Double Wide — 70.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We went to Double Wide for brunch one Saturday because one of us was craving biscuits with gravy, something that isn’t readily available in New York City.  But Double Wide had it and it was delicious.  And, as you can see from the meter reading, the soundscape was perfect!

Not so fast.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The absolutely wonderful 70.9 dBC reading was taken in Double Wide’s small back patio, which was blissfully calm during our visit.  But to get to the back patio you have to walk through the  oh-so-loud bar first. That is, small back patio aside, the rest of the space is too damn loud.

So during the warmer weather months, you can enjoy your biscuits and gravy and conversation with your companions if you can score a seat outside.  And that is fine, because Double Wide is not a place you should eat at every day.  Why? Three words: loaded tater tots.  And yes, they were appallingly delicious.

HOURS

Monday through Wednesday: 3:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Thursday and Friday: 3:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Saturday: 11:30 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Sunday: 11:30 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Avenues A and B), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Double Wide Bar

Pete’s Tavern — 71.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pete’s Tavern is a long-standing bar and Italian-American restaurant located in Gramercy Park.  It claims to be the oldest continuously operated tavern in New York City (but others make the same claim). It certainly looks like it has been around forever, with an old school tile floor throughout. That floor coupled with exposed brick walls made the front of the house somewhat loud, but the back dining room was fine even though more than half full. Why? There are dividers between booths (we were in a booth) and other structure that likely interferes with sound reflection.

There was, of course, unnecessary music playing in the background, but the music wasn’t being directly broadcast into the dining space.  Rather, what we heard was music spilling over from the juke box in the front bar.  Once again, the music du jour featured one-hit wonders from the 80’s.  Why? We don’t know, but it’s such a common phenomenon that there surely must be a reason.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There are booths and tables available in the front bar space that, while louder, appeared to be tolerable.  As in the back space, there were dividers between booths in the bar area, which presumably helped. If the music volume was lowered in this space, it would have been comfortable.  But that’s not going to happen, so aim for tolerable and you won’t be disappointed.  At least at lunch.  We have no doubt that happy hour and busy evenings will be too loud to enjoy in the bar, but the back room may be able to withstand the aural assault.

Pete’s Tavern is an attractive, old-school tavern and restaurant with reasonably priced lunch specials. The burger was pretty good, but Joe Jr. is nearby and theirs is better (but that’s a high bar). Still, this is a comfortable spot, minus the music.  With the music–and the music will remain–it is a relatively comfortable spot. If you are in Gramercy Park and want to experience a bit of old New York City, Pete’s Tavern is well worth a visit.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Irving Place), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Pete’s Tavern

Mary’s Fish Camp — 77.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There usually is a line snaking up to the entrance to Mary’s Fish Camp every evening.  People start lining up before the 6:00 p.m. start to dinner service, something they’ve done for years.  Why? It’s a fabulous seafood restaurant, well known for its lobster roll and other offerings.  So it’s a real shame that a dinner visit to Mary’s is impossible.  The space is so live that it’s almost as if the designer’s brief at the top read “make the space as intolerably loud as possible.”  Sadly, he or she delivered.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

So we paid a visit at lunch time, which is the only time you can go to Mary’s and not have your ears implode. Even then the place is uncomfortably loud. And it’s painfully obvious why it’s so uncomfortable: almost every surface in the place is hard, and it doesn’t help that at least one-third of the exterior wall is glass. The kitchen is open and there is a lot of stainless steel, a tin ceiling, exposed brick walls, and lots of tile.

But, as with other aural offenders, it is the unnecessary background music that really pushes things to the edge. The music–high-pitched and too loud–bounces off every hard surface making conversation almost impossible. You have to make a real effort to listen to your companions, but it is possible with some makeshift hacks (blocking one ear, cupping the other).

Why is the soundscape so uncomfortable?  We don’t know.  Could it be a deliberate attempt to get people in and out? Possibly. The service is pretty brisk. We hope that’s not the reason, because that kind of cold calculation is simply unconscionable, particularly since  you can’t visit Mary’s without dropping a fair amount of cash. We prefer to assume it’s a misguided aesthetic  decision.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Long and short, if the music were turned off the place would still be too loud, but at least there could be a slight chance that dinner at Mary’s could clock in at under 80 decibels. But that won’t happen. We’ve stopped by Mary’s every once in a while for years now, and it won’t change. It’s been this way forever and it’s best to assume that it will continue. The food is lovely, though, so if you want to check it out go at lunch time and hope for the best.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of W. 4th Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Mary’s Fish Camp

Scotty’s Diner — 74.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit at Scotty’s Diner was more comfortable than the meter reading might suggest. Even though we had the worst seat in the place–opposite the area the wait staff called in orders to the cooks–we didn’t think it was that bad. Sure, there was unnecessary dance music played quietly in the background, but it wasn’t loud enough to offend and probably only added a decibel or two to the overall soundscape.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We came for a mid-morning breakfast and found the place rather crowded. It was perfectly fine, even with an almost full house.  The drop ceiling may help with noise mitigation, but the quiet crowd didn’t hurt. The only obvious voices we heard were staff barking out orders to the cooks. Otherwise there were no obnoxious sounds, despite there being a semi-open kitchen.

Scotty’s offers standard diner fare–breakfasts, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, etc.–in a traditional old-school diner setting.  We recommend it.

HOURS

Open 24 hours (diner is closed from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. on Mondays)

LOCATION

Avenue (near the corner of 39th Street), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Scotty’s Diner

Blossom Restaurant — 74.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Blossom Restaurant is one of three restaurants that make up a vegan restaurant chain in New York City (the other locations are in the West Village and the Upper West Side).  We ate at the Chelsea location, which offers vegan fine dining in an attractive space–something you don’t always find at vegan restaurants.

We arrived for a relatively early dinner, so not surprisingly the place was fairly quiet when we were seated.  In fact, we were the only table in the upstairs dining room at first, but the place filled up quickly.  The meter went up when the table for two next to us was seated, as one of the diners was quite loud.  Sadly, there is little you or the restaurant can do when a loud customer is placed near you.  That said, the background music could have been a bit lower, but it was tolerable.

Overall, the space was relatively comfortable, and, importantly, the food was very tasty.   If you need to find a restaurant to impress a vegan friend or colleague, Blossom should be high on your list.

HOURS

Lunch/brunch daily: 12:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Dinner Sunday: 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Dinner Monday through Thursday: 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Dinner Friday and Saturday: 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Blossom Restaurant

Homestead Gourmet Shop — 71.2 decibels

Photo credit: Jeanine Botta

By Jeanine Botta

Online reviewers recommend the Homestead Gourmet Shop in Kew Gardens for its delicious homemade salads, authentic Polish and German specialty foods, highly praised apple, cherry, and cheese strudel, its friendly staff, and its charm. Regular customers and first time visitors enjoy the delicatessen’s authentic eastern European ambience, which will transport you to another place and time. But the Homestead has another authentic dimension, and that is its acoustic quality. You’ll hear sale interactions, conversations, and laughter, but that’s all you hear–there is no music or television playing in the background.

The acoustic dimension of a space is often ignored, but it takes a lot of work to create authentic soundscapes that reflect historical periods in theatrical productions. Soundscape researchers who focus on the aural environments of historic places propose that understanding the soundscape of a historic site has the potential to add a new layer of knowledge about the site’s past. In a space like the Homestead, its uncluttered soundscape may sound much as it did a century ago, when the space’s first occupant was a grocery store and delicatessen.

Photo credit: Jeanine Botta

The Homestead has counter service, and most customers take out their purchases, but there are two tables that each seat four. The closest subway station is Union Turnpike, where the E and F trains stop, and the Homestead is a ten-minute walk. You can also reach Kew Gardens by Long Island Railroad from Penn Station or from Jamaica.

The Homestead Gourmet Shop alone is worth the trip to Kew Gardens, but the village itself is absolutely charming. A few blocks away, Forest Park features several walking paths, and Kew Gardens Cinemas is right up the block, a five-screen multiplex featuring first run independent films and a lobby with its original Art Deco style preserved.

HOURS

Monday  Closed

Tuesday through Friday 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

81-45 Lefferts Boulevard (at the corner of Cuthbert Road), Kew Gardens, Queens, NY 11415

WEBSITE

No website

Vacation!

We will be taking a short summer break.  Hope that everyone gets some time to explore new places and enjoy pleasant–and quiet–times with family and friends.  We will be back August 15th.

 

 

Grade Coffee — 73.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

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.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Wythe Avenue and Berry Street), Brooklyn, NY 11249

WEBSITE

Grade Coffee

Peter McManus Cafe — 65.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

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).

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Peter McManus Cafe

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop — 72.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

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.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

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.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And the donuts? Yes, they are some of the best in the city.

HOURS

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.

LOCATION

nue (betw. Meserole and Norman Avenues), Brooklyn, NY 11222

WEBSITE

Peter Pan Donuts