Rosa Mexicano (Lincoln Center) — 79.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We went to the Rosa Mexicano located just across the street from Lincoln Center to meet up with friends who were attending a midday performance.  The space began to fill up as the other patrons streamed in to what is one of the larger restaurants nearest to the Center.

As soon as we walked in we knew that the space was going to be live, as there was a large expanse of glass in the front of the space on both levels.  Fortunately there were curtains and a textile floor covering, but it didn’t appear that the textiles helped to absorb much of the sound.

We were seated on the second level.  It was fairly noisy, with the main source of the noise  coming from the other guests.  This is one of the few times that the noise was primarily due to voices rather than music.  In fact, we weren’t even certain if music was playing.  If it was, we couldn’t hear it because of the chatter.  We suspect that the second floor is louder than the first floor, most probably because the chatter from the first floor was wafting up and adding to the chatter on the second.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Rosa Mexicano was fairly crowded but not packed during our lunch visit.  We think the combination of the hard surfaces and the lack of a barrier between the two floors made the second floor hard to tolerate. The space simply wasn’t pleasant, and we would advise that you proceed with caution. There aren’t many options that are as close to Lincoln Center, so either plan to eat a little farther away or pack a pair of ear plugs.

HOURS

Sunday and Monday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Tuesday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 62nd and 63rd Streets), New York, NY 10028

WEBSITE

Rosa Mexicano/Lincoln Center

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)

Annam Brahma – 63.4 to 63.6 decibels

Photo credit: Jeanine Botta

By Jeanine Botta

I discovered Annam Brahma years ago while walking through Queens, searching for a cold drink on a hot day.  I’ve returned dozens of times since, alone, with family, and with friends, and I’ve ordered food for large and small parties from the catering menu.  Others find the restaurant through reviews or word of mouth or in vegetarian restaurant guides.  One of four restaurants in Queens run by students of the late Sri Chinmoy, an artist, poet, and spiritual teacher who encouraged vegetarian diet, meditation, and fitness, Annam Brahma attracts diners from all over the world.

On a recent visit, I placed an order of soup, salad, and appetizers for a party of eight from the catering menu and also ordered a small meal. My meal began with a cup of ginger and honey tea selected from a drink menu, followed by a cup of dal, a savory lentil soup that is very popular.  I also ordered a samosa, a potato filled pastry, and bhajiia, a lightly spiced fritter, both served with chutney.

Annam Brahma serves vegetarian and vegan Indian cuisine, but it also features vegetarian Chinese, Italian, and American options on certain days.  The restaurant has long featured an international smorgasbord on Sundays, but at the time of this writing the website states that the Sunday smorgasbord is not available. The menu includes Indian breads, desserts, coffees and teas, as well as omelettes, sandwiches, and a delicious selection of vegetarian burgers.

Annam Brahma is quiet enough to lose oneself in a book in a cozy corner or to chat with companions easily without straining to hear or be heard. There is subtle instrumental music playing in the background, but it is never loud or distracting. The dining room is decorated with Sri Chinmoy’s paintings and other artwork (greeting cards featuring Chinmoy’s art, displayed along one wall, are available for purchase). The space is soothing and visually appealing, open and airy with a distinct rustic charm.

To reach Annam Brahma by subway, take the Jamaica-bound F train to Parsons Boulevard, walk up the hill along the two-lane boulevard, turn right on 85th Avenue, and walk five blocks to 164th Street.  Alternatively, you can take the 65 bus from the Parsons Boulevard F train station, but it might be worth skipping the wait for a bus and walking.  If traveling by car, Annam Brahma is four blocks east of the Grand Central Parkway, and street parking is available. The surrounding Jamaica Hills neighborhood is safe, friendly, and walkable.

Annam Brahma is cash only.

HOURS

Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Wednesday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (near 85th Avenue), Jamaica, Queens, NY 11432

WEBSITE

Annam Brahma

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

Han Dynasty (East Village) — 75.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The East Village location of Han Dynasty was less than half full when we arrived for lunch, but it quickly filled up and was at least half full by the time we left.  Overall we found the space merely tolerable, which raises concerns for the noise levels when the space is packed.  Han Dynasty has lots of hard surfaces with few few elements that could absorb sound, though unframed art work may have mitigated noise a hair.  Once again there was one overarching factor for the less than optimal soundscape: the music was too loud.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Yes, it could have been worse–our ears weren’t bleeding, after all–but we found the space to be  rather live, and the music (odd choices, by the way) just dominated the soundscape.  There were lots of work groups in the place and they were chatty, but their voices were manageable.  If the music were lowered a couple of notches, the space could have been comfortable.  It was, instead, merely tolerable, and that depended, more on less, on the song that was playing at any given time.

Han Dynasty offers very reasonable and tasty lunch specials.  If the place is packed and the music volume is as loud as it is at lunch, the noise level  probably will be intolerable.  That said, we tolerated the noise level during our visit, but wish it was better.  Why not aim for comfortable?  We suggest that you proceed with caution.

HOURS

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

Thursday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 12th and 13th Streets), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Han Dynasty–East Village

Pippali — 72.3 to 73.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We really loved our meals at Pippali, which had the best reviews on popular rating sites among the many Indian restaurants in Curry Hill (Lexington Avenue between 26th and 29th Streets). We  visited at lunch time on three separate occasions, and enjoyed Pippali’s reasonably priced and filling thalis (choice of two vegetarian, three chicken, three lamb, and two seafood entrée options). The thalis come with an appetizer, vegetable of the day, dal, raitha, pickle, naan, basmati rice, salad, a papadam, and dessert–it’s quite filling and everything is tasty.  Pippali also offers biryani and tandoori specials.

No surprise then that Pippali draws a sizable crowd at lunch. During our first visit, the space was easily more than half full and many tables turned over during our stay.  As with many places, the background music was a little louder than it needed to be.  Since the music featured traditional Indian music, it tended to favor high-pitched sounds which some people may find uncomfortable. That said, most of the sound was from customer chatter, as the place was filled with pairs or groups of work colleagues.  Given how busy it was–and there was a lot of conversation going on at almost every table–we were surprisingly comfortable.  We suspect that the padded banquettes and chairs may have helped (or perhaps we were distracted by the wonderful food?).

Our second visit on a slower Monday yielded a 72.3 decibel rating, which was perfectly fine.  Again the music was a bit louder than we would have liked, but it was more noticeable at first as the dining room was not very crowded.  As more customers came in, the music became less obvious.  The food was as lovely as always, and service was attentive.

We recorded a reading of 72.4 decibels on our third visit.  Because our visit was on an observed federal holiday, there were fewer tables of coworkers dining with us.  Indian music was playing a bit too loudly when we first stepped in, but shortly after we were seated the volume was lowered and mellow bossa nova played for the rest of our visit. Once the music was properly in the background the space was perfect.  Conversation was easy, there were no distractions, and the meal, as usual, was wonderful.

If high-pitched music is your personal nemesis, you may want to consider whether you should  visit Pippali.  If not, we would highly recommend a visit, as the noise level was very manageable and the food was excellent.  And given that the restaurant was busy during our first visit and most customers were engaged in animated conversation, we think that it’s a safe bet that the noise level at dinner would be similar or, at most, just a few decibels higher.  Go!

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. Park and Lexington Avenues), New York, NY 11016

WEBSITE

Pippali

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

 

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

Penelope — 77.7 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Penelope offers “[h]eartwarming comfort food just like your mom used to make,” or so their website declares.  Well, perhaps we were lucky, because we recall eating far better in our youth.  What we found at Penelope was inoffensive food served in a “rustic” cafe that felt like it was designed by a successful if boring restaurant partnership.

The physical space was fine: unfinished wood floors, some tile.  At least the space wasn’t live, which was good, but what could have been a relaxing spot was not because the background music was too loud by two or three notches.  Loud and bland.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We tried the BBLT, a BLT with double the bacon, and found it  forgettable.  The french fries were meh.  The service was the best thing about the place–it was very good–and the coffee wasn’t bad.  But honestly, there is no compelling reason to eat here.

We wandered into Penelope looking for a relaxing lunch and we did not get it.  We don’t know dinner would fare, except it probably will be louder.  If you are in the neighborhood, are desperately hungry, and can’t find something acceptable nearby, lunch should be tolerable, barely, most days.  But if it’s this loud in a half-filled room at lunch, it must be intolerable when fully packed.  Proceed with caution.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Avenue (at 30th Street), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Penelope

Amber West Village — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Amber West Village is part of a small New York City chain that focuses on Japanese and Asian cuisine (sushi plus Thai noodle dishes).  It wasn’t very crowded during our lunch time visit, but the background music was a little louder than it should have been and we could hear kitchen noises, including banter among the staff.  That said, we were surprised that the meter read 75.1 decibels because the space felt more comfortable than that.   We assume the decibel reading  was due, in part, to the large front windows, sealed brick wall, and tiled floor, but there were mitigating design features, such as the upholstered banquettes and a wall of unfinished wood, that kept the sound from ricocheting around the small space.  The hard surfaces were balanced with more forgiving materials, resulting in a reasonably manageable experience.

Overall, Amber is worth considering for lunch.  We’ve been told that dinner is usually tolerable, but there advertisements for evening and weekend happy hour events that could be much louder.  One nice touch: no electric hand dryer in the bathroom.

HOURS

Monday through Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Amber West Village