Blossom Ice Cream — 75.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Blossom Ice Cream is a relatively new shop featuring Thai rolled ice cream.  Essentially, the ice cream is made after you order–the base is poured onto a frozen surface, mixed with some ingredients, scraped into a roll about the thickness of a roll of quarters, placed in a cup, and doused with whatever toppings you request.  It’s visually appealing, and there are some theatrics if you enjoy that sort of thing.  In the end, the ice cream was good, but not great.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Blossom is very live as there is a lot of glass. Dance music was planning in the background when we visited, but it wasn’t too loud.  We thought the sound level was manageable, especially given how live the space is, but then Very Loud Guy came in and shouted his order. With all the glass in this tiny space, he quickly filled the room with his voice, and we found it hard to concentrate on anything other than his banter.

Blossom Ice Cream should be tolerable if other patrons use their indoor voice, but all you need is one very loud person to make it uncomfortable. That said, with only one table for four and two stools,  the space shouldn’t top 80 decibels even when every seat is taken. But why take chances? Order your ice cream to go and try to score a seat on the small bench out front, or walk one block to lovely Cobble Hill Park.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 12:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 12:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Congress and Warren Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Blossom Ice Cream

Filicori Zecchini (Upper West Side) — 80.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were wandering around the Upper West Side, enjoying a constitutional after a lovely meal at Ayurveda Cafe (to be reviewed soon), when we spied Filicori Zecchini.  We fondly remembered visiting their Chelsea location last year and eagerly went inside.  What a disappointment.  It quickly became clear that this space was not at all like the Chelsea location, which we remembered as a calm oasis (and reading our review later, saw that despite being crowded, the Chelsea location clocked in at a  very comfortable 72.4 decibels). No, this location was loud and uncomfortable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Why? They were playing loud music in a live box. The front of the store is a wall of glass.  The floors are tiled, the counter area was covered with some shiny, hard surface, and the bean grinding and espresso machines were loud.  Throw in the other customers screaming over all of the above and you have the recipe for not very comfortable experience.

Speaking of experience, we also were confused/amused by a little interchange with the barista.  We had ordered a cortado.  On ordering, the barista said, “oh, water comes with this.  Would you like some.”  “Sure, ” we replied.  And then the barista poured sparkling water into a one-ounce jigger glass.  No, really.  He poured us an ounce of sparkling water.

We’d rather have a tasty cortado and mouthful of sparkling water at Zecchini’s Chelsea location.  This one should be avoided.

HOURS

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

Monday through Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(at the corner of 95th Street), New York, NY 10025

WEBSITE

Filicori Zecchini

 

Ridgeway Diner — 71.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Ridgeway Diner was at least half full when we visited.  It’s located on busy 6th Avenue, so we were concerned when we saw that the front door was open to the street. Our concern was mostly misplaced, as we didn’t hear much street traffic throughout the lion’s share of our meal.  The problem, however, was that ambulances raced by, sirens blaring, at least twice during our visit. This raised the decibel reading, which is an average over the period during which the reading was taken.  It’s hard to blame a restaurant owner for random noise over which he or she has no control, but on opening the door to the street one must assume that an emergency vehicle could pass by. That said, shutting the door may have saved only a decibel or two at best, as the sirens were so loud that they would surely have penetrated into the space even if the door was shut.

Sirens aside, the place was generally calm and relaxed. Why? No music.  Other than street noise, the soundscape of the place consisted mainly of voices,  even with an open service area and a window to the kitchen.  So, despite being in a noisy and busy part of the city, we were able to eat in relative comfort.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Ridgeway Diner is proof that not playing background music yields benefits, particularly for businesses on very busy city streets.  The food was decent diner fare and service was efficient.  There’s nothing particularly interesting or compelling about the place except that it’s hard to find a non-national chain restaurant option in this area, making this relaxed, old-school Greek diner a lucky find.  We recommend it.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 20th and 21st Streets), New York, NY 10010

WEBSITE

Ridgeway Diner

Ninth Street Espresso (Gowanus) — 64.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Gowanus location of Ninth Street Espresso is located In the same space as Threes Brewing, a bar and brewery with food by The Meat Hook. Threes Brewing takes up the ground floor.  It’s a very large, very open, and very loud space–we wouldn’t dream of going there for a beer on a busy night, as we’ve walked by and heard the noise level. But Ninth Street Espresso is open during the day and occupies a separate space near the front of the building. When you walk in, turn to your right and climb the small stairway.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

At the top of the stairs you will see the service counter.  Ninth Street Espresso doesn’t have a long menu. Rathe, it lists just four coffee options: hot coffee, cold coffee, espresso, and espresso with milk. Tell them what you like–we are partial to cortados–and they’ll get you the right combination of espresso and milk.

Along with really good coffee, there are plenty of places to sit. There’s a small space near the counter with a couple of small tables and a sunny window. Walk through to the back and there’s a roomy space with six tables, plenty of chairs, and an unused upright piano with a sign reading “Please do not touch piano,” which was fine by us.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was music playing in the background throughout our visit. And if you were a Dylan fan, it would have been your lucky day. The volume was a hair louder than we would have liked, but as the reading shows the overall noise level was perfectly fine.  We think Ninth Street Espresso offers excellent coffee in a very comfortable space and recommend it.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 3rd and 4th Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Ninth Street Espresso

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea) — 68.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were wandering around Chelsea and jonesing for a coffee when we spotted Cafe Grumpy.  We’ve read that it was known for good coffee, so we stopped in.  There was music playing a bit louder than we liked in the front of the space where you order, but as we soon discovered, the place is a lot bigger than it looks from the street.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

One thing we noticed immediately is that there weren’t many laptops visible.  Then we saw a sign by the cash register stating that the cafe is a “no laptop zone.”  When asked, the server told me they “aren’t Nazis about it” but they want to cultivate a “social place.”  Still, while I didn’t see laptops deployed on tables, I did see that most people were by themselves reading or writing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Since the front of the space was louder than we liked, we went to down the long narrow corridor connecting the front to a back room that was noticeably quieter. We had our coffee in this space,  finding it basically calm though we could hear someone washing dishes in the nearby dish room. There are french doors at the very end of the space that open on to an absolutely serene garden.  How serene?  You can hear birdsong.

If you are in Chelsea and want a coffee and a really quiet space, go to Cafe Grumpy, avoid the front space,  walk to the back room, and don’t stop until you are in the garden. It was lovely. Sadly, the Xelerator hand dryer in bathroom is not.

HOURS

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

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 7th and 8th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Cafe Grumpy — Chelsea

 

Utsav — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were in midtown craving an Indian buffet for lunch in one of the few parts of the city where  they still happen. We love a good Indian buffet, and Utsav did not disappoint. There was a great selection of dishes (vegetarian and non-vegetarian), accompanied by desserts, salads, appetizers, and chutneys. Yes, we did try a little of everything and were completely satisfied with our meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And we were not alone. The place was packed and, given the design choices, it wasn’t exactly  calm. Among other things, the dining area is one large room with no dividers to deflect or segregate sound.  At least there were some textiles in the space–curtains framed the windows running the length of the room, and there were upholstered banquettes spanning the middle of the room–but it’s not clear that they offered much sound absorption or diffusion.

But considering how busy the place was, we thought the noise level was perfectly acceptable.  And we must note that the reading reflects that there was one large and chatty table near ours. Once they left, the space got a lot quieter.

Utsav is a popular lunch spot, so this was its busy time. We think the reading was respectable and feel comfortable recommending it as a midtown lunch option. We were advised that dinner tends to be less crowded and is noticeably quieter.

HOURS

Lunch 12:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily | Dinner 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. daily

LOCATION

(entrance on 46th Street betw. 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10036

WEBSITE

Utsav

Four & Twenty Blackbirds — 72.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Four & Twenty Blackbirds is a well-regarded pie shop located in Gowanus, Brooklyn.  It offers whole pies, pies by the slice, cakes, and beverages.  We’ve read about their pies and have wanted to try them for some time, so we stopped by for a slice. We tried the Black Bottom Oat.  It was pretty good, not great, but obviously freshly made and satisfying.

We noticed on entering that most of the customers were by themselves, staring intently at their laptops. That many wore earbuds was a not-so-subtle warning about the noise level.  Namely, that there was unnecessary music playing.  Still, the music wasn’t uncomfortably loud.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was only one table of two engaging in conversation. They stood out since they were the only talkers, though there was another customer who spent the entirety of her visit with her phone glued to her ear, laughing out loud in random bursts.  She was jarring.  We have a difficult time understanding people who treat a public space like it’s their living room, but it seems to be happening with greater frequency. One frustrating thing is that the people who chat on phones in public spaces almost invariably are louder than people engaging in conversation in the flesh. It’s not the fault of the place, of course.  Just an observation that the space attracts all sorts.

One other soound stood out during our visit to Four & Twenty Blackbirds–the bean grinder used to make each espresso-based drink.  This grinder was particularly annoying, and it added a  high-pitched whine to the soundscape.  That said, we found the overall noise level to be mostly tolerable, but If you are coming here to work, dont forget your earbuds.

HOURS

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

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

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

LOCATION

Avenue (at the corner of 8th Street), Brooklyn, NY 11215

WEBSITE

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

Cafe Regular — 70.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Cafe Regular on a Friday afternoon. There was one other customer sitting and enjoying a coffee at the start of our visit; most people were getting coffees to go. The only sound we heard at first were voices, mainly staff chatting with each other and with regulars.  A few minutes in and music starting playing, but the volume wasn’t bad at all–it was truly background music.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The decibel reading reflects that there was an extended period of bean grinding near our table.  Without that it’s likely that the reading would have clocked in at under 70 decibels. Bean grinding aside, we thought that the soundscape was very manageable.

Importantly, the design of the space should insure a comfortable noise level at most times. Namely, the way in which the seating is arranged encourages solo visits. There are a handful of small tables that are reminiscent of elementary school desks–they would be awkward for a party of more than two.  Simply put, the space isn’t designed for large chatty groups.  Not a bad thing, to be frank.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Overall, we recommend a visit to Cafe Regular.  It was a laid back space with very good coffee and relaxed service. Ulike many coffee only places, Cafe Regular has a restroom available for customers.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Street (near 5th Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11215

WEBSITE

Cafe Regular

Pomme Frites — 74.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The menu at Pomme Frites couldn’t be simpler: Belgian fries, poutine, sauces, garnishes, and beverages.  It’s a place to visit with friends for some very tasty fries, a couple of dipping sauces–and the choices are extensive–and a beer.  Given it’s location and menu, it is almost always filled with NYU students.

During the day and early evening, the soundscape is fine, even when crowded.  At night, though, one must assume that throngs of drunk students will ensure a “livelier” soundscape.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Music played in the background during our visit, but it was louder in the back by the kitchen.  For the most part, the soundscape was dominated by voices.  Since we stopped by in the early evening, those voices weren’t that loud–everyone appeared to be sober. Overall, we found the noise level to be pretty good given the circumstances, but caution that it was early in the evening.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pomme Frites occupies a small space with a limited menu that is perfect drunk student food.  Expect a tolerable soundscape during the day, but proceed at caution at night, particularly after the bars empty out.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. W. Houston and Prince Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Pomme Frites