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.
Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
101 N. 8th Street (betw. Wythe Avenue and Berry Street), Brooklyn, NY 11249
What a pleasant surprise we had when we ducked into the Peter McManus Cafe, an Irish pub located in Chelsea, for a quick midweek lunch. The pub, which was founded in 1932, has been in its current location since 1936. We can vouch that it looks like very little has been done to the interior since that time (which we think is a good thing). The cafe has a bar in the front that is lined with stools, with a few tables and two or three flat screen tvs playing the game du jour. In the back there is a dining room that is open to the bar area, but somewhat shielded from bar noise.
When we arrived all the tvs were on in the bar and dining room, but only one tv in the bar had the volume turned on. This was not a problem at all, as it could easily be heard by the patrons sitting at the bar but was merely a background hum in the dining area, where we had our meal. With a decibel reading of 65.3, this was one of the most peaceful lunches we have had in a long time.
There is no question that the place was so quiet because is wasn’t crowded. In fact, the bar was only half full and the dining room was mostly empty. That said, we think lunches generally should be comfortable, particularly in the dining space. Our suspicion was confirmed by our friendly and efficient waitress who said that lunches tend to be quiet unless there was a big game on tv. She noted that the space tends to be louder at dinner, but added that the jukebox in the front did not play in the dining area. And no surprise, she confirmed that the place will be packed and noisy anytime there is a big game.
Peter McManus Cafe felt more like a pub with food than a restaurant, but they turned out a very freshly made and tasty club sandwich. There are at least a dozen beers on tap and another dozen in bottles, plus an extensive list of whiskies from around the world. More importantly, the place felt like a real neighborhood bar, and it was clear that the patrons lining the bar were regulars.
If you want to enjoy a beer and a burger in relative peace, head on over to the Peter McManus Cafe. Neighborhood bars are a real rarity in Manhattan. Enjoy this one while it’s still around (just don’t come during the Superbowl).
Monday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 am.
Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.
We only visited Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to get a few donuts to go. Once we walked in, we wished we had time to stay and have a coffee and donut. Peter Pan is an old-school bakery with a service counter, and at least half of the seats were taken while we were there. And with good reason. Peter Pan has long been ranked as one of the best–if not the best–donut shop in the city. It’s been around for over 60 years, and nothing about the place has changed.
If you want to experience a real New York City neighborhood institution, you couldn’t find a better example. There was a constant flow of customers coming in to get donuts to go, but the bustling line wasn’t annoying. Music played very softly in the background, and the older crowd who opted to eat in talked relatively quietly to each other. We thought that everything about the place was perfect.
And the donuts? Yes, they are some of the best in the city.
Monday through Friday: 4:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Saturday: 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Sunday: 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
727 Manhattan Avenue (betw. Meserole and Norman Avenues), Brooklyn, NY 11222
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.
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.
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.
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
560 3rd Avenue (betw. 37th and 38th Streets), New York, NY 10016
Here’s something we don’t often write: it was almost too quiet at Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, especially since we could have done without the background music, but this location of Sarabeth’s was not live at all and could best be described as sedate.
Upholstered banquettes lining the walls, a drop ceiling, and some structure kept the room calm. Except for the unnecessary and inappropriate background music, this was one of the most serene meals we have had in a long time. And the music–current pop hits that were most definitely not being enjoyed by the older crowd–was a mere annoyance in the otherwise comfortable space.
We understand that some of the larger department stores in Manhattan have cafes, and some of them have been well received. The food at Sarabeth’s was fine for what it was, but no one is going to go out of their way to eat there unless they are shopping beforehand or afterwards. This restaurant exists for convenience. And it’s worth a visit if you have some shopping to do, as it’s nice to have a civilized lunch in chaotic midtown. Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor is definitely a place were you can have a meal and a conversation. We recommend it.
11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
424 Fifth Avenue (at 39th Street), New York, NY 10018
We read a really good review of The Gumbo Bros and decided to check it out. A couple of visits to New Orleans taught us that the po’ boy is the king of sandwiches, but trying to find a decent one in New York City isn’t easy. Well, it just got easier, because The Gumbo Bros do a great job in bringing the taste of New Orleans to Brooklyn. We’ve tried the shrimp po’ boy and the roast beef, and both wen’t down easily. Stick to the po’ boys and you’ll be fine. The gumbo was ok–we aren’t big fans of the stuff, anyhow–and the side of greens was a bit too salty and spicy hot for our tastes, but those po’ boys were pretty fabulous.
So why the love note to the food and nary a mention of the soundscape? Because the food was outstanding but the soundscape was not. There is one predominant source of noise at The Gumbo Bros and that is the loud music that is broadcast throughout the space. During our visit most of the tables were taken and some people were chatty, but the chatter wasn’t that loud. No doors or windows were open to noisy Atlantic Avenue, so traffic noise was not an issue (was it drowned out by the music?). Nope, the reason the place was merely tolerable was the music. Now you may note that the reading was only 72.6 decibels, and you would be right. But the meter was running close to 78 decibels at first, and only went down as the place emptied out.
In our review last week of Nom Wah Nolita we wrote that sometimes we’re willing to put up with less than comfortable spaces if the food is exceptional. Well, these po’ boys sang to us, and even though the music was louder than we liked and the space felt live, the po’ boys make it worth stopping in for a noisy nosh. Hey, you’re not going to linger here anyhow. But the memories of that po’ boy you enjoyed? It will visit you in your dreams.
11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every day
224 Atlantic Avenue (betw. Court Street and Boerum Place), Brooklyn, NY 11201
There’s a reason we love to review diners on this site, and Townhouse Diner is a good example why–69.2 decibels. Ah. Townhouse Diner is a simple, straightforward, old-school diner that gets the job done. It’s located near the entrance of the midtown tunnel, but we couldn’t hear traffic noise. Duran Duran played in the background when we arrived. It’s wasn’t too loud, but the music was trebly and absolutely unnecessary. It was an older crowd, with the exception of one new mother and infant. Trust us, no one was listening to the music or watching Fox News on the very large flat screen. Fortunately, Fox News only offended us visually–the volume was low and we couldn’t hear it.
In the end, Townhouse Diner wasn’t perfect, but it was more than manageable. If they turned off the tv or the music (or, one hopes, both) the space would have been really comfortable. As it was, the noise level was more than manageable. We recommend it for a quick nosh.
Sunday through Thursday: 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
696 2nd Avenue (betw. 37th and 38th Streets), New York, NY 10016
Dudley’s is an attractive Aussie restaurant and bar located in the Lower East Side. We stopped by for lunch on a Monday and it was packed. Mondays tend to be a bit less hectic as a rule, so we were surprised. With the tables all taken, we headed to the bar.
The place has a really nice feel and is aesthetically pleasing (at least we thought so). There is definitely a low-key vibe about the space, but it also is decked out in hard, unforgiving materials–stainless steel, glass, mirror, and tile. With two sides of the space consisting of windows and a mirrored bar as the third, it ensures that Dudley’s will be loud most of the time. One potential mitigating factor–emphasis on potential–was the unfinished brick vaulted ceiling. We have found that vaulted ceilings seem to help in other settings, but are unsure whether it diffused any sound here.
And there was music, of course. The volume wasn’t awful, but given that the space is essentially a small glass box, it would have been nice if it was lowered or shut off entirely. The end result is that we found it tolerable, barely, at a busy lunch, and we assume the sound quality will be at least the same–if not worse–at brunch and dinner. It’s a real shame, because if the sound level wasn’t a factor we would highly recommend the place. The staff was laid back, the food was good, and it had the potential to be a comfortable space.
So it would be best to avoid Dudley’s when there is a crowd and to proceed with caution any other time. Happy hour or other boozy times are likely to be a scream fest, so don’t even think about it.
Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Monday through Thursday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Bar stays open to 2:00 a.m. every day
85 Orchard Street (betw. x and y), New York, NY 10002