Maman (Tribeca) — 76 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Maman’s Tribeca location for a quick nosh one Friday afternoon. This location of the Maman mini-chain is open for breakfast and lunch only.  It’s a pretty space, but we got the worse seat in the house–at the counter looking into the kitchen. We understand the aesthetic reasons for an open kitchen–there is a bit of spectacle in watching the chefs prepare your meal–but it also is a really efficient way to introduce high-pitched china-meeting-stainless countertop and mechanical sounds into the dining space.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Fortunately, the kitchen sounds were the only obvious source of unpleasant noise.  Otherwise the space, which was half full during our visit, was fine, despite the competing conversations. There was background music, which, though unnecessary, was playing at a volume low enough so as not to affect the soundscape.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The space is pretty, and the Maman name is well regarded, so we were surprised by the less than fabulous Croque “Maman,” the predominant ingredient of which was the bechamel sauce.  No one likes a dry Croque Monsieur, of course, but this was drowning in sauce. Because of their reputation and user reivews, we chalked it up to an off day.  Given that quiet places are hard to find in Tribeca, Maman is an acceptable option.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Can purchase items to go an hour earlier each day and until 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. Franklin and White Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Maman

Telegraphe Cafe — 75.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Telegraph Cafe was fairly busy during our visit, but despite being completely full it was comfortable.  It’s a small space with a handful of tightly packed tables to the right of the entrance and stools lining the counter and the front windows.  Despite having a large glassed front, the sound level was manageable.  We assume that window shades, which had been drawn halfway down, helped to absorb or deflect the sound.

Music was playing during part of visit, but the volume was low so it didn’t add much to the soundscape.  All told, given how crowded the space was, we were quite happy with the sound level and would gladly return.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Telegraphe Cafe offers breakfast and lunch items and well made coffees.  In an neighborhood that offers few comfortable options, Telegraphe Cafe is worth visiting.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Telegraphe Cafe

 

Gila’s Nosh — 70.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Gila’s Nosh is a nice little place located in Kips Bay.  Even though it’s home to plenty of hard surfaces, including the floor to ceiling glass front window and entrance, It’s too small to get uncomfortably loud (the  drop ceiling tiles probably help).  There was unnecessary music playing during our visit, as usual, but it wasn’t not too loud.  We were surprised to find a place this calm on 23rd Street, which is, after all, a busy cross town road.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Gila’s Nosh is perfectly fine for a nosh or a coffee.  The food is Middle Eastern/Mediterrenean, with very good, friendly service.  It’s a nice alternative to the chains that proliferate around this area.   We recommend a visit.

Note: There is scaffolding next to Gila’s Nosh which may make it appear to be closed, but the restaurant is open.

HOURS

9:45 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

. 23rd Street (betw. 2nd and 3rd Avenues), New York, NY 10010

WEBSITE

Gila’s Nosh

 

Sweet Life Cafe — 72.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Sweet Life Cafe is a neighborhood diner in the far West Village populated with a steady crew of regulars.  We stopped by for a quick lunch.  The music was a hair louder than necessary but most of the sound came from the chatter between the owner, waitresses, and customers.  In fact, we were asked if we were familiar with a recently released movie (we weren’t) out of the blue by the affable owner/manager.  It’s that sort of place, where anyone at any time may ask you a question as if you were part of the general scene.

In fact, Sweet Life is the sort of place that you assume exists only in other neighborhoods but you don’t expect to find in the West Village with its astronomical commercial rents.  Fortunately, you would be wrong.  Sweet Life Cafe is a genuine neighborhood place, an old-school diner where you can have breakfast all day or sandwiches, burgers, and other typical offerings.  The burgers were tasty and reasonably priced for the village, too.

The decor is nostalgic–tin ceiling, a couple of banquettes, old-fashioned tables and chairs–and it had an older crowd during our visit.  Even with the music and convivial group conversation, the place is fairly comfortable.  Definitely check it out if you want a tasty, inexpensive meal in one of the friendliest places in the West Village.

HOURS

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

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Greenwich and Washington Streets), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Sweet Life Cafe

 

Lexington Candy Shop — 73.8 decibels

Lexington Candy Shop

Lexington Candy Shop

Lexington Candy Shop is a New York City landmark.  Founded in 1925, it’s been a neighborhood favorite for over 90 years, and the decor looks like it may have had its last make over back in the 1940s.  The menu features standard diner fare of breakfasts, sandwiches, salads, and a variety of hamburgers, including a butter burger (it’s exactly what it says it is–a burger with a big pat of butter on top).

We were seated near the front door, so the decibel reading includes street noise (the front door was open), along with chatter between the manager manning the cash register and regulars.  The place was more than half full, and music played in the background but the volume was very  low.  Overall, we found the space to be pretty comfortable during out lunch time visit.

If you are craving a perfect old school diner experience, you won’t go wrong at Lexington Candy Shop.  It was a perfectly comfortable space.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday:  7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

nue (at the corner of 83rd Street), New York, NY 10028

WEBSITE

Lexington Candy Shop

Gotham West Market — 76.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Gotham West, the “first-of-its-kind day & night market dining destination in Hell’s Kitchen,” on a not very busy Monday afternoon for a late lunch.  The space is an open floor plan with mostly shared seating that houses ten vendors selling better than average takeaway fare.  Gotham West Market essentially is a high-end food court.

We enjoyed our meal at The Cannibal.  While we were sitting at The Cannibal’s lunch counter and not the shared seating area, the reading should fairly represent the entire space as there were no walls or other barriers separating the various vendor spaces.  We were a bit surprised with the 76.4 decibel reading, as the sound level did not feel as loud as the reading might suggest.  We suspect the reason for the higher than expected reading was that every surface in the space is hard: glass, cement, metal, and tile.  Not a textile was to be found except for our napkins.  That said, the background music throughout the space was actually in the background, which certainly helps, as do the high ceilings.

While the noise level was acceptable during our visit, we suspect that on a very busy day the place could be excruciatingly loud.   When we chatted up a one of the workers, we were told that lunch hours later in the week and weekends, particularly around brunch, can be very crowded and very loud.  So aim for a visit earlier in the week or off hours.

HOURS

Hours vary according to the vendor, but one or more vendors should be available from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

600 11th Avenue (betw. 44th and 45th Streets), New York, NY 10036

WEBSITE

Gotham West Market

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters — 77.6 decibels

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

The decibel meter clocked in at 77.6 decibels, but we are not sure why.  While the space could have been quieter, the noise level didn’t seem quite that high.  As usual, the background music was louder than necessary, but the high ceilings must have made up for that.  There also is an almost hidden seating area in the basement that was serene.

A menu featuring breakfast options, sandwiches, and salads is offered through out the day.  If you are wandering around the Lower East Side and looking for a coffee or a nosh, Irving Farm is worth checking out.   If the first floor is too crowded or loud, head downstairs and enjoy the quiet.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

LOCATION

88 Orchard Street (at the corner of Broome), NY, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Irving Farm Coffee Roasters

Quiet City Map: Manhattan

It’s impossible to escape noise in New York City–there’s always a background hum–but it is possible to find places that are relatively quiet, occasionally serene, or, at the least, that allow for a conversation without screaming.  So how do you find these magical places?

If you look to the right you will see the Quiet City Map: Manhattan, a guide to places throughout Manhattan where the sound levels are reliably comfortable.  The map provides ratings for restaurants, bars, coffee shops, public spaces (e.g., parks, squares, and privately owned public spaces (POPs)), museums and retail stores according to sound level and sound quality.   Reviews will be posted on this site for each place on the map, and they will continue until there are a suitable number of (relatively) quiet options throughout Manhattan.  If there is interest, more places will be added and existing reviews updated (if needed) and, eventually, a map rating places in Brooklyn will follow.  And so on.

The color-coded map icons provide an immediate snapshot of each reviewed place:

  • Dark Green = blissful/peaceful.  Dark green is awarded only to places having a decibel reading at or around 65 decibels.  Other factors will be considered, but if the decibel reading approaches 70 decibels it will be placed in the next category.
  • Light Green = conversational.  Light green is awarded to places where a conversation can be had without raising or straining your voice but where background music, design choices, or other factors result in a decibel reading at or over 70 decibels.
  • Yellow = manageable/tolerable.  Yellow is awarded if conversation is possible, but you occasionally have to raise your voice.  Yellow also designates a space that is generally conversational but has some constant negative factor, such as continual street noise, an open kitchen, background music that is a bit too loud, etc.
  • Orange = places that are only tolerable (or better) at certain times, days, or in certain rooms within the space.  For example, some restaurants and coffee shops are tolerable or conversational at lunch time or mid-afternoon, but should be avoided at brunch or dinner.  Many restaurants tend to be more crowded at brunch or dinner and alcohol is more likely to be consumed then as well.  One simple formula is almost always true: people + booze = noise.
  • Red = avoid.  Red is awarded to places that either receive a decibel reading of 80 and above or are otherwise intolerable because of the quality of the sound (i.e., constant and jarring kitchen noises, loud background music that management refuses to lower, etc.).  80 decibels is a strict bright line test, as experience has shown that that is the point at which you must raise your voice to be heard.

We use Faber Acoustical’s SoundMeter (only available for IOS) to provide the decibel readings for the reviews.  The decibel measure used is Leq (C-frequency-weighting), which provides the average decibel rating over the period of time that the sound level is recorded.  In the course of taking sound levels, we have found that 75 decibels is the point at which the sound level transitions from comfortable/tolerable to annoying or worse.  That said, a space reading over 75 decibels could receive a light green or yellow icon if the noise level does not interfere with conversation or does not seem to be a loud as recorded.  Similarly, a place clocking in at or under 75 decibels may earn an orange or red rating because of the quality of the sound–high-pitched noises, such as dishes or pots contacting a metal or tile surface, tend to be more jarring than the low rumble of street noise.  If an anomalous event occurs while the meter is running–say, a truck backfires as someone opens the door to the street–the reading will be discontinued, as a sudden, high-decibel sound peak can raise the overall reading by a significant amount.

Our reviews will generally not focus on the quality of food, drink, displays, or items offered for sale or to view, but we like good food and drink and useful or attractive things and images.  Places have been chosen for review based on location, personal experience, aggregate ratings at popular rating sites (e.g., Yelp, Google Reviews, or MenuPages), blogger and media reviews, and suggestions (see the last paragraph).  National chain restaurants, bars, and coffee shops will not be reviewed–there are plenty of local restaurants, bars, and shops to visit in Manhattan and no compelling reason to visit national chains.  We aim to include a variety of cuisines and price points, with a focus on neighborhood restaurants noted for good food and service.  Restaurants on the higher end of the scale tend to be quieter, although some may be scene restaurants that are almost guaranteed to be “lively” (or raucous, vibrant, boisterous, or whatever  euphemism du jour is used to signify that a space is loud).  Our focus is on places that may be visited regularly rather than for those spaces visited only on special occasions.

Our reviews will provide objective decibel readings coupled with subjective evaluations of comfort.  The focus, always, is on whether a space allows for conversation without strain.  Restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, in particular, are places we want to enjoy with friends or family.  The  enjoyment comes from speaking with one another, not from listening to the owner’s favorite band with the volume set at 11.

Finally, if you have any ideas, suggestions, recommendations, or questions, tweet us at @quietcitymaps or send them our way at: quietcitymaps (at) icloud (dot) com.