Tim Ho Wan — 83 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

It’s really hard to get a table at Tim Ho Wan.  This New York City outpost of a well-known and well-rated Hong Kong dim sum chain always has a line.  Probably because it is the least expensive restaurant to earn a Michelin star.  So if you want to go, expect a wait.  And don’t forget to  bring your ear plugs, because the noise levels are uncomfortably high.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Is the food good?  Yes, that’s why it’s jammed. But we won’t be visiting again. In the end, no matter how good the food is, it’s impossible to enjoy your meal–don’t even try to have a conversation–when the music is so loud (and unforgivably bad).

The other customers didn’t seem to care about the noise level, but since the age range appeared to span early-20’s to mid-20’s, we weren’t surprised. It was clear from the moment we stepped in that we were not in their preferred demographic.  The music made that quite clear.

Maybe the folks behind this popular chain might consider opening an adult location where the grownups can have a nosh and a conversation? Until then, avoid.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

(at the corner of E. 10th Street), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Tim Ho Wan

Nancy Whiskey Pub — 86.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

When we entered Nancy Whiskey Pub we wanted to love it.  It appears to be the perfect neighborhood dive bar–not contrived or styled, it simply is a place you go to drink with your buddies.  And we did fall in love with the place, for five, maybe ten minutes. But after our brief love affair, things quickly turned ugly when a bartender began feeding bills into the jukebox and destroyed what had been a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

No one asked the bartender to play music, so either management requires the bartenders to turn it on at a certain time or maybe she was bored.  We don’t know.  What we do know is that the volume was punishing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We also don’t know if deafening music is played every day or whether the bartender just wanted to hear some tunes, but when we asked if the volume could be lowered, the bartender shouted, “go upstairs,” which we understood to be “no.”

We did go upstairs and found a smaller space crammed with people who were not quite drunk and already screaming–not surprisingly, this space was only slightly quieter than below. We threw back our drinks and left, emerging onto the comparatively serene street, and continued our search for the perfect bar.

So, sadly, we must advise that you avoid Nancy Whiskey Pub if you cherish your hearing more than finding a genuine neighborhood bar. The prices were good, the physical space  was perfect, but it’s just too damn loud.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. every day (sometimes close earlier on Sundays and Mondays)

LOCATION

Street (on the corner of 6th Avenue), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Nancy Whiskey Pub

 

 

Brooklyn Roasting Company (Dumbo Headquarters) — 70.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited the Jay Street location of Brooklyn Roasting Company on a late Saturday afternoon and found it very busy but relaxed.  This location is the company’s headquarters and “roastery,” so there is a lot of space.  Large bags of green coffee beans were piled artistically around the space.  It was a bit disconcerting to see some people use them as seating, but they seemed to serve that purpose.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Because it’s a big space so you should always be able to find a relatively quiet corner.  Something that is almost guaranteed as it’s very popular with people who are beavering away on their computers.  In fact, there are always lots of laptop brigade members here, which is always a good sign.

Music played softly in the background during our visit, but as it was truly in the background we did not mind.  The coffee, unsurprisingly, is excellent and reasonably priced for Dumbo.  It should be, since they roast their own beans and sell them.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We highly recommended this location of Brooklyn Roasting Company.  There usually are savory and sweet snacks on offer, but the cupboard was a bit bare in the late afternoon.  We remember their version of a pop tart with some fondness, so if you want a snack to go with your coffee try visiting a little earlier in the day.

If you like the feeling of a big lofty space in the middle of a very industrial looking part of Brooklyn–a Con Ed transmission substation is across the street–you will be in your element.   The Dumbo location of Brooklyn Roasting Company is well worth a visit.

HOURS

7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of John Street), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Brooklyn Roasting Company

Good Stuff Diner – 65.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

By Jeanine Botta

On a recent morning, I’d been running errands in Manhattan and decided to try the Good Stuff Diner on West 14th Street before heading home to Brooklyn.  I love diners and was drawn to the place’s gleaming retro design and warm tones.  A manager greeted me at the door and accommodated my request for a booth, which doesn’t always happen with solo diners.  I sat in the back among a mix of other solo diners, pairs, and groups.  Two men sat alone at separate tables eating breakfast and reading newspapers, then said goodbye to each other when one of them left.

It was just after 10:00 a.m. when I arrived, so it was somewhere between the end of the breakfast rush and the start of the lunch rush; around half of the tables were occupied in each dining area. I ordered eggs with toast and home fried potatoes, orange juice, and coffee.  All were good, and the service was fast and friendly, but not rushed.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was no music playing in the back section of the diner while I was there.  The average sound level  was only 65.4, but the ambience wasn’t hushed.  The predominant sound was that of lively conversation.  It was only when I walked to the front of the diner as I was leaving that I heard music, but the music was playing softly in the background and didn’t distract.

The Good Stuff Diner is recommended to tourists and other travelers, as evidenced by online reviews.  But on this weekday morning I could tell by nearby conversations that many of the diners were locals, some were regulars, and most were New Yorkers, which says good things about the place.  Given the sound level when the restaurant was just over halfway occupied, I wouldn’t hesitate to schedule a meeting or meet up with friends during a busier time.  It was good to find an aesthetically appealing, affordable, friendly restaurant with a robust menu in a part of the city where I often find myself wishing for exactly this kind of eatery.

HOURS

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week

LOCATION

109 West 14th Street (near 6th Avenue), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Good Stuff Diner

B & H — 71.3 decibels

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B & H is a longstanding kosher dairy restaurant located in the East Village.  Essentially it’s pescatarian, as they don’t serve meat but fish is on the menu, and it’s really more of a lunch counter than a restaurant.  An open grill is located behind the counter which runs the length of the space; the counter is lined with stools.  Someone decided there was enough room for a handful of small tables for two that hug the opposite wall (there isn’t), so navigating your way in the space is a challenge but it’s worth it.

Soups reign at B & H. A big bowl of whatever soup you choose (choices include hot borscht, mushroom and barley, vegetable, and matzoh ball) is only $5.50 with bread and butter.  Definitely get the bread–it’s soft and slightly sweet and comes pre-buttered.  Service is very efficient and friendly.  If you order soup, your order will be placed in front of you within a minute or two.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We found the space to be calm even with the counter man shouting phone orders to his co-worker.  A radio played in the background but the volume was very low.  There were some sharp kitchen sounds of dishes being thrown into a bin, but basically the soundscape was  comfortable.  And even though we visited on a Monday night, the place was pretty packed, so we think the reading and this review reasonably reflects what one can expect when B & H is busy.

If you want to experience a bit of old school New York City, come to B & H. After you finish your meal, head on over to nearby Moishe’s Bake Shop (where everything looks kind of stale but it’s actually pretty good).

Highly recommended.  Cash only.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Frirday and Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. St. Marks Place and 7th Street), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

B & H Dairy Kosher Restaurant

 

Govinda’s — 65.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located on the bottom floor of the Hare Krishna Temple on Schemerhorn near Nevins, Govinda’s is not to be missed.  On the Temple’s website they extoll the virtues of Govinda’s, inviting the public to enjoy “great Vegetarian food at affordable prices and served to you in a peaceful stress free environment.”  And they delivered on what they had promised.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Govinda’s is located in a large meeting room.  A buffet style counter is set up by the entrance, to the space.  You wait in line, tell the server what you want, pay, and find a free seat at one of the large shared tables throughout the roomy space.  It feels like a church basement and not a restaurant for good reason, but this church basement restaurant is packed with believers and non-believers who enjoy a good vegetarian nosh.

Govinda’s features one entree that changes every day–eggplant parmagiana was offered when we visited–and a number of side dishes.  You pay for the number choices you want: two choices are $7, and a combo plate of eggplant Parm, string beans, cabbage and potatoes, and a very tasty slaw set us back $10.  A “complete meal,” which must feature everything, is only $12 and apparently is enough food for two people.  Free bread and unlimited water or orange lemonade (very good and refreshing) come with the meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There were lots of coworkers (it’s located near city government buildings) or friends chatting as they ate during out visit, and music playing in the background, but it the soundscape was mostly comfortable.  The room was half full when we first entered but quickly filled up; it was nearly full by the time we left.  Because the space is roomy and there is a drop ceiling, the sound level was more than manageable.  The only thing that made the space less than perfect was the sitar music, which can be a bit trebly–if high-pitched sounds are your personal nemisis, you may want to avoid Govinda’s.  That said, the space is very comfortable and it’s easy to carry on a conversation here.

If you enjoy a good vegetarian meal in a fairly relaxed setting, you must stop by Govinda’s.  Note that Govinda’s is only open for lunch Monday through Friday, and it is cash only.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Closed Saturday and Sunday

LOCATION

305 Schermerhorn Street (betw. Nevins and Bond Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch

 

Archestratus Books + Foods — 70.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Archestratus Books + Foods is a very calm space, even with unnecessary music playing in the background. It should be calm, as it is a cafe burrowed into the back of a bookstore.  There is a short menu offering a few savory and sweet treats during the day, and a selection of coffees and teas.  Service is friendly and relaxed.

Archestratus Books + Foods offers a well-liked dinner on Thursday nights.  We’ve never been, but given the rave dinner reviews on Yelp and other rating sites, it’s on our short list to try for this year.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The bookstore portion of the space features books on food and cooking–it’s easy to get lost in the space for hours.  There is also a small selection of interesting gift items on offer.  Overall the entire space is quiet and comfortable.

There were only a couple of people sharing the cafe when we visited, so we can’t say conclusively that the space would be comfortable when full.  Still, the cafe soundscape should be fine even when crowded, as it only seats 12.

Archestratus Books + Foods is highly recommended.

HOURS

Monday and Tuesday: Closed

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

Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Dinner is available Thursday evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street), Brooklyn, NY 11222

WEBSITE

Archestratus Books + Foods

Raclette — 78.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The restaurant was packed when we got there, even though our reservation was set for a time squarely between the end of brunch and beginning of dinner.  Yes, the place is that popular that a reservation is a must.  As a conseqence, the small space was louder than we would have liked, at first, but the noise level improved.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

About halfway through our visit, the sound level became a lot better.  The tenor changed after a couple of tables left and someone appeared to have lowered the unnecessary music.  In fact, the room was perfect. The second half of the visit made up for the first half, helped in no small part by the food.  If you love cheese–particularly melted cheese–Raclette is a must visit.  Perfect on a cold winter’s afternoon.

HOURS

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

Monday through Thursday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

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

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Raclette