Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine (Fulton Street) — 75.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We used to eat regularly at a Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine near our workplace, but they lost their lease or otherwise closed.  We missed their filling and tasty takeaway, but generally avoided eating in because it was so loud and crowded.  So when we happened upon a new location of  Sophie’s near our old work space recently, we had to go in and check it out.

Sophie’s is a local chain of Cuban restaurants.  They have a cafeteria line for ordering sandwiches and platters to go, but also offer table service if you are eating in.  The food is freshly prepared, delicious, and filing, but it’s not necessarily the healthiest option.  If you manage to eat all of your lunch, you can skip dinner, and maybe even breakfast the next day.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Because we remembered Sophie’s as being really loud, we were very pleasantly surprised by the Fulton Street location.  So surprised that for the first time ever we opted to eat in.  This location of Sophie’s isn’t calm–it can’t be with the crowds–but it was manageable.  The music volume was low, which made all the difference in the overall noise level in the space.  Drop ceiling tiles probably helped too, as the place was otherwise filled with hard surfaces.   Remarkably, the noise level was very tolerable from start to finish, which was pretty impressive given that the place was packed when we arrived.

We don’t know if this Sophie’s is an anomaly, so the review and our recommendation is limited to the Fulton Street location.   If you are in the Financial District and are jonesing for some Cuban food, or you are very hungry and want a big, satisfying lunch, go to Sophie’s on Fulton Street.  The food is tasty, filling, and very inexpensive for what you get, and the dining space should be tolerable even if packed (and it is often packed).

Note to hot sauce fans: Ask for the green sauce.   It varies in strength depending on the heat of the jalapenos used when they make the sauce–and they make their own hot sauce regularly–but it is always delicious.  Just try a little before you douse your entire meal with it.  There is also a white garlic sauce, too.   We suggest getting them both and experimenting.  And don’t forget to get a guava and cheese empanada for dessert.  It’s served warm and it’s fantastic.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

LOCATION

76 Fulton Street (at Gold Street), New York, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Sophie’s Cuban Cuisine

Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen — 68.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen isn’t a calm or peaceful place yet we still recommend it.  The noise level would have been perfect if they weren’t playing Ukranian music videos on a flat screen tv.  That said, the volume was tolerable even if the music was unnecessary.  So why do we recommend a visit?  Because Streecha isn’t your typical Manhattan restaurant.

Streecha feels like a church basement because it is, essentially.  According to EV Grieve,  it “is a fundraising arm of the St George Ukrainian Catholic Church up the street.”   You enter and approach the counter at the end of the dining room to place your order.  Then sit at one of the communal folding tables.  The tables are covered with plastic tablecloths, and the chairs are stackable.  A basket of plastic utensils sits on one of the tables–help yourself.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The menu and hours are limited.  Your choices are borscht, pierogis, cabbage rolls, sausage, or the special.   We got the special, which were pork meatballs with pasta.  It was tasty and it cost $4.  No, that isn’t a typo.  We spent $4 for lunch in the East Village in 2016.

Yes, had they turned off the music videos, or just lowered the volume, the space would been really pleasant.  But to be frank, it may have killed the vibe.  Streecha is perfect the way it is.   Certainly the Japanese tourists who came during our visit agreed.   Just go.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Closed for the summer

LOCATION

Street (betw. 2nd and 3rd Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Foursquare: Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen

 

Hungarian Pastry Shop — 72.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit to Hungarian Pastry Shop was surprisingly relaxed given how crowded it was–there were lots of students hanging out during our visit.  We ordered at the counter and found our way to a small table.  When an order is ready, a name is called and acknowledged, and someone ferries your order to you.  We thought the coffee was good enough and a Napoleon wasn’t as sweet as it looked (which was a good thing).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Importantly, despite being crowded the place was calm.  Why?  No music!  The benefits of not playing music is on display at Hungarian Pastry Shop.  Even though the space was almost fully occupied, and at least half of the occupied tables were small groups of friends chatting with each other, the other half could comfortably work on their laptops or read a book. Yes, a real book.  And yes, it was comfortable enough to do it.

And that’s the word that’s best used to describe this place, comfortable. The coffee is decent, not great, and the pastries looked better than they taste, but the space is comfortable and for New York City that’s saying something.

Hungarian Pastry Shop is located across the street from St. John the Divine.  It’s worth a visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LOCATION

nue (at 111th Street), New York, NY 10025

WEBSITE

Hungarian Pastry Shop

 

Woorijip Korean Restaurant– 72.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Woorijip Korean Restaurant is a great place for a quick, cheap meal in that sliver of midtown known as Koreatown.  The lunch buffet is only $7.99/lb, and they offer pre-packaged meals too.  It’s perfect for what it is, and its fresh and tasty buffet options include many vegetarian dishes along with bulgogi and other meat-based offerings.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The space was surprisingly calm given how busy it was–almost every seat was taken.  Tables are communal, so if you see an empty chair, it’s yours.  There were some couples and groups, but they chatted quietly to each other.  Korean pop was playing in the background, but the volume was very low.  We were surprised at how comfortable we were in this very busy dining room.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Woorijip is the place to go when you want to eat and run, but not because you are racing through your meal to escape the din.  No, Woorijip is highly recommended if you are looking for good cheap eats in relatively pleasant surroundings in midtown.  You will be hard pressed to find a better value.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. Broadway and 5th Avenue), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

Woorijip Korean Restaurant

Superiority Burger — 76.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Superiority Burger has deservedly received raves for its first-rate vegetarian and vegan food.  It occupies a tight space, with seating for maybe seven people.  There are no tables, really, just  tiny table tops that swing out to allow you to sit.  The feeling is not unlike sitting at a children’s desk in elementary school.  In short, it’s not particularly comfortable, but it gets the job done.  You order, you eat, and you leave.  Superiority Burger is not a place where you linger.

It was loud when we entered because of the music, but when the song finally concluded things improved with the next tune.  Because of the limited seating, it really can’t get too loud even with a space full of hard surfaces (mainly subway tile, metal, and glass).  The menu has seven items: three sandwiches, one side, two beverages, and gelato or sorbet, but specials are posted as well.  We didn’t care about the short menu as we would have been happy ordering everything that was listed.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Given the name of the place, and the hype surrounding their famed burger, we ordered one with cheese (real cheese, but a vegan cheese is also available) and a side order of their burnt broccoli salad.  The burger was delicious and the broccoli salad was outstanding.  Superiority Burger lives up to the hype.  Despite the (initially) louder-then-needed music and quirky seating, we would recommend a visit.

HOURS

Wednesday through Monday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Closed Tuesday

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st Street and Avenue A), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Superiority Burger

Andrews Coffee Shop — 77.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Andrews Coffee Shop is a diner on the corner of 35th Street and 7th Avenue in the heart of midtown.  The noise level was better than the reading may suggest.  The noise profile was higher due, in part, to a manager inexplicably putting a landline phone on speaker, set at the highest volume, while he was trying to contact some who didn’t answer until after 20 rings .

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Even with all the flat screen tvs, most of the sound was due to the very busy staff bustling back and forth and kitchen sounds.  The place was packed during our visit.  In fact, no tables were available so we sat at the counter.  We tried to determine if music was playing in the background, but we couldn’t tell to be frank.  If yes, the music volume was very very low.  The noise level was mostly due to voices and kitchen sounds.  We found the space very tolerable and were surprised by the reading because we expected it to be under 75 decibels.   Finally, the food was fine and everything looked freshly made.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If you are looking for a quick nosh in midtown, you could do a lot worse than Andrews Coffee Shop.  The place is bustling for a reason–it’s a clean space that offers decent diner favorites at reasonable prices for midtown.  Though it was very busy, we found the space to be tolerable.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

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

LOCATION

nue (at the corner of 35th Street), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Andrews Coffee Shop

Hi-Collar — 71.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We had been meaning to visit Hi-Collar for years but never quite made it there.   That ended on a very hot July afternoon when we found ourselves nearby and went in to cool down with a coffee and, we hoped, strong air conditioning.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On its website, Hi-Collar explains that the name is a “Fashion-alluding term popularized during the Japanese Jazz Age” that symbolized “Japan’s flirtation with the West.”   By day, Hi-Collar is “a Western-inspired Japanese cafe -popularly known as kissaten – specializing in siphon coffee & Kissaten menu,” but at night it becomes a sake bar.

We were in luck that hot day.  What an interesting place, and comfortable too (the air conditioning was more than sufficient for the heat wave that we had been experiencing).  Hi-Collar was full of Japanese expats enjoying a coffee and a nosh, and everyone was talking softly.

The space is small, just one long counter offering coffee many ways–pour over, aero press, and siphon–and a selection of snacks, including spongy Japanese pancakes that we will definitely try next time as the smell was lovely.  When we entered Hi-Collar, we thought the background music was Sinatra singing his classics.  Well, no.   As we listened carefully it became apparent that what we were hearing was a cut-rate Sinatra–we didn’t know who–and somehow that added to Hi-Collar’s charm.  It just seemed right that they went with fake Sinatra instead of the real thing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

After wandering around the hot New York City streets, Hi-Collar’s cold brew coffee with a scoop of dense vanilla gelato hit the spot–it was just perfect.  Refreshed, we were ready to brave the sweltering city streets.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Hi-Collar is absolutely delightful– we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  Yes, it could have been quieter if the music were lowered or turned off, but, frankly, the music added to its charm.  Food is available all day and night, but the kitchen closes one hour before the place does.   And don’t miss a visit to the bathroom at the end of the room.  It’s pretty and offers a dazzling (if obsessive) array of toilet options.

 

 

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

 

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to  1:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Note: Kitchen last call at is an hour before the closing time.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st and 2nd Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Hi-Collar

 

Corner Bistro — 72.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Corner Bistro’s burger always seems to make the “best burger” lists, no doubt due to its status as a village institution (“the last of the bohemian bars in West Greenwich Village,” proclaims the Corner Bistro website).   We thought the burgers were fine, though not the best we’ve had, but the prices are good (drafts under $5) and the place was surprisingly pleasant at lunch.  The tables in the front were almost all taken when we stopped by, and the bar was about half full.  We avoided the back room because one guy–one very loud guy–made the space noisier than we liked, so we went to the front and took the last empty table.

The Corner Bistro has tin ceilings and corner windows, but the space didn’t feel live or pingy. There’s a lot of wood to absorb and deflect sound.  The tables are fairly close together, but it was fine.   A group of women to our left were great–chatty but not at all loud.  A couple to our right, on the other hand, were loud, with one of the couple  laughing as she spoke….endlessly.  But even with a loud laughing-talker nearby we found the space to be mostly relaxing and would definitely recommend Corner Bistro for lunch.

We couldn’t extrapolate for dinner or later, though, as the room could get packed and the introduction of large quantities of beer could change things.  After all, the following equation is almost always true: people + booze = noise.  That said, we can unreservedly recommend Corner Bistro for lunch, and simply advise that you proceed with caution at happy hour and on busy evenings.

Cash only.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m.

LOCATION

(at Jane Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Corner Bistro

Ost Cafe — 67.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ost Cafe is a very nice little coffee shop offering coffee, tea, and sweet treats.  It’s located on the very edge of the Lower East Side where it meets Two Bridges.  This part of the Lower East Side hasn’t been over-developed yet; many of the nearby stores still have signs written in Hebrew.

Music played quietly in the background during our visit–mostly jazz instrumentals, no voices–and there were only four other patrons working silently on their laptops.   So we were not surprised that the decibel reading was under 70.  Other than the four laptoppers, a couple of people stopped by for a coffee to go, waiting quietly until their drinks were served.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Overall, we had a very pleasant visit to Ost Cafe.  It was very nearly perfect except for one thing– the front door was open to the street.   We assume the door was open because it was a mild late spring afternoon and the space was cooled by the gentle breeze.  Presumably the door is shut during the dog days of summer and in the winter, so street noise should not be a problem most of the year.  But street noise was an issue during our visit because several too-big-for-the-city semi-trailers were stopped outside the entrance, idling loudly as they waited for the green light.  The only other source of noise was the occasional buzz of the bean grinder.

Ost Cafe was very manageable even with the doors open.  It should be absolutely delightful in the height of the summer and winter.   We recommend that you visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. East Broadway and Henry Street), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Ost Cafe

Cafe Luka — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Cafe Luka is more of a diner than cafe.  It serves standard American diner favorites, like wraps, sandwiches, and a pretty good burger.   It’s fine for what it is but it could have been a lot more pleasant if they just lowered the music (or shut it off as no one was listening to it).

Other than the music, the other layers of sound were manageable.  A flat screen tv was prominently placed, but we couldn’t hear the audio.  The chatter was fairly quiet even though the place was full.  In fact, we had to sit at the counter as no tables were free.  Kitchen sounds occasionally colored the soundscape as a bussing station was situated near us, but the bussing noise was manageable,  as was the staff chatter as they ran the orders back and forth.  The only reason for a lackluster review was the music.  It was unnecessary and intrusive.

In the end, Cafe Luka was tolerable.  If you are in the neighborhood and looking for a quick, basic meal, you could do worse.

HOURS

6:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day (may be open slightly later on Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate customers)

LOCATION

nue (betw. 70th and 71st Streets), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Cafe Luka