A.O.C. had been a well frequented West Village haunt in the past. The food is reliably good, featuring French bistro classics (croque monsieur, mussels, coq au vin, etc.) and a very good burger with salad and fabulous fries. Sadly, we had a disappointingly loud Saturday brunch visit that clocked in at 78.5 decibels. The waitstaff will lower background music if asked, and, in fact, they complied with our request on this visit, but the volume crept up when someone’s favorite song came on.
A lunch time visit was a more tolerable 74.8 decibels, but it could have been better. Two exuberant and chatty patrons at the bar and an open the front door that let in street noise from a very busy Bleecker Street were the offenders. A visit in late fall or the winter should be more pleasant as the door will be closed. Once again the background music was louder than necessary, but this time the level was lowered it as soon as we requested it and it did not creep back up. As soon as one of the loud chatty patrons left, the sound level became appreciably better. It is worth checking out A.O.C. at lunch, but the space will likely be more pleasant earlier in the week when it is less crowded (Friday lunch is busy).
Finally, a breakfast visit was a mostly pleasant 71 decibels. Once again the background music was a little louder than it needed to be, but there were only a handful of patrons so the space was relatively quiet by default. The front door was open when we got there, allowing in noticeable street noise, but was shut on request (due to temperature not noise).
Overall, A.O.C. is worth the visit but should be avoided at brunch or during busy lunches and dinners. There is a back garden that is almost always calm. If you can get a seat in the back garden, take it–it should be tolerable at any time. The indoor space is noticeably calmer during weekday lunch service and off hours. One ear friendly factor: they offer paper towels along with an electric hand dryer in bathrooms.
Update: A recent mid-afternoon visit for a cafe au lait was wonderful. Not surprising, as the place was empty. The background music was fine this time and featured French ballads, jazz, and instrumentals. Most importantly, the music was loud enough to be heard and no louder. Bliss.
Sunday through Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to midnight
Friday and Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.
314 Bleecker Street (at the corner of Grove), New York, NY 10014