Café Serai (at the Rubin Museum of Art) — 65.9 to 72 decibels

By, Jeanine Botta

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Café Serai is located on the ground floor of the Rubin Museum of Art on the corner of West 17th Street and Seventh Avenue in Chelsea.  The restaurant is open during museum hours, and diners are not required to purchase an admission ticket.  The Rubin Museum features artistic, visual, musical, theatrical, educational, and other exhibitions and programs related to Himalayan Asia, and its café offers Himalayan and American fare, assorted coffee and tea selections, wine, and beer.

I’ve been to Café Serai several times, always in the afternoon, meeting old friends, new friends, and arranging casual business meetings with work colleagues.  I’ve also visited the café on my own, and find the atmosphere calming but cheerful, and the food and drink consistently fresh and delicious.

On a recent visit, a colleague and I each ordered a thali plate with vegetable korma accompanied by either Himalayan toast or red rice, and soup or salad.  The korma and the lentil based soup were savory and mildly spiced.  The three plates seemed small, but the amount of food was exactly right – more filling than expected.

We sat at one of several tables overlooking a lower level gallery, across the floor from the space that holds the museum shop, which is usually busy, but not noisy.  In this space on that day, sound level readings were 72 decibels.  At subsequent visits, I sat further within the larger café area, closer to a wall and away from foot traffic, and the readings reflected that as they ranged from 65.9 to  68.9 decibels.  During all afternoon visits, soft instrumental music was unobtrusive and almost indiscernible.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

With its open layout, Café Serai does not offer hushed quietude, but its overall acoustic quality is very good.  It is easy to communicate with companions, and the space is popular with visitors who work, read, and study.  Those who are interested in interior soundscape design should consider visiting the museum, as sound is an important element in several of the exhibition spaces.

On Wednesdays, Café Serai hosts Himalayan Happy Hour from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., and on Friday nights at 6:00 p.m. the space becomes K2 Lounge, and during these times sound levels are higher.  Sound levels may also be higher in the evening when the café may be filled to capacity.


Monday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday   11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Himalayan Happy Hour from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and K2 Lounge 6:00 to 10:00 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The Museum is closed on Tuesdays, and on Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day.


150 West 17th Street (betw. 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10011


Cafe Serai


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *