Blarney Stone — 76 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

You just got out of Penn Station and you’re tired, thirsty, and hungry. You know there is a high-end food court somewhere nearby, but you’re not sure where it is. Frustrated you look for the first place that offers something to eat and drink, and there it is: the Blarney Stone. You’ve read that many other locations of the Blarney Stone have closed in the last few years and you think this may be your only chance to experience it.  So suspending disbelief, you wander in hoping that you may be pleasantly surprised. Never stop dreaming.

Sadly, your dream will not be realized at Blarney Stone. Long and short, it’s dark, the music is too loud, and the food is merely adequate. But it will do in a pinch. The music was both loud and odd during our visit–we felt like we were sitting in an airport hotel lounge circa 1993. A couple of regulars lingered at the bar, one of whom slurred a bit too loudly that he couldn’t go to another nearby bar because he got in trouble on account of his drinking too much. Somehow the waitress was cheery despite her surroundings.

Our lunch at Blarney Stone was okay and we got to cross “check out Blarney Stone” off our bucket list. There isn’t much right around Penn Station, so you could do worse. We were there for a late lunch so we can only guess as to how loud the space gets at night. From reviews left at various sites it appears that the Blarney Stone is a good, cheap place to stop off for a drink or nosh before seeing a game or concert at Madison Square Garden. Presumably the place will be packed at those times and could be raucous, so avoid if packed.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. 30th and 31st Street), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

Blarney Stone

Burp Castle — 71.3 to 79.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were told that we must visit Burp Castle because the bartenders were known for shushing the crowd.  Sadly, the rumor appeared to be untrue during our first visit as there was no shushing at all.  We were disappointed, particularly since there was one–and only one–loud guy who threw off the reading.  Once he and his companions left, the place was pleasant.  It was, in fact, the perfect setting for a well-crafted beer and quiet conversation, with its subdued lighting and music played softly in the background.  We must add that the music did not start playing until after the loud table left.  If they had not been present, the place would have been idyllic.

Once Party of Loud left, and even with the music playing, the reading recovered.  In fact, we stopped the first reading, which clocked in at 77.3 decibels, after an hour or so and turned the meter on again to see what the space was like after Boomy McScreamer departed.  The answer?  71.3 blissful decibels.

So why is Burp Castle comfortable?  It has high ceilings, a wool rug, and plenty of wood, all of which help to absorb or deflect sound.  The walls are covered with murals that are appropriate and not hokey, making the space feel like it’s been around for years.  If we lived in this neighborhood, this would be our neighborhood bar.

Burp Castle offers a good selection of interesting beers that are listed on a chalk board behind the bar; the beer menu changes frequently.  There are no food options, but we bet the bartender wouldn’t object if you brought in some nibbly things to go with your beer.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We enjoyed our visit to Burp Castle so much that we followed it up with another a week or so later.  It was louder during our second visit because the place was absolutely packed–standing room only.  That said, the music was turned off as the placed filled up, so the noise volume was created entirely by voices.  And, as rumored, there was shushing from the bartender and at least one patron.  Lots of shushing, in fact, which worked for a few minutes but had to be repeated.  Still, the rumors about this place are true–if you are too loud, you will be shushed (or even asked to leave, or so we’ve been told).  For that reason alone, Burp Castle climbs to the top of the list of our favorite bars.

Even though the reading during our second visit was dangerously close to 80 decibels  we would still recommend Burp Castle.  You may want to give it a pass on a very busy night, but when it’s busy the staff takes measures to keep things in check.  And on a slower night, it’s positively blissful.  Go.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 5:00 p.m. to midnight-ish*

Saturday and Sunday: 4:00 p.m. to midnight-ish*

Closing time is flexible.  It’s more likely that the bar will close after midnight later in the week, but it depends on the crowd.

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Burp Castle

Lexington Candy Shop — 73.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Lexington Candy Shop is a New York City landmark.  Founded in 1925, it’s been a neighborhood favorite for over 90 years, and the decor looks like it may have had its last make over back in the 1940s.  The menu features standard diner fare of breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, and a variety of hamburgers, including a butter burger (it’s exactly what it says it is–a burger with a big pat of butter on top).

We were seated near the front door, so the decibel reading includes street noise (the front door was open), along with chatter between the manager manning the cash register and regulars.  The place was more than half full, and music played in the background but the volume was very  low.  Overall, we found the space to be pretty comfortable during out lunch time visit.

If you are craving a perfect old school diner experience, you won’t go wrong at Lexington Candy Shop.  It was a perfectly comfortable space.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

nue (at the corner of 83rd Street), New York, NY 10028

WEBSITE

Lexington Candy Shop

Kinokuniya New York — 61 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Bliss.  Kinokuniya is a Japanese-based retailer selling books, magazines, and Japanese pens and stationery.  Those of you who love to try out new pens and pencils already know that Japanese stationery products are compelling, and Kinokuniya has an excellent selection that is unmatched in the city.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

That said, what makes the store so delightful is seeing the interesting array of products displayed in such a peaceful space.  Books and magazines are on the ground floor, stationery and novelties are in the basement. Give yourself some time to look around, because there is a lot more on display than you may first appreciate.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This delightful store is located directly across from hectic Bryant park, a beautiful park marred by constant, jarring street noise.  Check out the park and then escape to Kinokuniya for some peace and more–a recent visit revealed a cafe on an upper level, and quick look around convinced us to come back to check it out.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

(betw. 40th and 41st Streets), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Kinokuniya US

Delimarie — 70.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Delimarie is a low-cost option in that yet unnamed area where Tribeca meets City Hall and various state and federal government buildings.  It follows the standard lunch buffet model: grab a container, pick and choose among the hot and cold options, and pay by the pound.  But Delimarie is so much better than your average deli buffet place.

Deli buffets usually offer the same choices no matter where you go, and everything looks like it was made in the same offsite industrial kitchen.  Not so at Delimarie.  The entrees and vegetables looked fresher and were tastier; the salmon was moist and tasted of salmon, not some packaged sauce.  Like most delis, Delimarie also offers sandwiches to order, and like their buffet options, the sandwich options were more interesting than what you typically find on offer. More importantly, the long lines of customers waiting to order suggests that they are much better than the typical deli sandwich too.

As if that weren’t enough, Delimarie offers something that no other deli has: beignets.  And these are real beignets, made to order, that are almost as good as those you get in New Orleans (we believe there is a connection to that city).  We didn’t try them during our lunch time visit, but we had heard that they are excellent.  We did try the beignets at Delimarie’s West Village sister restaurant, Cafe Marie (a future review), and they did not disappoint.

Finally, Delimarie offers another option that most delis do not–a relatively quiet eating area that seats at least 25 (look for the stairs in the back of the space).  There was background music playing during our visit but the volume was low, and although every seat was taken, the chatter was more than manageable.  It wasn’t the prettiest space, but it served it’s purpose and it was clean.

If you are in the Tribeca/City Hall area and want an inexpensive, quick, and quiet nosh, head on over to Delimarie.  Just remember to save some room for the beignets!

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (but buffet closes at 4:00 p.m., sandwiches at 5:00 p.m.)

Closed Sundays

LOCATION

Street (betw. Broadway and Church Street), New York, NY 10007

WEBSITE

No website

 

Round K Cafe — 71.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We loved the physical space of Round K Cafe, which was matched by great service and very nice coffee.  When you enter you will see a takeaway space in the front where you can order a beverage and a sweet or savory treat.  The takeaway space  is separated from seating in the back by not one but two sets of drapes, which helps to keep the noise from the espresso maker and takeaway chatter from entering the back seating area.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

During our visit the space was almost serene.  It would have been perfect except for one couple–they both were loud and they did not stop talking, even while they were eating.   When the male got up to use the restroom we noticed that our decibel meter, which continually averages the decibel reading, dropped by five points!  In fact, it was so quiet we could hear him flush and leave the restroom without the benefit of stopping at the sink to wash his obviously filthy hands.  Together again, they were insufferable (which was not the cafe’s fault at all, of course)

We only ordered a coffee and kept our visit short because of them, but note that there were other customers in the room who were quiet.  Some Sinatra played softly In the background, and we realized that if that one couple wasn’t there the space would have been perfect.  Which is why we intend to follow up this visit with another in the near future.

The website indicates that there may be events scheduled occasionally in the space, so you may want to check their schedule to avoid it (or join in).  Round K Cafe is cash only, so hit the ATM before you visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

reet (betw. Delancey and Broome Streets), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Round K Cafe

Keens Steakhouse — 71.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Lunch was had in Keens’ pub, which was a pleasant 71.4 decibels.  There was unnecessary background music–no one was listening to it–but it wasn’t overpowering.  As usual, one’s experience will depend, in large part, on one’s immediate neighbors–a sad but true fact in any public space.  So, when a loud and whiny customer was seated near our table, the meter jumped a hair.  Fortunately, things improved when lunch was placed in front of him and he tucked in.  Relief!

The pub wasn’t completely filled, so we can’t say whether the space would remain relatively pleasant if packed, but as we walked past the busier bar and dining room we noted that they were relatively quiet as well.

Keens is well worth a visit for very hungry carnivores.  They are known for their mutton chops, which are delicious and huge!  That said, a smaller, more manageable version of the chop is available in the pub.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 11:45 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Saturday: 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

LOCATION

72 W. 36th Street (near the corner of 6th Avenue), NY, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Keens Steakhouse

Jack’s Stir Brew — 74.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Jack’s Stir Brew on W. 10th Street was the first location of this New York City mini-chain.  It’s still popular, and as a result, it can be difficult to find a seat in this small place. But we did!

And we’re glad we did.  The place was pretty calm.  In fact, the decibel reading was higher than anticipated.  We suspect the meter picked up the conversation at the next table, not that the couple was loud (they weren’t).  Whatever the reason, it was a relaxing 74.3 decibels. This location of Jack’s is a very chill space, which is how a coffee shop should be.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Jack’s Stir Brew offers very good coffee and a small selection of sweet treats. It’s usually crowded, but unlikely to get impossibly loud as there are just a few seats and background music is not obtrusive.  Recommended.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Waverly Place and Greenwich Avenue), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Jack’s Stir Brew – West Village

Old John’s Luncheonette — 74 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We think you’ll agree that 74 decibels was not bad for a Sunday brunch, particularly since there were more than a few small children near our table.  Background music was playing in the front of the restaurant by the small three-seat counter, but we were in the back near the busing station, so the music wasn’t a problem (though we heard occasional pings from dishes hitting each other).   We wouldn’t say our brunch time visit was peaceful, but it wasn’t bad.  The place was packed and the floors were tiled, but there were upholstered banquettes and high ceilings and room to sit–we weren’t sitting cheek to jowl with our immediate neighbors.  Hard to know if weekday lunches are about the same noise level, but Old John’s can’t be busier–every table was taken during out visit.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Old John’s Luncheonette serves typical American diner fare.  It is worth considering if you are visiting Lincoln Center or contemplating a stroll through Central Park and want a quick and inexpensive nosh.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (near Amsterdam Avenue), New York, NY 10023

WEBSITE

Old John’s Luncheonette