscht, of course), salads, and drinks.   It’s a nicer fast food joint, not a cafe or restaurant, but we thought Teremok offered a nice change from burritos or burgers and the coffee was good (regular drip and iced coffee).

The physical space was fine.  There were a couple of tables and a shelf with stools, but every surface was hard.  There’s a lot of glass in the front and a big expanse of tile.  Once again we were confronted with unnecessary music that was a bit too loud and better suited for a discotheque (why were they playing generic dance music?).  But the space isn’t big enough to get horribly loud, though we have no doubt that it wouldn’t be pleasant if was crowded.  Long and short, the Chelsea location of Teremok should be tolerable most of the time.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The staff was very attentive as the place had just opened and they were trying to doing their best.  If you are in Chelsea and need to eat and run and want something different, you could do worse than Teremok.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

nue (at 16th Street), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Teremok

 

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine (Fulton Street) — 75.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We used to eat regularly at a Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine near our workplace, but they lost their lease or otherwise closed.  We missed their filling and tasty takeaway, but generally avoided eating in because it was so loud and crowded.  So when we happened upon a new location of  Sophie’s near our old work space recently, we had to go in and check it out.

Sophie’s is a local chain of Cuban restaurants.  They have a cafeteria line for ordering sandwiches and platters to go, but also offer table service if you are eating in.  The food is freshly prepared, delicious, and filing, but it’s not necessarily the healthiest option.  If you manage to eat all of your lunch, you can skip dinner, and maybe even breakfast the next day.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Because we remembered Sophie’s as being really loud, we were very pleasantly surprised by the Fulton Street location.  So surprised that for the first time ever we opted to eat in.  This location of Sophie’s isn’t calm–it can’t be with the crowds–but it was manageable.  The music volume was low, which made all the difference in the overall noise level in the space.  Drop ceiling tiles probably helped too, as the place was otherwise filled with hard surfaces.   Remarkably, the noise level was very tolerable from start to finish, which was pretty impressive given that the place was packed when we arrived.

We don’t know if this Sophie’s is an anomaly, so the review and our recommendation is limited to the Fulton Street location.   If you are in the Financial District and are jonesing for some Cuban food, or you are very hungry and want a big, satisfying lunch, go to Sophie’s on Fulton Street.  The food is tasty, filling, and very inexpensive for what you get, and the dining space should be tolerable even if packed (and it is often packed).

Note to hot sauce fans: Ask for the green sauce.   It varies in strength depending on the heat of the jalapenos used when they make the sauce–and they make their own hot sauce regularly–but it is always delicious.  Just try a little before you douse your entire meal with it.  There is also a white garlic sauce, too.   We suggest getting them both and experimenting.  And don’t forget to get a guava and cheese empanada for dessert.  It’s served warm and it’s fantastic.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

LOCATION

76 Fulton Street (at Gold Street), New York, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine

Deux Amis — 73.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We found ourselves around 60th and 1st Avenue one Saturday afternoon, when we started to feel a bit peckish.  It’s not a neighborhood we normally frequent, so we pulled out a phone and searched for someplace walkable for brunch.  Deux Amis was just under ten blocks away and we were leaning towards a French bistro, so  we trekked over.

The space at Deux Amis is fine.  It looked like a bigger space from the street, but the space inside is pretty compact.  There are some outdoor tables that were unoccupied during our visit, a bar and  four tables for two or three as you entered, and a small back dining space.  We sat at one of the tables near the bar.

While the physical space was comfortable, the background music was too loud.  It wasn’t soul-crushingly loud, just one or two notches higher than it should have been, but in between songs the sound level was so tantalizingly right.   We saw that the speakers were in the very front of the place, facing the dining area.  We assume that the noise level in the small back dining space was probably was a bit better simply because there was more distance between the speaker and the tables.  Our suspicion was confirmed by the relative calm in the back dining space despite being fairly full.  Most seats were taken there, but we didn’t hear customers talking over one another.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our meal was fine, we were just a little disappointed because Deux Amis could have been very comfortable if they just lowered the volume of the background music.   The neighborhood isn’t exactly brimming with good alternatives,  so we wouldn’t write Deux Amis off but it’s not on the top of our recommend list either.

HOURS

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

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

Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st and 2nd Avenues, closer to 1st), New York, NY 10022

WEBSITE

Deux Amis

 

Café Serai (at the Rubin Museum of Art) — 65.9 to 72 decibels

By, Jeanine Botta

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Café Serai is located on the ground floor of the Rubin Museum of Art on the corner of West 17th Street and Seventh Avenue in Chelsea.  The restaurant is open during museum hours, and diners are not required to purchase an admission ticket.  The Rubin Museum features artistic, visual, musical, theatrical, educational, and other exhibitions and programs related to Himalayan Asia, and its café offers Himalayan and American fare, assorted coffee and tea selections, wine, and beer.

I’ve been to Café Serai several times, always in the afternoon, meeting old friends, new friends, and arranging casual business meetings with work colleagues.  I’ve also visited the café on my own, and find the atmosphere calming but cheerful, and the food and drink consistently fresh and delicious.

On a recent visit, a colleague and I each ordered a thali plate with vegetable korma accompanied by either Himalayan toast or red rice, and soup or salad.  The korma and the lentil based soup were savory and mildly spiced.  The three plates seemed small, but the amount of food was exactly right – more filling than expected.

We sat at one of several tables overlooking a lower level gallery, across the floor from the space that holds the museum shop, which is usually busy, but not noisy.  In this space on that day, sound level readings were 72 decibels.  At subsequent visits, I sat further within the larger café area, closer to a wall and away from foot traffic, and the readings reflected that as they ranged from 65.9 to  68.9 decibels.  During all afternoon visits, soft instrumental music was unobtrusive and almost indiscernible.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

With its open layout, Café Serai does not offer hushed quietude, but its overall acoustic quality is very good.  It is easy to communicate with companions, and the space is popular with visitors who work, read, and study.  Those who are interested in interior soundscape design should consider visiting the museum, as sound is an important element in several of the exhibition spaces.

On Wednesdays, Café Serai hosts Himalayan Happy Hour from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., and on Friday nights at 6:00 p.m. the space becomes K2 Lounge, and during these times sound levels are higher.  Sound levels may also be higher in the evening when the café may be filled to capacity.

HOURS

Monday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday   11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Himalayan Happy Hour from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and K2 Lounge 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The Museum is closed on Tuesdays, and on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day.

LOCATION

150 West 17th Street (betw. 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Cafe Serai

 

Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park — 71.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park is located at the very southern tip of Manhattan.  Here you can enjoy absolutely beautiful, unobstructed views of the harbor and a nice side view of the Statue of Liberty.  It’s a fairly busy area as there are lots of people walking around.  Despite that, you won’t hear many voices, just the occasional walker chatting too loudly into his or her phone.

But there was a constant background noise during our visit that was too loud to be ignored.  We weren’t sure about its source, but it sounded like a helicopter or large boat engine.  We looked around to see if there was a helicopter hovering in the background, but we didn’t see one.  Whatever the source, the noise was present the entire time we were in the park, and it is the reason the park could not get our best rating.  Well, that and the traffic noise.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Even though the Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park wasn’t exactly peaceful, it is still worth visiting.  We tried to treat the mystery noise as white noise, focusing instead on the stunning views.   While not foolproof, it helped.  Come here to experience a very attractive, open public space in Manhattan and enjoy the water views.   Bring your lunch when the weather is nice.  Clean public bathrooms are located in the pavillion off of Battery Park City Esplanade, next to Gigino at Wagner Park.

Note: The Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park is a dog-free park.

HOURS

Open 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. daily

Public restrooms are open from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. (May 1 – October 31) and 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. (November 1-April 30)

LOCATION

ace (next to the Museum of Jewish Heritage ), New York, NY 10280

WEBSITE

Wagner Park

French Cafe Gourmand — 74.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

You will be hard pressed to find a more comfortable coffee shop/cafe in the Financial District than French Cafe Gourmand.  It is a small space with only five tables for two plus two stools sharing a ledge.  Because it is so small, it is unlikely to get too loud and should always be manageable.  We didn’t hear music during our visit, which helps, but the size is the main reason the space is mostly comfortable.

The owner of the cafe is genuinely French and she serves a lovely selection of fresh and tasty salads, soups, and sandwiches.  There are nice pastries as well–if you like cheese danish this is the place to order it.

French Cafe Gourmand is an odd place for the Financial District, which is a good thing.  It’s hard to find a coffee shop that isn’t a chain (or feels like a chain), the food is genuinely good, and the space is a little quirky.  One black mark: like many small coffee shops in the city, the cafe does not have a public restroom.  Never fear.  The nearby World Trade Center Transportation Hub sports a large mall with plenty of clean bathrooms.

French Cafe Gourmand is the most civilized coffee shop in the Financial District.  We recommend it.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

9 Maiden Lane (betw. Broadway and Nassau Street), New York, NY 10038

WEBSITE

French Cafe Gourmand

Think Coffee @ Bowery & Bleecker — 71.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Think Coffee’s Bowery location was packed but quiet when we visited.  Why was it quiet?  Because most of the customers were members of the laptop brigade and they spent their time  staring intently into their laptop screens as they silently sipped their coffees.  There were a few chatty couples present, but they weren’t screamers.  And while the space had mostly hard surfaces, an unfinished wood floor probably helped absorb some sound.

But the primary reason the space was fairly comfortable was the absence of loud music.  There was music playing during the first few minutes of our visit, but then it stopped.  Which was a very good thing, as the piece that was playing had to have been the single most annoying thing ever–the “music” was a series of high-pitched synth sounds, with no voice, no other instruments.   Fortunately, it only lasted a minute or two, and once it was turned off, the space was perfectly fine.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We must note that although it wasn’t a particularly hot day when we visited, the air conditioner was set on max–it felt like we were sitting in a meat locker.  Perhaps we shouldn’t have ordered cold brew coffee, but it hit the spot and at only $3.50 for a large serving, they were a real bargain for downtown Manhattan.   Think Coffee offers free wifi at some locations but not one.  Still, the laptop brigade has adopted this spot, which is why you can enjoy  it.  Recommended.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

1 Bleecker Street (at Bowery), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Think Coffee