Maman — 74.1 to 74.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Maman is a French-American bakery/coffee shop/cafe located on Centre Street in Nolita.  There are sister locations downtown and in Greenpoint, a couple of which have more extensive menus; the Centre Street location has sweet and savory breakfast items, pastries, tarts, and a nice selection of lunch offerings (salads, sandwiches, and quiche).

On our first visit to Maman, we found the space to be mostly calm.  There was music playing in the front of the space by the kitchen, but that area is divided off from the back seating area by a  glass partition.  Unfinished wood floors and some plants help to keep the space from being too live.  Chatty friends sat near us as we lingered over coffee, but they weren’t too distracting.  There was, however, an industrial vent that ran constantly throughout our visit.  While it was not loud, it did provide a low background hum during the whole of our visit.   It wasn’t terrible, and in an odd way it sort of operated like white noise, but it’s something to note if you find low rumbling noises to be distracting or uncomfortable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We arrived for our second visit slightly after 2:00 p.m.; the meter clocked in slightly higher than the first visit, at 74.8 decibels.  Once again we found the space to be very comfortable, despite it being noticeably more crowded than our first visit.  About half of the seats were taken when we arrived, then a couple got up and left.  They  were replaced by a group of six co-workers who sat down at the large communal table where we were seated and began discussing a work project.  Nearby, two friends chatted and laughed their way through lunch.  This time, however, the vent noise wasn’t as noticeable.  Perhaps it is more pronounced in the colder months?  We aren’t sure, and, for the most part, it really doesn’t matter.  As with our first visit, and despite the chatty couple and the work party, the space was absolutely comfortable.

Overall, we enjoyed our visits to Maman.  The space would have been even nicer if the music volume were a little lower, but our visits on the whole were pleasant.

Maman offers very good coffee and a fairly extensive selection of sweet and savory treats in an attractive space, which is hard to find in this neighborhood.  Definitely worth a visit.

HOURS

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

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

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

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Maman

Elizabeth Street Garden — 65.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Looking for a really peaceful enclave in Nolita?  Then run, don’t walk, to Elizabeth Street Garden.  The garden’s future is uncertain, so use its now and help those who are trying to preserve it.   The garden is the biggest green space in Nolita and, unsurprisingly, it is under threat of development.  Unlike other green spaces, Elizabeth Street Garden is not a city park though the land is city-owned.  We hope that it is preserved, because it’s a calm oasis in the middle of busy downtown Manhattan.  It also stands out among neighborhood green spaces because of all the statues that are dotted throughout.  At first the effect suggests a lack of restraint, but it very quickly feels charmingly quirky.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The garden is obviously well loved and used.  There aren’t many chairs or benches, but people make do and have impromptu picnics during their lunch breaks. Some traffic noise intrudes, but it’s more than manageable as the garden runs between Elizabeth to Mott Streets, mid-block. Neither street is heavily trafficked, so there was no honking horns, sirens, or motorcycles during our visit.

Crowded yet calm, Elizabeth Street Garden is definitely worth a visit.

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day, weather permitting

LOCATION

Elizabeth Street (betw. Prince and Spring Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Elizabeth Street Garden

Phebe’s — 70.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We have walked by Phebe’s many times and on one hot summer day we actually walked in.  Immediately we heard music that was louder than we would have liked, and certainly too loud at first, but we suspect that the song that was playing when we entered was someone’s favorite–it featured a long guitar solo and once the song was over, the volume was decreased.  Although things improved once the volume was lowered, we found the music to be fairly trebly which some people find uncomfortable.

The bar was mostly full during our visit, but there were plenty of empty tables.  We sat in a small alcove off the entrance.  There was a small wall separating the alcove from the bar but the sound still spilled over.   An open door let in street noise.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Despite the street noise and music, we would recommend a visit to Phebe’s.   While it was not calm, it was good enough.  Add in great service, good food, and very good prices, and Phebe’s lands on the tolerable list.  That said, we would have assumed that it is probably raucous at happy hour, brunch, and late week dinners, but our excellent waitress told us that brunch is fine if you visit between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.–the space gets a bit rowdier afterwards.  She added that there is a DJ on Thursday and late week dinners are louder.  Phebe’s has a back room and two alcove areas, so you may be able to find a quiet nook even on busy nights.

HOURS

LOCATION

(at the corner of E. 4th Street), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Phebe’s

 

Tout Va Bien — 76.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Tout Va Bien started serving hungry theatergoers in 1948, and it claims to be the oldest French bistro in the Theater District.  It’s a nice casual place with some kitschy Francophile design touches that offers a very reasonable lunch pre fixe of $14.95 (for an appetizer (pate is $2 more), entrée (four choices), and dessert (four choices, two require supplement)).  A dinner prix fixe is offered as well.

We thought the small space was comfortable, but the room was  less than half full when we got there.  Halfway through our visit a  table of six chatty and somewhat loud co-workers—including one who amused his co-workers by imitating animal sounds–were seated near us and the decibel meter inched up.  Still, the space was fine even after the party of six came in–it was definitely tolerable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Other patrons aside, there was some unnecessary music from a radio station playing in the background, but the volume was very low.   A flat screen tv showed a soccer game but the sound was turned off so it did not contribute to the soundscape.  We found the space to be surprisingly tolerable given the fairly low tin ceilings, fake brick walls, and tile floor.  The upholstered banquettes and wood paneling must have absorbed or deflected some of the sound.

Tout Va Bien occupies a small space with not many tables, so unless the place is packed with it should be manageable.  Certainly a Thursday lunch was fine, and we would recommend it for a pre-theatre dinner or a reasonable prix fixe lunch.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.  and 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 8th and 9th Avenues), New York, NY 10019

WEBSITE

Tout Va Bien