Seaport Smorgasburg — 82.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As charmless as a typical mall food court, as annoying as the original Smorgasburg outdoor locations (though no strollers), the only reason to stop by the Seaport Smorgasburg is if you are a tourist, you are in the Seaport, and you are very hungry. The food is a bit better than typical food court offerings–and a bit pricier, too–but NYC has lots of these food courts now and they all seem to feature the same players.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, this location of Smorgasburg feels like it could be at any destination space in any big U.S. city.  There was unnecessary music playing a bit too loudly in the background, a constant mechanical hum, lots of hard surfaces, and lots of people.  It’s an uncomfortable space that is meant to get you in and out as quickly as possible.  Our reviews involve actually using the space as intended–i.e., ordering and eating a meal when reviewing a restaurant–so we ordered a few items and waited for them to be announced.  When they were, we went to the quietest spot we could find and ate as quickly as possible.  It was a relief to take the last bite and leave.

There is no reason to plan a visit to Seaport Smorgasburg unless you must (can’t think of why, but who knows?) or you step in to use the public restrooms.  If you are compelled to order food here, take it to go or eat very quickly.  One mitigating factor is booze.  You can buy some.  It may help.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Closed in winter

LOCATION

11 Fulton Street (betw. Water and Front Streets), New York, NY 10038

WEBSITE

Seaport Smorgasburg

Pearl River Mart — 65.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pearl River Mart’s Soho store was a New York City institution. Why was? Because like many longstanding and fabulous shops, their landlord demanded a criminal increase in rent and they were forced to leave. Well, they’re back!

Pearl River Mart’s new space isn’t nearly as big as the old location, so there is a smaller selection of the Chinese clothing, kitchen ware, gifts, tchotchkes and the like on offer.  As a result, instead of spending hours poring through the store, you can look at everything in far less time.  While it’s disappointing that Pearl River Mart has had to limit their inventory, it still is a good place to find inexpensive gifts and interesting housewares, and we are happy that it’s back.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pearl River Mart’s former location was a pretty relaxed place to shop. and we are happy to tell you that the new location is too.  Classical piano played softly in the background during our weekend visit.  The place was busy but not packed; there was some chatter but it wasn’t distracting.  Overall we had a pleasant shopping experience, which isn’t a given in Manhattan.

A sea of calm on otherwise loud and busy Broadway, Pearl River Mart is well worth a visit.  Go!

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 7:20 p.m. everyday

LOCATION

(at Walker Street), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Pearl River

Katsu-Hama– 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Katsu-Hama is a calm oasis in midtown.  The menu features panko-breaded fried pork or chicken cutlets.  They offer a number of lunch specials for all appetites, including a seafood katsu option.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The decibel reading for our visit was higher than we would have guessed, because we found the place to be very comfortable, even relaxing.  Although we were seated in the front where parties of one or two are placed, we believe the reading fairly reflects the entire space as we checked out the back dining area and found it to be consistent with our experience up front.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Calm is the word that best describes Katsu-Hama.  Instrumental jazz played very softly in the background.  Nearby diners chatted, in person or, sigh, on their phones, but it wasn’t bad–no screamers.   We did pick up some kitchen sounds, but they weren’t jarring or pingy.  The space is not live, and the low lighting and soft music really make for a relaxing experience.  We highly recommend a visit to Katsu-Hama.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 5th and Madison Avenues), New York, NY 10017

WEBSITE

Katsu-Hama

Joe Jr. Restaurant — 76.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The decibel reading was a surprising 76.4 for our visit to Joe Jr.  Surprising because the reading was higher than we would have guessed, but Joe Jr. Restaurant is a small space with lots of hard surfaces and plenty of chatter (including a few patrons who appeared to be hard of hearing).  The reading also reflects the hum of the grill and the sounds of dishes being stacked and binned–the kitchen is open, so you will see–and hear–your meal being made.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Every once in a while a space will read over 75 decibels yet will be tolerable.  Joe Jr. Restaurant is one of those places.  And the place was fairly crowded during our lunch time visit, so an off-hours visit should be quieter.

Joe Jr. Restaurant is well worth the visit if you are looking for very good diner fare.  Eater NY rated its burger the best no-frills burger in the city.  We concur, adding that the fries were pretty good, too, and the service was friendly and efficient.   If you want to experience what’s left of old New York City, Joe Jr. shouldn’t be missed.

HOURS

Open 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day (may vary on holidays)

LOCATION

167 3rd Avenue (at the corner of 16th Street), NY, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Joe Jr. Restaurant menu

Cafe Luka — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Cafe Luka is more of a diner than cafe.  It serves standard American diner favorites, like wraps, sandwiches, and a pretty good burger.   It’s fine for what it is but it could have been a lot more pleasant if they just lowered the music (or shut it off as no one was listening to it).

Other than the music, the other layers of sound were manageable.  A flat screen tv was prominently placed, but we couldn’t hear the audio.  The chatter was fairly quiet even though the place was full.  In fact, we had to sit at the counter as no tables were free.  Kitchen sounds occasionally colored the soundscape as a bussing station was situated near us, but the bussing noise was manageable,  as was the staff chatter as they ran the orders back and forth.  The only reason for a lackluster review was the music.  It was unnecessary and intrusive.

In the end, Cafe Luka was tolerable.  If you are in the neighborhood and looking for a quick, basic meal, you could do worse.

HOURS

6:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day (may be open slightly later on Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate customers)

LOCATION

nue (betw. 70th and 71st Streets), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Cafe Luka

 

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

 

Andrews Coffee Shop — 77.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Andrews Coffee Shop is a diner on the corner of 35th Street and 7th Avenue in the heart of midtown.  The noise level was better than the reading may suggest.  The noise profile was higher due, in part, to a manager inexplicably putting a landline phone on speaker, set at the highest volume, while he was trying to contact some who didn’t answer until after 20 rings .

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Even with all the flat screen tvs, most of the sound was due to the very busy staff bustling back and forth and kitchen sounds.  The place was packed during our visit.  In fact, no tables were available so we sat at the counter.  We tried to determine if music was playing in the background, but we couldn’t tell to be frank.  If yes, the music volume was very very low.  The noise level was mostly due to voices and kitchen sounds.  We found the space very tolerable and were surprised by the reading because we expected it to be under 75 decibels.   Finally, the food was fine and everything looked freshly made.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If you are looking for a quick nosh in midtown, you could do a lot worse than Andrews Coffee Shop.  The place is bustling for a reason–it’s a clean space that offers decent diner favorites at reasonable prices for midtown.  Though it was very busy, we found the space to be tolerable.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

nue (at the corner of 35th Street), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Andrews Coffee Shop

Maman — 74.1 to 74.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Maman is a French-American bakery/coffee shop/cafe located on Centre Street in Nolita.  There are sister locations downtown and in Greenpoint, a couple of which have more extensive menus; the Centre Street location has sweet and savory breakfast items, pastries, tarts, and a nice selection of lunch offerings (salads, sandwiches, and quiche).

On our first visit to Maman, we found the space to be mostly calm.  There was music playing in the front of the space by the kitchen, but that area is divided off from the back seating area by a  glass partition.  Unfinished wood floors and some plants help to keep the space from being too live.  Chatty friends sat near us as we lingered over coffee, but they weren’t too distracting.  There was, however, an industrial vent that ran constantly throughout our visit.  While it was not loud, it did provide a low background hum during the whole of our visit.   It wasn’t terrible, and in an odd way it sort of operated like white noise, but it’s something to note if you find low rumbling noises to be distracting or uncomfortable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We arrived for our second visit slightly after 2:00 p.m.; the meter clocked in slightly higher than the first visit, at 74.8 decibels.  Once again we found the space to be very comfortable, despite it being noticeably more crowded than our first visit.  About half of the seats were taken when we arrived, then a couple got up and left.  They  were replaced by a group of six co-workers who sat down at the large communal table where we were seated and began discussing a work project.  Nearby, two friends chatted and laughed their way through lunch.  This time, however, the vent noise wasn’t as noticeable.  Perhaps it is more pronounced in the colder months?  We aren’t sure, and, for the most part, it really doesn’t matter.  As with our first visit, and despite the chatty couple and the work party, the space was absolutely comfortable.

Overall, we enjoyed our visits to Maman.  The space would have been even nicer if the music volume were a little lower, but our visits on the whole were pleasant.

Maman offers very good coffee and a fairly extensive selection of sweet and savory treats in an attractive space, which is hard to find in this neighborhood.  Definitely worth a visit.

HOURS

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

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

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Grand and Broome Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Maman

Mon Petit Cafe — 72.2 decibels [CLOSED]

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit to Mon Petit Cafe was brief as we only had time for a rushed lunch, but we wished we could have lingered.  The cafe, which has been a neighborhood staple for over 30 years, offers French bistro classics in a comfortable space.  We enjoyed our meal and found the space to be   pleasant, in large part because the background music did not overwhelm and customer chatter was subdued.  It was only half full during our visit but we were near the busy kitchen, so the 72.2 decibel reading is from the noisiest table in the restaurant.  We suspect that the ceiling tiles (which may be acoustic), cafe curtains, cloth-covered tables, and a long upholstered banquette helped to keep the sound in check.

We were very happy with our decision to give Mon Petit Cafe a try and hope to return for dinner or brunch.  Mon Petit Cafe would be a great spot to visit during a shopping jaunt, as it is near Bloomingdale’s, Barneys, and lots of American and International shops.   A yes for lunch, and given the design elements,  dinner should be manageable, particularly earlier in the week.

UPDATE: After 32 years in business, Mon Petit Cafe, a neighborhood favorite, succumbed to “the crushing force” that is “the climate for [a] small business like ours in New York City.”   Or, in other words, they couldn’t make a penny after payiing the criminal commercial rent demanded by the real estate warlords.  In the end, a city that once thrived with small mom and pop businesses is becoming increasingly overwhelmed by national chains favored by the commercial real estate monsters.  RIP, Mon Petit Cafe.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

nue (at the corner of 62nd Street), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Mon Petit 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