Tekoa — 66.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Tekoa is a lovely coffee shop in the Cobble Hill section of Brooklyn.  It offers more sweet and savory offerings than most, making it a sort of marriage between a coffee shop and a cafe.  And it’s a happy marriage, certainly a peaceful one.  We visited on a Thursday afternoon and found the place to be fairly serene.  About half the tables were taken, but most of the customers were very quiet–only one couple was chatting, while the others wiled away on their laptops.  As a result, the soundscape was absolutely perfect.

A small shelf at the front window has three stools for people watchers, and there is a dining area with eight tables for two or four in the back.  The space is painted a bright white, but it’s not blinding.  Most importantly, Tekoa serves as an example to places that insist on playing music, as they do it absolutely right.  The music was in the background and the sound was balanced–it wasn’t trebly nor did it have throbbing bass.  Even if a song featured a vocalist with a high-pitched voice, the sound was never uncomfortable or screechy.  A good sound system makes a huge difference.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And playing well-balanced, low volume music was key, particularly since the space was filled with mostly hard surfaces, including a tin ceiling.  The combination of soft music and little to no conversation resulted in a really serene experience.  The coffee is very good, and though we didn’t try any of the sweet and savory items on offer, they looked delicious.  We will try them next time, because there will be a next time.

Tekoa serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  We highly recommend it.

HOURS

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

Thursday and Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Kitchen opens at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (at Verandah Place), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Tekoa

Govinda’s — 65.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located on the bottom floor of the Hare Krishna Temple on Schemerhorn near Nevins, Govinda’s is not to be missed.  On the Temple’s website they extoll the virtues of Govinda’s, inviting the public to enjoy “great Vegetarian food at affordable prices and served to you in a peaceful stress free environment.”  And they delivered on what they had promised.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Govinda’s is located in a large meeting room.  A buffet style counter is set up by the entrance, to the space.  You wait in line, tell the server what you want, pay, and find a free seat at one of the large shared tables throughout the roomy space.  It feels like a church basement and not a restaurant for good reason, but this church basement restaurant is packed with believers and non-believers who enjoy a good vegetarian nosh.

Govinda’s features one entree that changes every day–eggplant parmagiana was offered when we visited–and a number of side dishes.  You pay for the number choices you want: two choices are $7, and a combo plate of eggplant Parm, string beans, cabbage and potatoes, and a very tasty slaw set us back $10.  A “complete meal,” which must feature everything, is only $12 and apparently is enough food for two people.  Free bread and unlimited water or orange lemonade (very good and refreshing) come with the meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There were lots of coworkers (it’s located near city government buildings) or friends chatting as they ate during out visit, and music playing in the background, but it the soundscape was mostly comfortable.  The room was half full when we first entered but quickly filled up; it was nearly full by the time we left.  Because the space is roomy and there is a drop ceiling, the sound level was more than manageable.  The only thing that made the space less than perfect was the sitar music, which can be a bit trebly–if high-pitched sounds are your personal nemisis, you may want to avoid Govinda’s.  That said, the space is very comfortable and it’s easy to carry on a conversation here.

If you enjoy a good vegetarian meal in a fairly relaxed setting, you must stop by Govinda’s.  Note that Govinda’s is only open for lunch Monday through Friday, and it is cash only.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Closed Saturday and Sunday

LOCATION

305 Schermerhorn Street (betw. Nevins and Bond Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch

 

Five Leaves — 85 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This will be our shortest review ever: We walked in, sat down, started the meter, looked around, stopped the meter, and left. Why? The music in this attractive space was punishing. The food must be good–the place was crowded–but we’ll never know, as the music volume made the space intolerable. After just two minutes, we felt our jaw muscles tightening. To be frank, we didn’t feel like putting in ear plugs to make our way through lunch.  We just wanted to enjoy our meal, and it shouldn’t be that hard.

If it’s this crazy loud at lunch, dinner at Five Leaves won’t be better. They are open for breakfast, though, so if you get there at 8:00 a.m. before they remember to turn the music on, you might have a shot at a meal without a side of tinnitus.  Otherwise, avoid.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

nue (where it meets Lorimer Street and Nassau Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11222

WEBSITE

Five Leaves

Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop — 72.6 decibels

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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

Swallow Cafe — 67.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

What a great place. From the “no cellphones at register” sign, to the genuinely serene vibe, Swallow Cafe is what a coffee shop should be. The stools at the window are designated a laptop-free zone.  According to the barista, Swallow is aiming for a friendly, convivial space. That said, laptops were deployed in the small upstairs loft space and the larger seating area in the back, and, as a consequence, it was blissfully quiet.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There is a lot glass at Swallow Cafe, but there is a lot of unfinished wood flooring, too. And the very high ceilings had to help dissipate what little noise there was. Yes, there was music, but the volume was low and it was more than tolerable. You can read or work or chill or space out and have a really nice coffee as you do it.  This is the kind of coffee shop you’ll want to linger in.

Swallow Cafe offers breakfast options, toasts (of course), salads, sandwiches, and the usual tea and coffee options–we enjoyed a refreshing and tasty cold brew.  If you are looking for good coffee,  friendly service, and a calm space in Cobble Hill, check out Swallow Cafe. We will definitely visit again. It’s a perfect coffee shop, and we highly recommend it.

HOURS

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

LOCATION

nue (at the corner of Clinton Street), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Swallow Cafe

East One Coffee Roaster — 73.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by East One Coffee Roaster one Sunday afternoon as we meandered around Carroll Gardens, one of our favorite parts of Brooklyn. Despite the relatively quiet streets, the place was bustling. East One Coffee Roaster, the Brooklyn outpost of a London coffee shop, sits on the corner of Court and Carroll Streets. It has a large coffee shop in the front of its space and an even larger dining room in the back. Although the coffee shop was pretty packed when we arrived, there were a few seats available.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We’ve noticed recently that some coffee shops are designating various areas within their space as “no laptop zones.”  East One is no exception. In fact, we sat in one of the two laptop-free  zones (and must confess that we occasionally looked furtively at a smart phone, which may have violated the spirit of the zone but not the directive). Essentially, East One, like other coffee spots, doesn’t want to become a caffeinated version of WeWork.  That said, laptops were visible, but the laptoppers were outnumbered by the couples or groups engaging in conversation.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The doors and windows of the place were open to the street, but since this part of Court Street doesn’t get a lot of traffic, it was fine.  Music was playing and it was a bit louder than we liked, but it was manageable.  We liked the space, finding it comfortable.  Except for waiting a little longer than expected for our coffee–the  sole barista was distracted–our visit was perfectly pleasant.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Given the heavy embrace of industrial design elements (e.g., lots of glass, a cement floor, etc.), we had expected an echo chamber but were pleasantly surprised that the room didn’t feel live. The ceiling of rough-hewn, though painted, wooden boards probably helped to diffuse the sound. Our guess is that the designer opted to paint the ceiling joists rather than cover them with wall board. It looked attractive and no doubt helps to control the sound level, so kudos for the clever design.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We checked out the back dining space and saw that it looked roomy and had a slightly quieter soundscape.  It was, however, mostly empty.  It too was heavy on the usual design elements, so proceed with caution if crowded.

Overall, we highly recommend a visit to East One Coffee Roaster. The space was attractive, and we enjoyed our coffees.  And while we wouldn’t say no to turning down the music, the soundscape was perfectly respectable despite being a very crowded space.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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

Saturday:  9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

(Hours are for coffee shop. Dining space opens at 8:00 a.m. Monday through Friday.)

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Carroll Street), Brooklyn, NY 11231

WEBSITE

East One Coffee Roaster

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

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier — 71.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier is located in Red Hook, Brooklyn, just a few blocks away from the ferry station for the new South Brooklyn ferry route.  The park includes a fairly large expanse of grass at the water’s edge, perfect for a picnic (grab a small key lime pie at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies next door), an afternoon nap, or to catch some sun.  Or you could you could enjoy some free kayaking courtesy of the Red Hook Boaters (it’s free, but they do ask that you help with a little beach clean up afterwards).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We won’t say that the park is totally quiet, because it isn’t–you’ll hear the occasional airplane flying overhead and ferries and other motorized boats pass by–but most of the sound you’ll hear is the wind and water lapping against the jetties coupled with occasional snippets of conversation from people nearby.  A space doesn’t need to be totally quiet to be serene.

Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier is lovely and comfortable place. No doubt the park is busier on weekends, and an increase in human activity will mean a concomitant increase in sound, but during the week the park is perfect. We recommend it.

HOURS

Dawn to dusk, everyday

LOCATION

(betw. Coffey and Van Dyke Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11231

WEBSITE

Louis Valentino, Jr. Park and Pier

Taheni Mediterranean Grill — 71.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Taheni Mediterranean Grill is a Palestinian restaurant located at the corner of 4th Avenue and Union Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn. It’s proof that a decibel reading, standing alone, can be misleading. Why? Because 71.4 decibels is a very respectable reading, but the space was not as comfortable as the reading might suggest.

Taheni had only been open for a short time when we paid a visit, and it wasn’t very crowded at lunch. Most of our fellow diners were eating by themselves, with the exception of one table of three young men. That table seemed loud because they were the only ones engaged in animated conversation (and, frankly, they were loud).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There’s a drop ceiling in the dining space which could help to abate some noise, but the open kitchen and long expanses of glass make the place irredeemably live. Add in the tiled floor, tiled counter area, and metal chairs, and it’s as if someone purposefully design the space to be loud. The location didn’t help, as the corner of Union and 4th Avenue is heavily trafficked, and there was active construction going on across the street which was probably the source of a mechanical hum that we heard during our entire visit.

In addition, there was music playing in the background, but the volume wasn’t too loud. The low music volume and the absence of conversation once the one table of three left, is the reason the reading was fairly low. Overall, the soundscape wasn’t loud or chaotic, but it wasn’t calm or relaxed either.  At best, it was tolerable.

It seemed obvious to us that at a busy time the space will be too loud. The space is exceptionally live–there is too much glass and nothing to absorb or diffuse sound.  It’s a shame, really, as the food was tasty and the staff were friendly.  We don’t recommend that you avoid Taheni.  Rather, we suggest that you visit at lunch time or a slow evening or order food to go.

HOURS

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

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

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

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Taheni Mediterranean Grill