Veselka — 72.4 to 78.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our first lunch time visit to the always crowded Veselka clocked in at 78.7 decibels.  The reading was higher than expected (we would have guessed that the sound level was in the lower 70s), but we were seated at the counter within a few feet of the open kitchen and our decibel meter obviously picked up all of the nearby sounds (staff chatter, occasional china noises, and a cook singing softly to himself).  We were also right next to the area where the waitstaff pick up dishes to deliver to their customers.

Even being in the worst possible seat in the house, the sound level wasn’t that bad. The fact that Veselka does not play background music really helps.  On our way out,  we quickly recorded the sound level in the nearby dining room.  It was 72.4 decibels, which was more than acceptable.  The lesson here is that at Veselka you must balance your desire to be seated quickly (counter seats are easier to get) against your desire for a quieter meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On our second lunch time visit, the meter registered 75.9 decibels, which again was higher than we would have guessed.  There are a lot of hard surfaces in the restaurant, including big windows looking out on 9th street, but the absence of background music makes a huge difference because the space was mostly comfortable.  If background music had been playing we think the reading would have easily been ten points higher.   With music, the crowded room–there was a wait when we arrived–would have been unbearable.  Without music, the noise level was mostly manageable, with the bulk of the sound coming from the many conversations throughout the room that were conducted at reasonable levels (i.e., no screamers).

One other plus: No electric hand dryers at Veselka; only paper towels are provided in the restrooms.

And finally, although we focus on sound levels and comfortability, we would be remiss is we didn’t note that Veselka offers one of the finest bowls of borscht in the city.  They are also noted for their tasty and filling pierogis.

Attention restauranteurs, this is how you run a busy but comfortable space: kill or aggressively reduce the volume of background music.  It’s an easy thing to do and it offers immediate relief.

HOURS

Open 24 hours a day

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Veselka

Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen — 68.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

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

Teremok — 75.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Teremok is a 300-strong fast food chain in Russia that just recently opened two locations in Manhattan.  We visited their Chelsea location, which had just opened the week of our visit.  True to its roots, Teremok offers Russian fast food: blinys (sweet or savory), kasha, soups (including borscht, of course), salads, and drinks.   It’s a nicer fast food joint, not a cafe or restaurant, but we thought Teremok offered a nice change from burritos or burgers and the coffee was good (regular drip and iced coffee).

The physical space was fine.  There were a couple of tables and a shelf with stools, but every surface was hard.  There’s a lot of glass in the front and a big expanse of tile.  Once again we were confronted with unnecessary music that was a bit too loud and better suited for a discotheque (why were they playing generic dance music?).  But the space isn’t big enough to get horribly loud, though we have no doubt that it wouldn’t be pleasant if was crowded.  Long and short, the Chelsea location of Teremok should be tolerable most of the time.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The staff was very attentive as the place had just opened and they were trying to doing their best.  If you are in Chelsea and need to eat and run and want something different, you could do worse than Teremok.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

nue (at 16th Street), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Teremok

 

Matryoshka — 64 decibels

Photo credit: GMB

It’s in here somewhere

Finding Matryoshka, an old-school restaurant featuring Russian comfort food, takes some effort–you have to walk through a labyrinthian space to find it, as it is hidden within a Russian bathhouse (the front desk clerk will give you directions).

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

At first, we were the only patrons during a lunch time visit, but other diners followed (including a table of chatty, jovial co-workers).  When we first walked in the waitress went up to the wall mounted tv and lowered the volume on her own initiative, so that the program played softly in the background.  The channel was one we never heard of, OANN, which reported on worldwide weather anomalies, followed by a documentary on the Hittites.  An odd choice, perhaps, but much better than loud, pulsating music.  There is no doubt that the space would have been louder if the room was full, but at 64 decibels there is room to accommodate additional diners.   [When we visited Matryoshka for lunch a few months later, the experience was the same.  There was one loud table but the tv volume was very low, resulting in a reading of 65.8 decibels.]

Matryoshka offers two prix fixe menus at lunch time ($12.95 or 16.95), both of which include a choice of salads (the house salad was simple but very fresh), soup, and an entrée, along with a basket of brown bread and butter.   The food was very good and filling and service was excellent.  We suspect the space may be louder in the evening when fellow diners are more likely to drink, so we will return to get a decibel reading during dinner service.

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

You just don’t find many places like Matryoshka any more.  If you are in the Financial District/South Seaport area, are very hungry, and like Russian food, we heartily recommend that you check out Matryoshka.  It is well worth the visit.

HOURS

7:00 a.m. to midnight every day

LOCATION

88 Fulton Street (betw. William and Gold, closer to Gold), NY, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Matryoshka