Think Coffee @ Bowery & Bleecker — 71.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Think Coffee’s Bowery location was packed but quiet when we visited.  Why was it quiet?  Because most of the customers were members of the laptop brigade and they spent their time  staring intently into their laptop screens as they silently sipped their coffees.  There were a few chatty couples present, but they weren’t screamers.  And while the space had mostly hard surfaces, an unfinished wood floor probably helped absorb some sound.

But the primary reason the space was fairly comfortable was the absence of loud music.  There was music playing during the first few minutes of our visit, but then it stopped.  Which was a very good thing, as the piece that was playing had to have been the single most annoying thing ever–the “music” was a series of high-pitched synth sounds, with no voice, no other instruments.   Fortunately, it only lasted a minute or two, and once it was turned off, the space was perfectly fine.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We must note that although it wasn’t a particularly hot day when we visited, the air conditioner was set on max–it felt like we were sitting in a meat locker.  Perhaps we shouldn’t have ordered cold brew coffee, but it hit the spot and at only $3.50 for a large serving, they were a real bargain for downtown Manhattan.   Think Coffee offers free wifi at some locations but not one.  Still, the laptop brigade has adopted this spot, which is why you can enjoy  it.  Recommended.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

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

Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

1 Bleecker Street (at Bowery), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Think Coffee

Ost Cafe — 67.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ost Cafe is a very nice little coffee shop offering coffee, tea, and sweet treats.  It’s located on the very edge of the Lower East Side where it meets Two Bridges.  This part of the Lower East Side hasn’t been over-developed yet; many of the nearby stores still have signs written in Hebrew.

Music played quietly in the background during our visit–mostly jazz instrumentals, no voices–and there were only four other patrons working silently on their laptops.   So we were not surprised that the decibel reading was under 70.  Other than the four laptoppers, a couple of people stopped by for a coffee to go, waiting quietly until their drinks were served.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Overall, we had a very pleasant visit to Ost Cafe.  It was very nearly perfect except for one thing– the front door was open to the street.   We assume the door was open because it was a mild late spring afternoon and the space was cooled by the gentle breeze.  Presumably the door is shut during the dog days of summer and in the winter, so street noise should not be a problem most of the year.  But street noise was an issue during our visit because several too-big-for-the-city semi-trailers were stopped outside the entrance, idling loudly as they waited for the green light.  The only other source of noise was the occasional buzz of the bean grinder.

Ost Cafe was very manageable even with the doors open.  It should be absolutely delightful in the height of the summer and winter.   We recommend that you visit.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. East Broadway and Henry Street), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Ost Cafe

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

Everyman Espresso (East Village) — 69.7 to 70.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited the East Village location of Everyman Espresso twice, and both times we found it to be a very relaxed space.  During our first visit on a Wednesday afternoon, most people were working on laptops, with just one chatty, but not particularly annoying couple engrossed in conversation nearby.  Music played softly in the background and was mostly fine, if unnecessary.

One thing we couldn’t help noticing was that the espresso machine was one of the quietest we’ve heard.  We suspect the reason for this is because it’s on the front counter, with the working bits facing the back wall.  In many coffee shops, the espresso machine is on a back or side counter facing the seating area.  In any event, the coffee-making noises were really manageable and they didn’t feel jarring or startling at all.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On our second visit a week later, the place was nearly perfect.  The only thing we would change is to lower the background music, but the noise level is still very low compared to many places.   As before, the coffee machines were not a distraction, and the crowd was very relaxed.  If the background music were lowered or shut off, the space would be perfect.  But it’s nearly there and that’s pretty fabulous.

If you are looking for a comfortable spot in the East Village/Union Square area, Everyman Espresso should be on your short list.  There is plenty of seating and the place is pretty comfortable.  Throw in very good coffee and great service, and there’s no reason not to go.  Recommended.

HOURS

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

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

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 3rd and 4th Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Everyman Espresso

Fika (6th Avenue) — 71.6 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was unnecessary music playing when we visited Fika on 6th Avenue in Chelsea, but we can still recommend it.  We generally see a lot of the laptop brigade in this location during the week, but we visited on a weekend when there were fewer laptoppers and more tourists.  Even with a chattier crowd, the space was fine.

As with other Fika locations–it’s a Swedish chain with 13 Manhattan locations–the decor features lots of hard surfaces.  But even though there were not many textiles–only the chairs are upholstered–the noise level was more than manageable.  High ceilings and a relaxed crowd are mostly responsible for the soundscape.  If they only lowered the background music a notch or two–or turned if off–the space would be close to perfect.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Fika serves very good coffee and lovely sweet treats (try the cardamom bun), but it’s a bit more expensive than other coffee shops.  Also, we noted that they were advertising a live music performance later in the early evening.  We would suggest avoiding live performances in that space given how unforgiving it could be.  We’re not sure if the performance was a one of or a regular gig, so proceed with caution on weekend nights.

HOURS

Monday through Fri

Saturday and Sunday:

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 15th and 16th Streets), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Fika NYC

Veselka — 72.4 to 78.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our first lunch time visit to the always crowded Veselka clocked in at 78.7 decibels.  The reading was higher than expected (we would have guessed that the sound level was in the lower 70s), but we were seated at the counter within a few feet of the open kitchen and our decibel meter obviously picked up all of the nearby sounds (staff chatter, occasional china noises, and a cook singing softly to himself).  We were also right next to the area where the waitstaff pick up dishes to deliver to their customers.

Even being in the worst possible seat in the house, the sound level wasn’t that bad. The fact that Veselka does not play background music really helps.  On our way out,  we quickly recorded the sound level in the nearby dining room.  It was 72.4 decibels, which was more than acceptable.  The lesson here is that at Veselka you must balance your desire to be seated quickly (counter seats are easier to get) against your desire for a quieter meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On our second lunch time visit, the meter registered 75.9 decibels, which again was higher than we would have guessed.  There are a lot of hard surfaces in the restaurant, including big windows looking out on 9th street, but the absence of background music makes a huge difference because the space was mostly comfortable.  If background music had been playing we think the reading would have easily been ten points higher.   With music, the crowded room–there was a wait when we arrived–would have been unbearable.  Without music, the noise level was mostly manageable, with the bulk of the sound coming from the many conversations throughout the room that were conducted at reasonable levels (i.e., no screamers).

One other plus: No electric hand dryers at Veselka; only paper towels are provided in the restrooms.

And finally, although we focus on sound levels and comfortability, we would be remiss is we didn’t note that Veselka offers one of the finest bowls of borscht in the city.  They are also noted for their tasty and filling pierogis.

Attention restauranteurs, this is how you run a busy but comfortable space: kill or aggressively reduce the volume of background music.  It’s an easy thing to do and it offers immediate relief.

HOURS

Open 24 hours a day

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Veselka

Gorilla Coffee (Bergen Street) — 71.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Bergen Street location of Gorilla Coffee was louder than it needed to be at the beginning of our visit on a Friday afternoon.  The culprit, as usual, was the music volume.  But shortly after we sat down the volume was lowered, immediately improving the space, and our experience went from tolerable to positively pleasant.

The place was pretty full during our visit, but most people were working on their laptops or chatting softly with their companions.  None of the parties was loud.  So this location of Gorilla coffee can be recommended, but whether the experience will be pleasant versus tolerable depends on the vagaries of whomever determines the music volume.  Right after we stopped the meter, the volume again increased.  We suspect the reason for the leap in volume was that the counterperson liked the song, because once the song was over, the volume was reduced to the previous setting.

Expect a tolerable experience, with the possibility of comfort, at the Bergen Street location of Gorilla Coffee.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Flatbush and 5th Avenues), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Gorilla Coffee

 

Joe Coffee (Lexington Avenue) — 76.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Lexington Avenue location of Joe Coffee was crowded when we arrived.  A long table with stools placed around took up most of the space; a ledge ran along a wall providing some additional seating.  The space was tight as a line of people waiting to order snaked around the seating area, making for a less than pleasant experience.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This location of Joe is a very live space.  It was tolerable but not comfortable.  One annoying customer who droned on to anyone and everyone was distracting, and in a small space there is no escape.  Unnecessarily loud music did not help.

If you really need coffee and you’re standing on Lexington Avenue between 74th and 75th Street outside of Joe, sure, consider it.  But if you want a calm, comfortable spot to enjoy that coffee, we suggest keep on walking.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

nue (betw. 74th and 75th Streets), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Joe on Lex

Think Coffee @ Bowery & Bleecker — 71.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Think Coffee’s Bowery location was packed but quiet when we visited.  Why was it quiet?  Because most of the customers were members of the laptop brigade and they spent their time  staring intently into their laptop screens as they silently sipped their coffees.  There were a few chatty couples present, but they weren’t screamers.  And while the space had mostly hard surfaces, an unfinished wood floor probably helped absorb some sound.

But the primary reason the space was fairly comfortable was the absence of loud music.  There was music playing during the first few minutes of our visit, but then it stopped.  Which was a very good thing, as the piece that was playing had to have been the single most annoying thing ever–the “music” was a series of high-pitched synth sounds, with no voice, no other instruments.   Fortunately, it only lasted a minute or two, and once it was turned off, the space was perfectly fine.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We must note that although it wasn’t a particularly hot day when we visited, the air conditioner was set on max–it felt like we were sitting in a meat locker.  Perhaps we shouldn’t have ordered cold brew coffee, but it hit the spot and at only $3.50 for a large serving, they were a real bargain for downtown Manhattan.   Think Coffee offers free wifi at some locations but not one.  Still, the laptop brigade has adopted this spot, which is why you can enjoy  it.  Recommended.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

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

Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

1 Bleecker Street (at Bowery), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Think Coffee

Hi-Collar — 71.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We had been meaning to visit Hi-Collar for years but never quite made it there.   That ended on a very hot July afternoon when we found ourselves nearby and went in to cool down with a coffee and, we hoped, strong air conditioning.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On its website, Hi-Collar explains that the name is a “Fashion-alluding term popularized during the Japanese Jazz Age” that symbolized “Japan’s flirtation with the West.”   By day, Hi-Collar is “a Western-inspired Japanese cafe -popularly known as kissaten – specializing in siphon coffee & Kissaten menu,” but at night it becomes a sake bar.

We were in luck that hot day.  What an interesting place, and comfortable too (the air conditioning was more than sufficient for the heat wave that we had been experiencing).  Hi-Collar was full of Japanese expats enjoying a coffee and a nosh, and everyone was talking softly.

The space is small, just one long counter offering coffee many ways–pour over, aero press, and siphon–and a selection of snacks, including spongy Japanese pancakes that we will definitely try next time as the smell was lovely.  When we entered Hi-Collar, we thought the background music was Sinatra singing his classics.  Well, no.   As we listened carefully it became apparent that what we were hearing was a cut-rate Sinatra–we didn’t know who–and somehow that added to Hi-Collar’s charm.  It just seemed right that they went with fake Sinatra instead of the real thing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

After wandering around the hot New York City streets, Hi-Collar’s cold brew coffee with a scoop of dense vanilla gelato hit the spot–it was just perfect.  Refreshed, we were ready to brave the sweltering city streets.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Hi-Collar is absolutely delightful– we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.  Yes, it could have been quieter if the music were lowered or turned off, but, frankly, the music added to its charm.  Food is available all day and night, but the kitchen closes one hour before the place does.   And don’t miss a visit to the bathroom at the end of the room.  It’s pretty and offers a dazzling (if obsessive) array of toilet options.

 

 

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

 

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to  1:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Note: Kitchen last call at is an hour before the closing time.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st and 2nd Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Hi-Collar