Duke’s (Murray Hill) — 79.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Yes, we went to Duke’s in Murray Hill for lunch on purpose.  What were we thinking? In our defense, we were very hungry and entered Duke’s dripping with trepidation. On entering it was immediately clear that the decor was as loud and as the soundscape, but we were hungry, it was there, and our attempt to get a seat at nearby Sarge’s Deli, our first option, was thwarted when no one could be bothered to show us to a table.  Yes, we knew what we were getting into from the get go, but hunger won over common sense–and despite everything, we wanted to believe that we might be pleasantly surprised.  Unsurprisingly, our visit was far from pleasant.

Just four flat screen tvs over the bar?

If you look at the photos, you’ll see at least seven flat screen tvs.  There are more, of course.  All tuned to sports or cable news channels.  If an important game was playing on the tvs, there would, no doubt, have been screaming.  But there wasn’t, thank goodness, because that would have made the loud space even louder.  Mind you, there was no one noise source that stood out. It was the whole package–this sparsely populated space clocked in at 79.3 decibels and it was clear that there was nowhere to go but up.

So how was our meal? The food at Duke’s is ok for what it is, but face facts, no one really comes here for the food. It feels like a frat bar–all beers and burgers (though it is allegedly”southern,” hence food items called “The Old Kentucky Club” and “Billy Bob’s BBQ’D Brisket Sliders”). For people who like this sort of thing–drinking in a crowded bar, watching a game, and screaming at a large flat screen tv–this is the sort of thing they like.  And they should be happy to know that there are plenty of options as to where to direct their screams.

No worries, there are three larger tvs on the opposite wall!

We’re sure that Duke’s is absolutely intolerable at happy hour, late week evenings, and during their “boozy Brunch.” We could barely tolerate it at a fairly empty lunch. The only saving grace were the wait staff, who couldn’t have been lovelier.  Still, that’s hardly a reason to trek to Duke’s.  In short, there is absolutely no reason to go there unless you like to get drunk while watching sports in an uncomfortably loud space. In a word, avoid.

HOURS

Monday through Wednesday: 12:00 pm. to 1:00 a.m.

Thursday through Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

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

Last call for food is two hours before closing

LOCATION

(betw. 37th and 38th Streets), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Duke’s (Murray Hill)

Grade Coffee — 73.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Grade coffee is a very small coffee shop next to an apparently unrelated barbershop, Fellow Barber.  Despite being two distinct businesses, a door is open between the spaces.  Grade Coffee space takes up very little real estate.  We didn’t have our tape measure with us, but it felt like it was well under 200 square feet.  Which was fine, as we were there for a coffee, not a nosh.

Because the space is so small, it’s quiet by default. There was music playing and it was a bit louder than we would like, but it wasn’t loud. We must note that the meter reading would have been lower but the door and window were open to the street and about halfway through our visit a large truck came by to deliver construction materials to a nearby site that will no doubt become a collection of condos owned by shell LLCs used by absentee foreign owners to park disposable cash. If the truck kept moving, the space would have been pretty darn nice. Even with it, we were fine.

Grade Coffee isn’t a place you can use as your office.  Seating consists of three small stools, and there are no tables.  One tiny ledge could barely hold a small tablet, certainly not a laptop.  So you can’t come here to work or linger.  Grade Coffee it the place you go to order, drink, and leave. Unlike most small coffee shops, Grade Coffee has a restroom available for customers.

HOURS

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

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Wythe Avenue and Berry Street), Brooklyn, NY 11249

WEBSITE

Grade Coffee

Square Diner — 75.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located in Tribeca, Square Diner is a “classic a train-car diner” with a roof plopped on top.  Once inside, you can see its classic shape by looking up at the curved wooden ceiling.  Not only is the ceiling attractive, but we think its shape helps to diffuse sound.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The interior is fairly small and narrow, and every square inch is used. With the exception of the ceiling, most of the other materials in the space are hard, reflective surfaces–glass, tile, and metal. The kitchen is somewhat exposed to the dining space, as there is a short order window behind the counter and a door to kitchen was propped open.  Fortunately kitchen sounds weren’t a problem during our visit. Unfortunately, background music was playing which served no purpose other than to annoy. Featuring 80’s hits–a perennial favorite–all it did was add an unnecessary layer of noise. If the music was turned off, we think the reading would have been below 73 dBC.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Still, the soundscape was definitely manageable, even with a fairly full house of chatty customers.  Without the music, we think it could have been close to comfortable. That said, the space didn’t feel too live, but since Square Diner is small, be advised that one or two loud people could easily dominate the soundscape.

No surprise that Square Diner offers a long menu of diner classics. The food is fine for what it is–Joe Jr’s has the city’s best diner burger, while this one was perfectly acceptable. Diners, particularly standalone diners, are a dying breed in New York City, so if you enjoy them, this one should be on your short list. Square Diner is a good inexpensive option in otherwise expensive and loud Tribeca.

HOURS

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

Saturday and Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Varick Street), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Square Diner

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier — 71.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, just a few blocks away from the ferry station for the new South Brooklyn ferry route.  The park includes a fairly large expanse of grass at the water’s edge, perfect for a picnic (grab a small key lime pie at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies next door), an afternoon nap, or to catch some sun.  Or you could you could enjoy some free kayaking courtesy of the Red Hook Boaters (it’s free, but they do ask that you help with a little beach clean up afterwards).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We won’t say that the park is totally quiet, because it isn’t–you’ll hear the occasional airplane flying overhead and ferries and other motorized boats pass by–but most of the sound you’ll hear is the wind and water lapping against the jetties coupled with occasional snippets of conversation from people nearby.  A space doesn’t need to be totally quiet to be serene.

Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier is lovely and comfortable place. No doubt the park is busier on weekends, and an increase in human activity will mean a concomitant increase in sound, but during the week the park is perfect. We recommend it.

HOURS

Dawn to dusk, everyday

LOCATION

(betw. Coffey and Van Dyke Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11231

WEBSITE

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier

Maman (Tribeca) — 76 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Maman’s Tribeca location for a quick nosh one Friday afternoon. This location of the Maman mini-chain is open for breakfast and lunch only.  It’s a pretty space, but we got the worse seat in the house–at the counter looking into the kitchen. We understand the aesthetic reasons for an open kitchen–there is a bit of spectacle in watching the chefs prepare your meal–but it also is a really efficient way to introduce high-pitched china-meeting-stainless countertop and mechanical sounds into the dining space.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Fortunately, the kitchen sounds were the only obvious source of unpleasant noise.  Otherwise the space, which was half full during our visit, was fine, despite the competing conversations. There was background music, which, though unnecessary, was playing at a volume low enough so as not to affect the soundscape.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The space is pretty, and the Maman name is well regarded, so we were surprised by the less than fabulous Croque “Maman,” the predominant ingredient of which was the bechamel sauce.  No one likes a dry Croque Monsieur, of course, but this was drowning in sauce. Because of their reputation and user reivews, we chalked it up to an off day.  Given that quiet places are hard to find in Tribeca, Maman is an acceptable option.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Can purchase items to go an hour earlier each day and until 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. Franklin and White Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Maman

Skylight Diner — 71.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were happy we made the effort to check out Skylight Diner for lunch recently. Skylight Diner is located near the Javits Convention Center, a part of Manhattan not blessed with many food options.  We went there on the later side of lunch and found the place was more than half full.  Despite all the hard surfaces–particularly tile and glass–it was immediately clear that the space was comfortable. The only obvious (and annoying) noise was the restaurant phone, which rang very loudly with each take out order.

We could also hear the staff bantering with each other at the counter that runs down the middle of the space, but their banter wasn’t distracting–it was very easy to have a conversation. We assume that the  drop ceiling helped to absorb or diffuse sound, as did upholstered booth seats.  But the clear reason for the comfortable soundscape was the absence of music.  When packed, Skylight Diner will be louder.  In fact, we’ve been here (without a meter) on a very busy day–every seat was taken–and it was a lot louder, but it wasn’t awful. No music makes a significant difference.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, Skylight Diner is a good old-school New York City diner–nothing fancy, old school decor, and a solid menu of diner classics.  There seems to be a fairly even mix of regulars and tourists. As noted, there aren’t many good food options in the blocks that surround the Javits Center, so this is a good place to keep in mind should you find yourself in the neighborhood. We  recommend it for a good burger or filling American breakfast and a conversation.

HOURS

Open 24 hours a day, every day

LOCATION

Street (very close to 9th Avenue), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

Skylight Diner

Taiwan Bear House — 70.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Taiwan Bear House for a quick lunch on the July 4th holiday.  Many restaurants in Manhattan close on the 4th, but not in Chinatown.  Still, while Chinatown was generally crowded, the place wasn’t busy–only one other table was occupied. But we think our visit was pretty representative of what you can expect even if every seat is taken, because it’s a small space–there are only five tables for two and six stools–and Taiwan Bear House does not play music.  Together, these two factors ensure that eating in should be relatively pleasant.

And it was pleasant.  We were absolutely comfortable. The design elements, standing alone,  would lead one to expect a livelier soundscape, but the place was very quiet. In fact, we were surprised that the reading was over 70 decibels, but suspect that it’s due to a mechanical hum coming from the kitchen.  The hum didn’t bother us, to be frank–it sounded like white noise, and was neither annoying or distracting.

Taiwan Bear House isn’t a destination spot.  It’s a place that you order food to go or eat in and run.  The menu consists of a series of “bento boxes,” which are round containers that look like steamers that are filled with rice, vegetables (cabbage), a piece of firm tofu, some ground meat (pork?), and a protein (mostly pork or chicken).  The food was filling and tasty, and our meal was quick and quiet.  We recommend it.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. Bowery and Mott Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Taiwan Bear House

Zucker Bakery — 71.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Only one way to sum up our visit to Zucker Bakery–what a great place! Zucker is a very relaxed and quiet bakery cum coffee shop located in the East Village. When we first entered it was clear the space would be perfect–and it was. Halfway into our visit another baker joined the crew. He, unlike the others, was a bit of a Chatty Cathy, but everyone else–staff and customers–was pretty quiet.  As a result, his chatter didn’t change the overall vibe of the place.

The space is homey and comfortable, and though music was playing, the volume was low and the music choices were perfect–very relaxing tunes that were not at all jarring.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There were other people present in the small space, but they mostly stared at their laptops, nursing their cups of coffee. They appeared to be regulars, and they really set the tone.  Zucker Bakery is a great place to sit and do your work, or to grab a coffee and treat to go.  We enjoyed a first-rate cortado, and the almond sandwich cookie with chocolate halvah filling the counterwoman recommended was pretty fabulous.

If you live in the neighborhood, this is your favorite coffee shop.  We highly recommend a visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st Avenue and Avenue A), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Zucker Bakery

Taheni Mediterranean Grill — 71.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Taheni Mediterranean Grill is a Palestinian restaurant located at the corner of 4th Avenue and Union Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn. It’s proof that a decibel reading, standing alone, can be misleading. Why? Because 71.4 decibels is a very respectable reading, but the space was not as comfortable as the reading might suggest.

Taheni had only been open for a short time when we paid a visit, and it wasn’t very crowded at lunch. Most of our fellow diners were eating by themselves, with the exception of one table of three young men. That table seemed loud because they were the only ones engaged in animated conversation (and, frankly, they were loud).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There’s a drop ceiling in the dining space which could help to abate some noise, but the open kitchen and long expanses of glass make the place irredeemably live. Add in the tiled floor, tiled counter area, and metal chairs, and it’s as if someone purposefully design the space to be loud. The location didn’t help, as the corner of Union and 4th Avenue is heavily trafficked, and there was active construction going on across the street which was probably the source of a mechanical hum that we heard during our entire visit.

In addition, there was music playing in the background, but the volume wasn’t too loud. The low music volume and the absence of conversation once the one table of three left, is the reason the reading was fairly low. Overall, the soundscape wasn’t loud or chaotic, but it wasn’t calm or relaxed either.  At best, it was tolerable.

It seemed obvious to us that at a busy time the space will be too loud. The space is exceptionally live–there is too much glass and nothing to absorb or diffuse sound.  It’s a shame, really, as the food was tasty and the staff were friendly.  We don’t recommend that you avoid Taheni.  Rather, we suggest that you visit at lunch time or a slow evening or order food to go.

HOURS

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

Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Taheni Mediterranean Grill