Han Dynasty (East Village) — 75.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The East Village location of Han Dynasty was less than half full when we arrived for lunch, but it quickly filled up and was at least half full by the time we left.  Overall we found the space merely tolerable, which raises concerns for the noise levels when the space is packed.  Han Dynasty has lots of hard surfaces with few few elements that could absorb sound, though unframed art work may have mitigated noise a hair.  Once again there was one overarching factor for the less than optimal soundscape: the music was too loud.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Yes, it could have been worse–our ears weren’t bleeding, after all–but we found the space to be  rather live, and the music (odd choices, by the way) just dominated the soundscape.  There were lots of work groups in the place and they were chatty, but their voices were manageable.  If the music were lowered a couple of notches, the space could have been comfortable.  It was, instead, merely tolerable, and that depended, more on less, on the song that was playing at any given time.

Han Dynasty offers very reasonable and tasty lunch specials.  If the place is packed and the music volume is as loud as it is at lunch, the noise level  probably will be intolerable.  That said, we tolerated the noise level during our visit, but wish it was better.  Why not aim for comfortable?  We suggest that you proceed with caution.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 12th and 13th Streets), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Han Dynasty–East Village

Pippali — 72.3 to 73.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We really loved our meals at Pippali, which had the best reviews on popular rating sites among the many Indian restaurants in Curry Hill (Lexington Avenue between 26th and 29th Streets). We  visited at lunch time on three separate occasions, and enjoyed Pippali’s reasonably priced and filling thalis (choice of two vegetarian, three chicken, three lamb, and two seafood entrée options). The thalis come with an appetizer, vegetable of the day, dal, raitha, pickle, naan, basmati rice, salad, a papadam, and dessert–it’s quite filling and everything is tasty.  Pippali also offers biryani and tandoori specials.

No surprise then that Pippali draws a sizable crowd at lunch. During our first visit, the space was easily more than half full and many tables turned over during our stay.  As with many places, the background music was a little louder than it needed to be.  Since the music featured traditional Indian music, it tended to favor high-pitched sounds which some people may find uncomfortable. That said, most of the sound was from customer chatter, as the place was filled with pairs or groups of work colleagues.  Given how busy it was–and there was a lot of conversation going on at almost every table–we were surprisingly comfortable.  We suspect that the padded banquettes and chairs may have helped (or perhaps we were distracted by the wonderful food?).

Our second visit on a slower Monday yielded a 72.3 decibel rating, which was perfectly fine.  Again the music was a bit louder than we would have liked, but it was more noticeable at first as the dining room was not very crowded.  As more customers came in, the music became less obvious.  The food was as lovely as always, and service was attentive.

We recorded a reading of 72.4 decibels on our third visit.  Because our visit was on an observed federal holiday, there were fewer tables of coworkers dining with us.  Indian music was playing a bit too loudly when we first stepped in, but shortly after we were seated the volume was lowered and mellow bossa nova played for the rest of our visit. Once the music was properly in the background the space was perfect.  Conversation was easy, there were no distractions, and the meal, as usual, was wonderful.

If high-pitched music is your personal nemesis, you may want to consider whether you should  visit Pippali.  If not, we would highly recommend a visit, as the noise level was very manageable and the food was excellent.  And given that the restaurant was busy during our first visit and most customers were engaged in animated conversation, we think that it’s a safe bet that the noise level at dinner would be similar or, at most, just a few decibels higher.  Go!

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

(betw. Park and Lexington Avenues), New York, NY 11016

WEBSITE

Pippali

Govinda’s — 65.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located on the bottom floor of the Hare Krishna Temple on Schemerhorn near Nevins, Govinda’s is not to be missed.  On the Temple’s website they extoll the virtues of Govinda’s, inviting the public to enjoy “great Vegetarian food at affordable prices and served to you in a peaceful stress free environment.”  And they delivered on what they had promised.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Govinda’s is located in a large meeting room.  A buffet style counter is set up by the entrance, to the space.  You wait in line, tell the server what you want, pay, and find a free seat at one of the large shared tables throughout the roomy space.  It feels like a church basement and not a restaurant for good reason, but this church basement restaurant is packed with believers and non-believers who enjoy a good vegetarian nosh.

Govinda’s features one entree that changes every day–eggplant parmagiana was offered when we visited–and a number of side dishes.  You pay for the number choices you want: two choices are $7, and a combo plate of eggplant Parm, string beans, cabbage and potatoes, and a very tasty slaw set us back $10.  A “complete meal,” which must feature everything, is only $12 and apparently is enough food for two people.  Free bread and unlimited water or orange lemonade (very good and refreshing) come with the meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There were lots of coworkers (it’s located near city government buildings) or friends chatting as they ate during out visit, and music playing in the background, but it the soundscape was mostly comfortable.  The room was half full when we first entered but quickly filled up; it was nearly full by the time we left.  Because the space is roomy and there is a drop ceiling, the sound level was more than manageable.  The only thing that made the space less than perfect was the sitar music, which can be a bit trebly–if high-pitched sounds are your personal nemisis, you may want to avoid Govinda’s.  That said, the space is very comfortable and it’s easy to carry on a conversation here.

If you enjoy a good vegetarian meal in a fairly relaxed setting, you must stop by Govinda’s.  Note that Govinda’s is only open for lunch Monday through Friday, and it is cash only.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Closed Saturday and Sunday

LOCATION

305 Schermerhorn Street (betw. Nevins and Bond Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch

 

Everyman Espresso (East Village) — 69.7 to 70.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited the East Village location of Everyman Espresso twice, and both times we found it to be a very relaxed space.  During our first visit on a Wednesday afternoon, most people were working on laptops, with just one chatty, but not particularly annoying couple engrossed in conversation nearby.  Music played softly in the background and was mostly fine, if unnecessary.

One thing we couldn’t help noticing was that the espresso machine was one of the quietest we’ve heard.  We suspect the reason for this is because it’s on the front counter, with the working bits facing the back wall.  In many coffee shops, the espresso machine is on a back or side counter facing the seating area.  In any event, the coffee-making noises were really manageable and they didn’t feel jarring or startling at all.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On our second visit a week later, the place was nearly perfect.  The only thing we would change is to lower the background music, but the noise level is still very low compared to many places.   As before, the coffee machines were not a distraction, and the crowd was very relaxed.  If the background music were lowered or shut off, the space would be perfect.  But it’s nearly there and that’s pretty fabulous.

If you are looking for a comfortable spot in the East Village/Union Square area, Everyman Espresso should be on your short list.  There is plenty of seating and the place is pretty comfortable.  Throw in very good coffee and great service, and there’s no reason not to go.  Recommended.

HOURS

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

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

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 3rd and 4th Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Everyman Espresso

Seaport Smorgasburg — 82.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As charmless as a typical mall food court, as annoying as the original Smorgasburg outdoor locations (though no strollers), the only reason to stop by the Seaport Smorgasburg is if you are a tourist, you are in the Seaport, and you are very hungry. The food is a bit better than typical food court offerings–and a bit pricier, too–but NYC has lots of these food courts now and they all seem to feature the same players.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, this location of Smorgasburg feels like it could be at any destination space in any big U.S. city.  There was unnecessary music playing a bit too loudly in the background, a constant mechanical hum, lots of hard surfaces, and lots of people.  It’s an uncomfortable space that is meant to get you in and out as quickly as possible.  Our reviews involve actually using the space as intended–i.e., ordering and eating a meal when reviewing a restaurant–so we ordered a few items and waited for them to be announced.  When they were, we went to the quietest spot we could find and ate as quickly as possible.  It was a relief to take the last bite and leave.

There is no reason to plan a visit to Seaport Smorgasburg unless you must (can’t think of why, but who knows?) or you step in to use the public restrooms.  If you are compelled to order food here, take it to go or eat very quickly.  One mitigating factor is booze.  You can buy some.  It may help.

HOURS

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

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

Closed in winter

LOCATION

11 Fulton Street (betw. Water and Front Streets), New York, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Seaport Smorgasburg

Penelope — 77.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Penelope offers “[h]eartwarming comfort food just like your mom used to make,” or so their website declares.  Well, perhaps we were lucky, because we recall eating far better in our youth.  What we found at Penelope was inoffensive food served in a “rustic” cafe that felt like it was designed by a successful if boring restaurant partnership.

The physical space was fine: unfinished wood floors, some tile.  At least the space wasn’t live, which was good, but what could have been a relaxing spot was not because the background music was too loud by two or three notches.  Loud and bland.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We tried the BBLT, a BLT with double the bacon, and found it  forgettable.  The french fries were meh.  The service was the best thing about the place–it was very good–and the coffee wasn’t bad.  But honestly, there is no compelling reason to eat here.

We wandered into Penelope looking for a relaxing lunch and we did not get it.  We don’t know dinner would fare, except it probably will be louder.  If you are in the neighborhood, are desperately hungry, and can’t find something acceptable nearby, lunch should be tolerable, barely, most days.  But if it’s this loud in a half-filled room at lunch, it must be intolerable when fully packed.  Proceed with caution.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Avenue (at 30th Street), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Penelope

Amber West Village — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Amber West Village is part of a small New York City chain that focuses on Japanese and Asian cuisine (sushi plus Thai noodle dishes).  It wasn’t very crowded during our lunch time visit, but the background music was a little louder than it should have been and we could hear kitchen noises, including banter among the staff.  That said, we were surprised that the meter read 75.1 decibels because the space felt more comfortable than that.   We assume the decibel reading  was due, in part, to the large front windows, sealed brick wall, and tiled floor, but there were mitigating design features, such as the upholstered banquettes and a wall of unfinished wood, that kept the sound from ricocheting around the small space.  The hard surfaces were balanced with more forgiving materials, resulting in a reasonably manageable experience.

Overall, Amber is worth considering for lunch.  We’ve been told that dinner is usually tolerable, but there advertisements for evening and weekend happy hour events that could be much louder.  One nice touch: no electric hand dryer in the bathroom.

HOURS

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

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Amber West Village

Nancy Whiskey Pub — 86.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

When we entered Nancy Whiskey Pub we wanted to love it.  It appears to be the perfect neighborhood dive bar–not contrived or styled, it simply is a place you go to drink with your buddies.  And we did fall in love with the place, for five, maybe ten minutes. But after our brief love affair, things quickly turned ugly when a bartender began feeding bills into the jukebox and destroyed what had been a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

No one asked the bartender to play music, so either management requires the bartenders to turn it on at a certain time or maybe she was bored.  We don’t know.  What we do know is that the volume was punishing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We also don’t know if deafening music is played every day or whether the bartender just wanted to hear some tunes, but when we asked if the volume could be lowered, the bartender shouted, “go upstairs,” which we understood to be “no.”

We did go upstairs and found a smaller space crammed with people who were not quite drunk and already screaming–not surprisingly, this space was only slightly quieter than below. We threw back our drinks and left, emerging onto the comparatively serene street, and continued our search for the perfect bar.

So, sadly, we must advise that you avoid Nancy Whiskey Pub if you cherish your hearing more than finding a genuine neighborhood bar. The prices were good, the physical space  was perfect, but it’s just too damn loud.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. every day (sometimes close earlier on Sundays and Mondays)

LOCATION

Street (on the corner of 6th Avenue), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Nancy Whiskey Pub

 

 

B & H — 71.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

B & H is a longstanding kosher dairy restaurant located in the East Village.  Essentially it’s pescatarian, as they don’t serve meat but fish is on the menu, and it’s really more of a lunch counter than a restaurant.  An open grill is located behind the counter which runs the length of the space; the counter is lined with stools.  Someone decided there was enough room for a handful of small tables for two that hug the opposite wall (there isn’t), so navigating your way in the space is a challenge but it’s worth it.

Soups reign at B & H. A big bowl of whatever soup you choose (choices include hot borscht, mushroom and barley, vegetable, and matzoh ball) is only $5.50 with bread and butter.  Definitely get the bread–it’s soft and slightly sweet and comes pre-buttered.  Service is very efficient and friendly.  If you order soup, your order will be placed in front of you within a minute or two.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We found the space to be calm even with the counter man shouting phone orders to his co-worker.  A radio played in the background but the volume was very low.  There were some sharp kitchen sounds of dishes being thrown into a bin, but basically the soundscape was  comfortable.  And even though we visited on a Monday night, the place was pretty packed, so we think the reading and this review reasonably reflects what one can expect when B & H is busy.

If you want to experience a bit of old school New York City, come to B & H. After you finish your meal, head on over to nearby Moishe’s Bake Shop (where everything looks kind of stale but it’s actually pretty good).

Highly recommended.  Cash only.

HOURS

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

Frirday and Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. St. Marks Place and 7th Street), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

B & H Dairy Kosher Restaurant