We decided to check out Cafe Katja, an Austrian restaurant on the Lower East Side, for lunch. During our visit the decibel meter initially hovered under 70 decibels, closer to 67 decibels. No surprise, as only one other table that was occupied, and even though the windows were open, there wasn’t much street noise. But then a party of approximately 20 teenaged girls walked in. We expected the worst, but the space remained comfortable (it must be noted that the group was very well behaved and, while chatty, not that loud). No doubt a different group may have resulted in a much different experience.
That said, even with the party of 20 the place was not quite half full and bar was empty, so the noise levels were very manageable. This made it difficult to guesstimate what the noise level would be like at brunch or dinner. There is a tin ceiling and large windows in the space, but wood floors and upholstered banquette seating compensate for the hard surfaces, and the space is broken up into distinct seating areas (bar, dining room, and side dining space) by the use of a column or other divider. We can unequivocally state that for a Thursday lunch, the space was comfortable.
To see how things panned out at dinner, we visited Cafe Katja again. Our reading of 78.2 decibels shows the space was plainly louder, but it wasn’t as uncomfortable as the reading may suggest. The culprit was the background music, which was too loud for the first 30 minutes of our visit. You can imagine how happy we were when the music volume was lowered, because once the volume was adjusted the space was comfortable.
Our comfort level pre- and post-music lowering highlights an obvious problem seen (well, heard) at most restaurants, bars, and coffee shops. Namely, background music generally encourages people to raise their voice to be heard over the music, which then encourages their neighbors to raise their voices to be heard over the music and the other speakers, and so on. It’s a known phenomenon, see The Lombard Effect.
In any event, our dinner ended on a high (but not too loud) note. We must point out that our visit was on the early side on a Saturday evening–the space may have been louder later that night. That said, we would recommend a visit to Cafe Katja. The space is very nice, the service is good, and the food is delicious. Cafe Katja also has a nice selection of beers and very good coffee. Keep in mind, however, that the menu is meat centric– there aren’t many options for vegetarians.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Monday: 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Tuesday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Street (betw. Grand and Broome Streets), New York, NY 10002