Forgtmenot — 73.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located in Chinatown where it merges into the Lower East Side, Forgtmenot is a laid back place that’s perfect to sit, eat, drink, and chill. It’s relaxing despite having doors and windows open to the street because this part of Division Street gets very little traffic.  There was music playing in the background, but it was fine because it actually was in the background.  Only one table was engaged in “animated” conversation, but they could be ignored for the most part.

We came to eat, but Forgtmenot probably gets more use as a bar.  It’s bigger than it looks because it extends from Division Street through to Canal Street.  The interior is divided into three separate spaces–two with bars and one smaller space in between the two.  At lunch, only the Division Street side was being served and there were some empty tables for passersby.

We were surprised how comfortable we felt given that the usual hard surface design mix was present–concrete floor, tin ceiling, and similar materials.  Maybe it was due to the oddly shaped space, or the use of textiles in the decor, or the mostly quiet crowd, but whatever the reason we really liked the space and felt relaxed and unrushed.  Conversation was not a problem, and we could easily see spending an afternoon at Forgtmenot with friends for a chat and a cocktail.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Very good service and tasty food rounded out our visit.  We added avocado to the shrimp po boy per the waiter’s suggestion and it was delicious (there’s a little heat, so ask for no hot sauce if you aren’t a fan).  We definitely recommend a visit at lunch or when it’s not packed.  Our waiter said all three rooms can get really crowded on the weekend, so if you want to visit then, or during happy hour, proceed with caution.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. (kitchen closes at midnight)

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. (kitchen closes at midnight)

LOCATION

Street (betw. Ludlow and Orchard Streets), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Forgtmenot

Ani Sushi — 72 to 76.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We have visited Ani Sushi on a number of occasions to take adavantage of their very reasonable lunch specials. Located on busy Montague Street, Ani Sushi is one of the best lunch time options in the immediate area. Their food is always fresh and service is first rate. The only issue we have with the place is its soundscape.  Specifically, they play club music that is louder than it should be.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

It’s inevitable that the introduction of music would make Ani Sushi louder than it should be because the design choices ensure a live space. There is a wall of glass in the front that reflects a lot of the sound back into the front room. The seating in the front overlooking Montague Street is odd and a little uncomfortable, as all the seats face forward, requiring you to sit beside your dining companions.  It’s awkward if you want to have a conversation.

Since the noise level is also louder in the front of the restaurant, we suggest you aim for the handful of tables located opposite the sushi bar. They are in a small sort of niche, which seems to help with the sound level.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Now about that music…  It’s the same with each visit–loud, jarring pop and generic dance music.  We know we are in a Japanese restaurant but it sounds like we are in a discotheque as the sound track features B-side disco tunes from the past.  It doesn’t make much sense, and, sadly, it makes the space merely tolerable when it could be so much more.

In the end, Ani Sushi is worth the visit because of their very reasonably priced, delicious lunch specials and friendly, attentive staff.  Just try to avoid sitting in the front dining area if you can, and your dining experience should be manageable.  We haven’t eaten at Ani Sushi at dinner, but expect the soundscape to be similar and note that they offer dinner specials too.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.

Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.

Saturday: 12:00 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. Henry and Clinton Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Ani Sushi

Shorty Tang Noodles — 76.3 decibels

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Short Tang Noodles is an homage to its namesake, who is credited with introducing cold sesame noodles to New York City.  According to Grub Street, Shorty Tang’s cold sesame noodles were considered the best, and his son and grandson have opened a place as a tribute to him using his original recipe.  So of course we ordered the cold sesame noodles when we visited Short Tang’s for a lunch time nosh.

There are lots of hard surfaces at Shorty Tang’s–tile floors, a wall of glass in the front, tiled back wall, and a semi-open kitchen–but the place was tolerable because background music, though unnecessary, was playing at a low volume. Even though one front window was open to 8th Avenue, street noise didn’t contribute much to the soundscape. Maybe it was dumb luck, but 8th Avenue was surprisingly calm during our visit–there were no sirens or honking.  We must note that the restaurant wasn’t full while we were there, and it will naturally be louder if packed, but for a half full lunchtime visit it was perfectly fine.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

So how was the signature dish?  Pretty good, but not life changing.

Overall, the room leans toward live, with competing layers of noise, but it was tolerable at lunch time.  If crowded, it’s likely that the live space will be overwhelmed.  And be aware that voices carry here, so if there’s a screamer among the other patrons, you will hear them loud and clear.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 14th and 15th Street), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Shorty Tang Noodles

The Brooklyn Commons — 62.2 decibels

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The Brooklyn Commons is a coffee shop and “radical movement-building space” on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill. Its website proclaims that “[g]roups and individuals are encouraged to use the COMMONS for workshops, classes, educational and cultural events.” Along with the meeting space, The Brooklyn Commons has a cafe that serves coffee, sweet and savory treats, beer and wine, and more.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The space is larger than appears from the street.  There is a seating area and counter in the front  and a large dining and meeting space in the back. The seating space in the front isn’t horribly loud but it is noticeably louder than the back room due to the presence of a flat screen tv, background music, and a door open to busy Atlantic Avenue, where the occasional ambulance screams by. The magic is in the back room.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ah, the back room.  It’s a large space filled with tables, mostly for two, and ringed by an elevated bench running along the perimeter of the room. Five people sat in various places throughout the space during our visit, each working  quietly on his or her laptop. It was bliss. We could just hear the music, tv, and traffic from the front, but the sound was distant and muffled and it did not disturb the peaceful atmosphere in the back.

What is the soundscape like when if the space is packed? We don’t know, but we are willing to return to find out. It’s presumably louder when there is a crowd, as we could see board games tucked away under the benches in the back.  And since The Brooklyn Commons offers art, educational, and music activities, it’s best to assume that is much louder during a workshop or performance. But during the day, when the cafe is open, the space should be calm and quiet.

If you are wandering around Boerum Hill and looking for a restful spot for a coffee or nosh, we recommend a visit to this relaxed and peaceful spot.

HOURS

The Commons Cafe is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. Bond and Hoyt Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

The Brooklyn Commons

Lan Larb — 73.4 decibels

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We were wandering around the edge of Soho where it borders the Lower East Side and City Hall, when we spied Lan Larb, a restaurant featuring classic Thai cuisine.  The Soho location of Lan Larb is a favorite among nearby workers, so we stopped in for a quick lunch. Overall, we found the space to be acceptable–it wasn’t too loud despite all he hard surfaces. That’s not to say the space is serene–it leans towards live–but a drop ceiling may have helped to absorb sound. Otherwise the space is filled with the catalog of noisy design choices: tile floor, lots of glass, and a mirrored wall. But the other wall running the length of the space had rattan mats attached to it which may have minimized reflection.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As usual, there was background music.  Once again the music choice was at least as offensive as the fact that music was playing at all.  Namely, the music was courtesy of a radio station that featured dance music. Why this genre? We don’t know. There was no obvious reason other than someone must think that the customers enjoy it. They don’t.

Fortunately the other diners were fairly quiet, so the noise level was fine. In the end, Lan Larb is the kind of place you go to for a quick work day lunch.  It’s nothing special, just a good meal at a decent price.  And while it’s not calm, it isn’t terrible either.  You could do worse.

HOURS

11:30 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. Grand and Broome Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Lan Larb

Ahimsa — 69.8 decibels

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Ahimsa is a vegetarian Indian restaurant located on the edges of NYU’s sprawling campus.  We planned a visit to Ahimsa because it offers a lunch buffet, something that is increasingly difficult to find below 14th Street. We arrived shortly after noon and found one other table waiting to dig in.  But we had to wait 15 minutes for the buffet to be stocked (not sure if there was a snafu or if this is standard operating procedure).  Given our early arrival, it’s no surprise that the place was dead quiet at first, but it got louder once a few more people filtered in and background music was turned on. Fortunately, the music–Indian pop ballads–was played at an acceptably low  volume.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Despite a wall of windows fronting the space, the room didn’t feel live. There were some columns and a small nook off to the side, breaking up the space a hair, but we chalked up the overall soundscape up to a mindset. Namely, the other patrons were engaged in conversation, but they  spoke softly to each other, for the most part, keeping the overall volume fairly low. It felt like there was something about the space that encouraged a quieter atmosphere.

That said, the very low reading is due, in large part, to ten minutes or more of dead quiet in the beginning of our visit, and we think a typical lunch reading could be a few decibels higher.  But even if that is the case, Ahimsa is a very comfortable place and it’s easy to have a conversation.  The food was good, and the buffet offered lots of options. Have we had better Indian vegetarian food in the city?  Yes, but Ahimsa’s lunch buffet is well worth a visit and is a veritable bargain at $11.95.  Recommended.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

210 Thompson Street (betw. Bleecker and W. 3rd Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Ahimsa

Pinkerton Wine Bar — 76.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pinkerton Wine Bar is a live space filled with loud, trebly music.  It’s located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where we were wandering around early one evening. It looked inviting, but shortly after we entered we contemplated leaving because the soundscape was dominated by one very loud guy who was shouting over the unnecessary music. It seemed clear to us that he had early signs of hearing loss.  Well, we all do now.

It’s a shame that the space is so uncomfortable, because the place looks like a great neighborhood bar, the bartender was attentive, and there are $1 oysters all night long (you have to buy a drink for the oyster deal).  But it’s a live loud box.  The bar is just one small open room with lots of windows and a tiled floor.  The only way they could make the space comfortable would require shutting off the music, which we assume is not an option.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Even though the decibel reading was under 80 decibels, we were leaning towards recommending that you avoid Pinkerton Wine Bar. But there is another option–you could aim for an outdoor table. Pinkerton Wine Bar has outdoor seating ringing the place, and the street traffic wasn’t that bad. In fact, outside seating was a lot calmer and quieter than inside.

So our recommendation is that Pinkerton Wine Bar should be tolerable, perhaps better, if and only if you get an outside table. Inside seating should be avoided because the place is too live to be comfortable, particularly if music is playing (and it will be).

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

Friday: 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Saturday: 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Sunday: 1:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Havermeyer Street), Brooklyn, NY 11211

WEBSITE

Pinkerton Wine Bar

Canal Street Market — 77.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Canal Street Market is a food court/mall (featuring “top retail/design concepts”) that recently opened on Canal Street, in Manhattan’s Chinatown.  It’s a loud and busy place with an interesting mix of food vendors serving mainly Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cuisine, along with some fusion mixes and a couple of sweet options.

The first thing you notice on entering the space is that the music is way too loud. The second is that management very obviously wants a young crowd–the music featured rap during our visit. The soundscape wasn’t helped by keeping the main doorway open to traffic noise from Canal Street.  Canal Street is always loud and chaotic, with constant horn honking and seemingly unending sirens. Trying to find a spot to have a quick nosh by the front of the space is a nightmare if you care about your ears.  It simply is unpleasantly loud.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Fortunately the soundscape is a bit better in the back of the space near the restrooms, but there is very little seating.  Instead, there is a dining area comprised almost entirely of tables and ledges for standing, with just a few areas where one can sit. And while the dining area wasn’t as loud as the front of the space, it wasn’t pleasant, just less annoying.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, we were happy to leave and surprised that the reading clocked in at under 80 decibels. Despite avoiding the 80 decibel bright line standard–we recommend avoiding any space over 80 decibels–we think it best to avoid eating at the market.  On a busy day with an open door and loud music, the space squeaks by, barely.  The food options have received good reviews, so if you want to visit we suggest avoiding the front of the space nearest Canal Street–go to the back where the standing tables are located and try your luck.  Or grab soemthing to go.

In the end, Canal Street Market is not a comfortable space and some of the food options seemed pricey for a food court. The space borders Chinatown, so you have lots of dining options.  Proceed with caution.

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. everyday (retail market hours differ)

LOCATION

Street (betw. Broadway and Lafayette Street), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Canal Street Market