Telegraphe Cafe — 75.9 decibels

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

Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor — 62.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Here’s something we don’t often write: it was almost too quiet at Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, especially since we could have done without the background music, but this location of Sarabeth’s was not live at all and could best be described as sedate.

Upholstered banquettes lining the walls, a drop ceiling, and some structure kept the room calm.  Except for the unnecessary and inappropriate background music, this was one of the most serene meals we have had in a long time.  And the music–current pop hits that were most definitely not being enjoyed by the older crowd–was a mere annoyance in the otherwise comfortable space.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We understand that some of the larger department stores in Manhattan have cafes, and some of them have been well received. The food at Sarabeth’s was fine for what it was, but no one is going to go out of their way to eat there unless they are shopping beforehand or afterwards. This restaurant exists for convenience.  And it’s worth a visit if you have some shopping to do, as it’s nice to have a civilized lunch in chaotic midtown. Sarabeth’s at Lord & Taylor is definitely a place were you can have a meal and a conversation. We recommend it.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

424 Fifth Avenue (at 39th Street), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Sarabeth’s

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

Once Upon A Tart — 70.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We wandered over to Soho’s Once Upon A Tart for a quick lunch early in the week. Once Upon A Tart consists of a coffee and bake shop in one space, and a small restaurant in the space next door.  Our review is limited to the restaurant.

About half of the tables were filled when we arrived.  There was music playing in the background–jazz standards–which was a bit loud at first, but the second song was much quieter.  Whether the volume was tolerable depended, in large part, on whether the song featured a horn section.  If yes, the sound bounced around the live space, if not, it was fine.  We aren’t sure but we suspect that the volume was lowered as the tables filled up.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There are five stools lining a bar and eight tables for two plus one larger table for about six in the restaurant.  Design choices result in a fairly live space: terrazzo floor, tin ceiling, glass windows  lining the front, and a couple of large mirrors on both side walls.  It didn’t help that the front door was open to street noise.  That said, Sullivan Street isn’t heavily trafficked so our meal wasn’t interrupted by loud sirens or insecure motorcyclists, but as the restaurant is located between Houston and Prince Streets we could hear the faint roar of the traffic from a half block away.

The reading also reflects the sound emanating from a fellow customer who talked on her phone the entire time.  She was so engrossed in conversation that she even ignored her meal.  Circumstances like that add to the soundscape, but they are arbitrary and, thankfully, not normal. Personally, we find it hard to fault the restaurant for this behavior, as it can be uncomfortable to ask a customer to refrain from cell phone use unless they have a very public policy against cell phone use (rare, but we spotted a sign asking customers to refrain from cell phone use at a downtown restaurant).

In the end, while the space was not calming or serene, it was tolerable.  Given that Once Upon A Tart is located in the thick of Soho, where there are very few reasonably priced eating options, it’s fine.

HOURS

Restaurant: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day

Coffee and Bake Shop:

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

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. W. Houston and Prince Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Once Upon A Tart

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

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

Archestratus Books + Foods — 70.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Archestratus Books + Foods is a very calm space, even with unnecessary music playing in the background. It should be calm, as it is a cafe burrowed into the back of a bookstore.  There is a short menu offering a few savory and sweet treats during the day, and a selection of coffees and teas.  Service is friendly and relaxed.

Archestratus Books + Foods offers a well-liked dinner on Thursday nights.  We’ve never been, but given the rave dinner reviews on Yelp and other rating sites, it’s on our short list to try for this year.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The bookstore portion of the space features books on food and cooking–it’s easy to get lost in the space for hours.  There is also a small selection of interesting gift items on offer.  Overall the entire space is quiet and comfortable.

There were only a couple of people sharing the cafe when we visited, so we can’t say conclusively that the space would be comfortable when full.  Still, the cafe soundscape should be fine even when crowded, as it only seats 12.

Archestratus Books + Foods is highly recommended.

HOURS

Monday and Tuesday: Closed

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

Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Dinner is available Thursday evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Archestratus Books + Foods

Corner Bistro — 72.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Corner Bistro’s burger always seems to make the “best burger” lists, no doubt due to its status as a village institution (“the last of the bohemian bars in West Greenwich Village,” proclaims the Corner Bistro website).   We thought the burgers were fine, though not the best we’ve had, but the prices are good (drafts under $5) and the place was surprisingly pleasant at lunch.  The tables in the front were almost all taken when we stopped by, and the bar was about half full.  We avoided the back room because one guy–one very loud guy–made the space noisier than we liked, so we went to the front and took the last empty table.

The Corner Bistro has tin ceilings and corner windows, but the space didn’t feel live or pingy. There’s a lot of wood to absorb and deflect sound.  The tables are fairly close together, but it was fine.   A group of women to our left were great–chatty but not at all loud.  A couple to our right, on the other hand, were loud, with one of the couple  laughing as she spoke….endlessly.  But even with a loud laughing-talker nearby we found the space to be mostly relaxing and would definitely recommend Corner Bistro for lunch.

We couldn’t extrapolate for dinner or later, though, as the room could get packed and the introduction of large quantities of beer could change things.  After all, the following equation is almost always true: people + booze = noise.  That said, we can unreservedly recommend Corner Bistro for lunch, and simply advise that you proceed with caution at happy hour and on busy evenings.

Cash only.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

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

LOCATION

(at Jane Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Corner Bistro

Kinokuniya New York — 61 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Bliss.  Kinokuniya is a Japanese-based retailer selling books, magazines, and Japanese pens and stationery.  Those of you who love to try out new pens and pencils already know that Japanese stationery products are compelling, and Kinokuniya has an excellent selection that is unmatched in the city.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

That said, what makes the store so delightful is seeing the interesting array of products displayed in such a peaceful space.  Books and magazines are on the ground floor, stationery and novelties are in the basement. Give yourself some time to look around, because there is a lot more on display than you may first appreciate.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This delightful store is located directly across from hectic Bryant park, a beautiful park marred by constant, jarring street noise.  Check out the park and then escape to Kinokuniya for some peace and more–a recent visit revealed a cafe on an upper level, and quick look around convinced us to come back to check it out.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. 40th and 41st Streets), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Kinokuniya US

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