Underline Coffee — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Underline Coffee is located by the 20th Street entrance to the High Line in West Chelsea.  The attractive space was busy during our early afternoon visit.  While the crowd was mostly quiet, once again we were assaulted by music that was too loud.  There were the usual coffee-making sounds, but they weren’t that bad.  No, it was just the music.  Had the volume been lowered one or two notches, the space could have been comfortable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Still, there aren’t many other options in the immediate location, and the coffee was good, so you could do worse.  With luck, perhaps whoever is working that day may show some restraint.  The noise level wasn’t awful, but that shouldn’t be the measure.  Underline Coffee is tolerable, but it could be far more.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (close at 6:00 p.m. in winter)

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 10th and 11th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Underline Coffee

 

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

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

Everyman Espresso (Soho) — 69.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Canal Street location of Everyman Espresso is smaller than the East Village location.  Only a couple of chairs at two small tables and a few benches are available for seating, but they were more than enough to accommodate all who entered on a Thursday evening.

LIke the East Village location, the espresso machine in this location of Everyman Espresso was one of the quietest we’ve experienced.  We assume that Everyman uses special noise-sensitive machines, or maybe it’s because the espresso maker was situated so that the noise making elements face away from the seating area (similar to the East Village location).  Whatever the reason, it is appreciated, particularly since many of the surfaces are hard and more than capable of bouncing the sound around the small space.  Wood slats on the ceiling may have helped deflect sound, but other than a couple of mats on the floor (probably there temporarily to sop up rain), there were no textiles or softer materials to absorb sound.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We liked this location as much as the East Village spot, but note that since it is smaller it doesn’t have a restroom (the East Village location does).  That aside, the Canal Street location of Everyman Espresso is a nice little niche of serenity near chaotic Canal Street.  It’s worth a visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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

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

LOCATION

(betw. Canal and Grand Streets, closer to Canal), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Everyman Espresso (Soho)

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

 

Zucker Bakery — 71.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Only one way to sum up our visit to Zucker Bakery–what a great place! Zucker is a very relaxed and quiet bakery cum coffee shop located in the East Village. When we first entered it was clear the space would be perfect–and it was. Halfway into our visit another baker joined the crew. He, unlike the others, was a bit of a Chatty Cathy, but everyone else–staff and customers–was pretty quiet.  As a result, his chatter didn’t change the overall vibe of the place.

The space is homey and comfortable, and though music was playing, the volume was low and the music choices were perfect–very relaxing tunes that were not at all jarring.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There were other people present in the small space, but they mostly stared at their laptops, nursing their cups of coffee. They appeared to be regulars, and they really set the tone.  Zucker Bakery is a great place to sit and do your work, or to grab a coffee and treat to go.  We enjoyed a first-rate cortado, and the almond sandwich cookie with chocolate halvah filling the counterwoman recommended was pretty fabulous.

If you live in the neighborhood, this is your favorite coffee shop.  We highly recommend a visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st Avenue and Avenue A), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Zucker Bakery

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

Cafe Grumpy (Chelsea) — 68.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were wandering around Chelsea and jonesing for a coffee when we spotted Cafe Grumpy.  We’ve read that it was known for good coffee, so we stopped in.  There was music playing a bit louder than we liked in the front of the space where you order, but as we soon discovered, the place is a lot bigger than it looks from the street.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

One thing we noticed immediately is that there weren’t many laptops visible.  Then we saw a sign by the cash register stating that the cafe is a “no laptop zone.”  When asked, the server told me they “aren’t Nazis about it” but they want to cultivate a “social place.”  Still, while I didn’t see laptops deployed on tables, I did see that most people were by themselves reading or writing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Since the front of the space was louder than we liked, we went to down the long narrow corridor connecting the front to a back room that was noticeably quieter. We had our coffee in this space,  finding it basically calm though we could hear someone washing dishes in the nearby dish room. There are french doors at the very end of the space that open on to an absolutely serene garden.  How serene?  You can hear birdsong.

If you are in Chelsea and want a coffee and a really quiet space, go to Cafe Grumpy, avoid the front space,  walk to the back room, and don’t stop until you are in the garden. It was lovely. Sadly, the Xelerator hand dryer in bathroom is not.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 7th and 8th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Cafe Grumpy — Chelsea