Karczma — 71.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Karczma is a lovely Polish restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a neighborhood that still has a large Polish population.  There is a bar in the front with a few tables on the opposite wall, and further back there is a dining room.   Unsurprisingly, the menu offers Polish home cooking served by women in traditional dress.

All of the booths in the dining room were taken during our lunch time visit, and there were only a few tables free.  Most tables were occupied by couples or groups, so there was plenty of conversation (and beer).  Polish music played softly in the background, yet the dining room was perfectly pleasant.  No doubt the decor helped, as it featured a fair amount of unfinished wood and was decidedly old school–the antithesis of the Industrial look responsible for much of the loudness at most restaurants today.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If the place is packed it will, of course, be louder.  That said, the dining room was over half full during our visit, plus a handful of people at the bar, and it was perfectly fine.

Our lunch was big, fresh, and tasty.  Filling doesn’t come close to describe it.  Somehow we managed to finish it, convinced that we wouldn’t have to eat until the next day (and we were right).  Note that it’s a meaty menu, so it’s not the place to bring your vegan friend.

HOURS

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday through Thursday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. Manhattan and Franklin Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11222

WEBSITE

Karczma

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 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

The Gumbo Bros — 72.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We read a really good review of The Gumbo Bros and decided to check it out.  A couple of visits to New Orleans taught us that the po’ boy is the king of sandwiches, but trying to find a decent one in New York City isn’t easy.  Well, it just got easier, because The Gumbo Bros do a great job in bringing the taste of New Orleans to Brooklyn. We’ve tried the shrimp po’ boy and the roast beef, and both wen’t down easily.  Stick to the po’ boys and you’ll be fine.  The gumbo was ok–we aren’t big fans of the stuff, anyhow–and the side of greens was a bit too salty and spicy hot for our tastes, but those po’ boys were pretty fabulous.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

So why the love note to the food and nary a mention of the soundscape?  Because the food was outstanding but the soundscape was not.  There is one predominant source of noise at The Gumbo Bros and that is the loud music that is broadcast throughout the space.  During our visit most of the tables were taken and some people were chatty, but the chatter wasn’t that loud.  No doors or windows were open to noisy Atlantic Avenue, so traffic noise was not an issue (was it drowned out by the music?). Nope, the reason the place was merely tolerable was the music. Now you may note that the reading was only 72.6 decibels, and you would be right.  But the meter was running close to 78 decibels at first, and only went down as the place emptied out.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In our review last week of Nom Wah Nolita we wrote that sometimes we’re willing to put up with less than comfortable spaces if the food is exceptional.  Well, these po’ boys sang to us, and even though the music was louder than we liked and the space felt live, the po’ boys make it worth stopping in for a noisy nosh. Hey, you’re not going to linger here anyhow. But the memories of that po’ boy you enjoyed? It will visit you in your dreams.

HOURS

11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

nue (betw. Court Street and Boerum Place), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

The Gumbo Bros

The Brooklyn Commons — 62.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Brooklyn Commons is a coffee shop and “radical movement-building space” on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill. Its website proclaims that “[g]roups and individuals are encouraged to use the COMMONS for workshops, classes, educational and cultural events.” Along with the meeting space, The Brooklyn Commons has a cafe that serves coffee, sweet and savory treats, beer and wine, and more.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The space is larger than appears from the street.  There is a seating area and counter in the front  and a large dining and meeting space in the back. The seating space in the front isn’t horribly loud but it is noticeably louder than the back room due to the presence of a flat screen tv, background music, and a door open to busy Atlantic Avenue, where the occasional ambulance screams by. The magic is in the back room.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ah, the back room.  It’s a large space filled with tables, mostly for two, and ringed by an elevated bench running along the perimeter of the room. Five people sat in various places throughout the space during our visit, each working  quietly on his or her laptop. It was bliss. We could just hear the music, tv, and traffic from the front, but the sound was distant and muffled and it did not disturb the peaceful atmosphere in the back.

What is the soundscape like when if the space is packed? We don’t know, but we are willing to return to find out. It’s presumably louder when there is a crowd, as we could see board games tucked away under the benches in the back.  And since The Brooklyn Commons offers art, educational, and music activities, it’s best to assume that is much louder during a workshop or performance. But during the day, when the cafe is open, the space should be calm and quiet.

If you are wandering around Boerum Hill and looking for a restful spot for a coffee or nosh, we recommend a visit to this relaxed and peaceful spot.

HOURS

The Commons Cafe is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. Bond and Hoyt Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

The Brooklyn Commons

Four & Twenty Blackbirds — 72.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Four & Twenty Blackbirds is a well-regarded pie shop located in Gowanus, Brooklyn.  It offers whole pies, pies by the slice, cakes, and beverages.  We’ve read about their pies and have wanted to try them for some time, so we stopped by for a slice. We tried the Black Bottom Oat.  It was pretty good, not great, but obviously freshly made and satisfying.

We noticed on entering that most of the customers were by themselves, staring intently at their laptops. That many wore earbuds was a not-so-subtle warning about the noise level.  Namely, that there was unnecessary music playing.  Still, the music wasn’t uncomfortably loud.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was only one table of two engaging in conversation. They stood out since they were the only talkers, though there was another customer who spent the entirety of her visit with her phone glued to her ear, laughing out loud in random bursts.  She was jarring.  We have a difficult time understanding people who treat a public space like it’s their living room, but it seems to be happening with greater frequency. One frustrating thing is that the people who chat on phones in public spaces almost invariably are louder than people engaging in conversation in the flesh. It’s not the fault of the place, of course.  Just an observation that the space attracts all sorts.

One other soound stood out during our visit to Four & Twenty Blackbirds–the bean grinder used to make each espresso-based drink.  This grinder was particularly annoying, and it added a  high-pitched whine to the soundscape.  That said, we found the overall noise level to be mostly tolerable, but If you are coming here to work, dont forget your earbuds.

HOURS

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

Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (at the corner of 8th Street), Brooklyn, NY 11215

WEBSITE

Four & Twenty Blackbirds

French Louie — 70.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

French Louie was busier on a Tuesday lunch than one might expect for a restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. It was more than half full when we arrived, and there was turnover during our visit.  Because we visited on the first really warm day of the year, it was no surprise that the back garden was open and mostly occupied.

We noticed that the front of the house, where the bar and a small dining area are located, was noisier than the back dining room where we sat. The bar runs the length of the front of French Louie.  It is flanked by a narrow dining area with smaller tables sharing a long banquette.  The dining space in the back is wider with more banquettes and some larger tables; it seats at least 20.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There is a glass wall at end on the indoor space, with French doors leading to garden.  Music was playing during our visit.  The volume  in the back dining area was fine, but the music was louder in the front by the bar.  Overall, the soundscape was perfectly fine for lunch.

That said, busier times will be louder, particularly during brunch or dinner as people are more likely to drink and in our experience people + booze = noise.  But since there is a nice-sized back garden, there should always be a relatively calm space available.  Among other things, the garden shares a fence with abutting residential properties.  That alone suggests the garden space will not be uncomfortably loud, lest the restaurant wants to incur the wrath of its neighbors.

We can recommend French Louie for lunch and feel fairly confident that a quiet option should be available during the milder weather months.  Busier times will be louder, but they should be tolerable.  If the indoor space is too loud for your tastes, ask for a garden table and enjoy the very good food and excellent service.

HOURS

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

Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Three course prix fixe menu offered Monday evenings along with regular menu

LOCATION

320 Atlantic Avenue (betw. Smith and Hoyt Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

French Louie

The Little Sweet Cafe — 71.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Little Sweet Cafe is a self-described “taste of France” in the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn. It was very quiet when we stopped by on a Monday morning.  Most of the other customers were getting coffee and treats to go, but eventually all four tables and the three stools hugging a shelf were taken.

Even after the placed filled up, the space was comfortable. Jazz played softly in the background, and the volume was fine though the music was unnecessary. The place would have been perfect without it and could have easily clocked in at under 70 decibels.  But even with the music the reading was perfectly fine, and it was easy to have a conversation.  Except for when the barista was making espresso drinks, and a mercifully short visit by a mother and toddler, both of whom were speaking very loudly to each other, the soundscape was mostly mellow.

The Little Sweet Cafe offers a variety of coffees, pastries, and crepes, with a few savory options at lunch.  It was a tad noisier during the morning rush, but quickly calmed down afterwards.  Recommended.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Atlantic Avenue and State Street), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

The Little Sweet Cafe

Dot & Line — 74.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Dot & Line is a new coffee shop in a coffee shop-poor part of Brooklyn, Boreum Hill.  We visited on a lazy Saturday afternoon.  The space is fairly small–there are only three stools by the front window–but as it wasn’t crowded when we arrived, we had our coffee there.

The coffee was very good, and the barista could not have been nicer.  The only downside was the music. The volume was louder than we liked, and it increased when someone’s favorite song came on.  But–and important but–after the volume increased the barista asked if the music was too loud for us.  Imagine that?  While we would have preferred if it was lowered, we let it slide as no one else seemed to mind, but we were thrilled that lowering the volume was an option.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Although there is limited seating, the place was busy during our visit as there were a lot of customers who stopped in to get coffees to go.  The weather was particularly pleasant so both the window and front door were open, letting in the not so not bucolic sounds of Bergen Street.  But it wasn’t that bad.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, we were able to read a book and it appeared that for the others conversation was easy.  Yes, it could be quieter, but it’s not a place to linger and work on your laptop–there’s not enough room for that.  So in the end, the very good coffee and fabulous service tip the scales in favor of a visit. Dot & Line offers a limited menu of sweet and savory treats that appear to be very popular.  If you are in Boerum Hill, we recommend that you check it out.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 3rd Avenue and Nevins Street), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Dot & Line

 

Ninth Street Espresso (Gowanus) — 64.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Gowanus location of Ninth Street Espresso is located In the same space as Threes Brewing, a bar and brewery with food by The Meat Hook. Threes Brewing takes up the ground floor.  It’s a very large, very open, and very loud space–we wouldn’t dream of going there for a beer on a busy night, as we’ve walked by and heard the noise level. But Ninth Street Espresso is open during the day and occupies a separate space near the front of the building. When you walk in, turn to your right and climb the small stairway.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

At the top of the stairs you will see the service counter.  Ninth Street Espresso doesn’t have a long menu. Rathe, it lists just four coffee options: hot coffee, cold coffee, espresso, and espresso with milk. Tell them what you like–we are partial to cortados–and they’ll get you the right combination of espresso and milk.

Along with really good coffee, there are plenty of places to sit. There’s a small space near the counter with a couple of small tables and a sunny window. Walk through to the back and there’s a roomy space with six tables, plenty of chairs, and an unused upright piano with a sign reading “Please do not touch piano,” which was fine by us.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was music playing in the background throughout our visit. And if you were a Dylan fan, it would have been your lucky day. The volume was a hair louder than we would have liked, but as the reading shows the overall noise level was perfectly fine.  We think Ninth Street Espresso offers excellent coffee in a very comfortable space and recommend it.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 3rd and 4th Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Ninth Street Espresso