Townhouse Diner — 69.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There’s a reason we love to review diners on this site, and Townhouse Diner is a good example why–69.2 decibels. Ah. Townhouse Diner is a simple, straightforward, old-school diner that gets the job done. It’s located near the entrance of the midtown tunnel, but we couldn’t hear traffic noise. Duran Duran played in the background when we arrived.  It’s wasn’t too loud, but the music was trebly and absolutely unnecessary. It was an older crowd, with the exception of one new mother and infant. Trust us, no one was listening to the music or watching Fox News on the very large flat screen. Fortunately, Fox News only offended us visually–the volume was low and we couldn’t hear it.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

In the end, Townhouse Diner wasn’t perfect, but it was more than manageable. If they turned off the tv or the music (or, one hopes, both) the space would have been really comfortable.  As it was, the noise level was more than manageable.  We recommend it for a quick nosh.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

nue (betw. 37th and 38th Streets), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Townhouse Diner

Hector’s Cafe & Diner — 71.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Hector’s Cafe & Diner is another long-time New York City diner, but this one is in the pricey Highline neighborhood–right under it in fact–and one of the few reminders that the heavily-touristed Meatpacking District actually was a meatpacking district in the not-so-distant past.  Hector’s was a place where the butchers and truck drivers could go after a shift or delivery, followed by the club kids and sex workers after midnight.

The neighborhood has since became popular, but it used to stink of beef blood in the summers.  We remember driving in a convertible one hot, sticky August afternoon years ago–it was something we never attempted again. Not that it would be possible today. According to the Meatpacking District Improvement Association website, only five meatpacking businesses remain (where there once had been 250), so Hector’s serves as a reminder of the past while satisfying a real need by offering inexpensive and quick diner classics in an increasingly over-marketed, over-developed, and over-priced part of downtown Manhattan.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If it seems like we favor diners, there’s a reason. First, most diners tend to play no music or set the music volume on low.  Second, although New York City appears to be teeming with diners, truth is, they are disappearing, and as they die off so too dies the possibility of securing a (relatively) inexpensive meal in a (generally) comfortable space.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

So, how is the soundscape at Hector’s? Pretty good. There is unnecessary background music, sadly, but the volume was really low. Why places insist on doing this is beyond us, as you can’t really hear the music but you can’t entirely ignore it. Still, at the end of the day the space wasn’t live despite lots of glass and tiled floors (perhaps due to the drop ceiling?), and as the meter reading shows, the sound level was in a good range.

We concede that it wasn’t very crowded when we visited for a late morning breakfast, but it was obvious that Hector’s is a relaxed place with a subdued crowd. That said, early morning hours may be quite different, especially when the partying crowd comes in for something to soak up all the booze.  So if you are visiting the Meatpacking District during the day or early evening hours, stop by for a quick, inexpensive, and mostly comfortable meal.  Proceed with caution after midnight.

HOURS

Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Monday and Tuesday: 2:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Wednesday through Saturday open 24 hours

LOCATION

Street (at Washington Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Hector’s Cafe & Diner

Square Diner — 75.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located in Tribeca, Square Diner is a “classic a train-car diner” with a roof plopped on top.  Once inside, you can see its classic shape by looking up at the curved wooden ceiling.  Not only is the ceiling attractive, but we think its shape helps to diffuse sound.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The interior is fairly small and narrow, and every square inch is used. With the exception of the ceiling, most of the other materials in the space are hard, reflective surfaces–glass, tile, and metal. The kitchen is somewhat exposed to the dining space, as there is a short order window behind the counter and a door to kitchen was propped open.  Fortunately kitchen sounds weren’t a problem during our visit. Unfortunately, background music was playing which served no purpose other than to annoy. Featuring 80’s hits–a perennial favorite–all it did was add an unnecessary layer of noise. If the music was turned off, we think the reading would have been below 73 dBC.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Still, the soundscape was definitely manageable, even with a fairly full house of chatty customers.  Without the music, we think it could have been close to comfortable. That said, the space didn’t feel too live, but since Square Diner is small, be advised that one or two loud people could easily dominate the soundscape.

No surprise that Square Diner offers a long menu of diner classics. The food is fine for what it is–Joe Jr’s has the city’s best diner burger, while this one was perfectly acceptable. Diners, particularly standalone diners, are a dying breed in New York City, so if you enjoy them, this one should be on your short list. Square Diner is a good inexpensive option in otherwise expensive and loud Tribeca.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Varick Street), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Square Diner

Ridgeway Diner — 71.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Ridgeway Diner was at least half full when we visited.  It’s located on busy 6th Avenue, so we were concerned when we saw that the front door was open to the street. Our concern was mostly misplaced, as we didn’t hear much street traffic throughout the lion’s share of our meal.  The problem, however, was that ambulances raced by, sirens blaring, at least twice during our visit. This raised the decibel reading, which is an average over the period during which the reading was taken.  It’s hard to blame a restaurant owner for random noise over which he or she has no control, but on opening the door to the street one must assume that an emergency vehicle could pass by. That said, shutting the door may have saved only a decibel or two at best, as the sirens were so loud that they would surely have penetrated into the space even if the door was shut.

Sirens aside, the place was generally calm and relaxed. Why? No music.  Other than street noise, the soundscape of the place consisted mainly of voices,  even with an open service area and a window to the kitchen.  So, despite being in a noisy and busy part of the city, we were able to eat in relative comfort.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Ridgeway Diner is proof that not playing background music yields benefits, particularly for businesses on very busy city streets.  The food was decent diner fare and service was efficient.  There’s nothing particularly interesting or compelling about the place except that it’s hard to find a non-national chain restaurant option in this area, making this relaxed, old-school Greek diner a lucky find.  We recommend it.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 20th and 21st Streets), New York, NY 10010

WEBSITE

Ridgeway Diner

Clark’s — 73.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Clark’s is a diner in the heart of Brooklyn Heights, located directly across the street from the Clark Street 2/3 subway station. It is almost always bustling, with tables of two, four, or more that cycle in and out quickly.  Clark’s offers the usual diner classics–burgers, sandwiches, salads, and extensive breakfast options–along with chicken, steaks, and seafood entrees.  The food comes out quickly, so the staff are constantly moving.

The main dining area runs the length of the space along a glass wall on the Henry Street side of the building, and the floor is tiled. Despite the presence of hard, reflective materials, the sound level was more than tolerable when we visited during a very busy lunch service. It was noticeably louder when we first entered because the place it was packed and one nearby customer had a particularly loud voice. That can’t be helped and can happen anywhere.  After  she left, the space was almost pleasant.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

When packed the place sounds a bit live as the sound from people talking bounces off the glass, but it is less obvious if the room is only half full. Classical music played softly in the background, and while not necessary, the volume was fine.  Even when the place was full it was at least tolerable.  We think Clark’s is a safe bet if you are looking for a good quick meal in Brooklyn Heights.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:45 p.m.

Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Henry Street), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

Clark’s

The Red Flame Diner — 70.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Looking for a no-nonsense place in midtown for a quick meal in relatively peaceful surroundings? Look no further than The Red Flame Diner on W. 44th Street, near 6th Avenue.  The Red Flame Diner has plenty of booths for two or four and a small counter with stools near the back.  This is not haute cuisine–the food is straight forward diner classics done right.  More importantly, you can eat and have a conversation with your guests–and most people were chatting–with ease.  No straining, no screaming.

The Red Flame will have you in and out in short order.  But despite the bustle–and the place was nearly filled to capacity during our Saturday brunch time visit–it’s comfortable.  The only black mark was background music, but the volume was low enough so it could be ignored.  That said, why have it at all?  No one was listening to it and it added an unnecessary layer of sound.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Given that almost every seat was filled, we were pleased with the noise level during our visit.  It’s unlikely that it would be much louder if the few empty seats were filled, so we have no reservations in recommending the Red Flame Diner.  If the music were turned off or lowered, we would give this place our highest mark.  Still, second place isn’t bad at all.

HOURS

Open 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day

LOCATION

67 W. 44th Street (betw. 5th and 6th Avenues), New York, NY 10036

WEBSITE

The Red Flame Diner

La Bonbonniere — 76.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

La Bonbonniere is an old school diner on 8th Avenue, where the West Village folds into the Meat Packing District.  It’s a neighborhood favorite that feels like it’s been around forever, the go to place for breakfast or a burger.  In short, it’s the kind of place every neighborhood should have (and, miraculously, it still exists in the West Village somehow).

The place was relatively full during our lunch time visit, so full that we had to sit at the counter.  The front door was open to the street since the weather was mild.  Despite the open door, the street noise wasn’t that bad.  There was no music playing, which helped a lot.  The only real noise was from the staff talking to each other and the short order cook’s metal spatula hitting the grill top.  It’s an open kitchen, so that can’t be avoided. The sound was more noticeable for those of us who were seated at the counter; kitchen sounds should be less obtrusive at the tables.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Overall, for a full place with a door open to 8th Avenue, La Bonbonniere was quieter than we  expected.  It’s not calm, but it is at least tolerable.  It is a good, Inexpensive option in the West Village.  Cash only.  Odd hours.

HOURS

Monday: 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Tuesday: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Wedensday: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

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

Saturday and Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. W. 12th and Jane Streets), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

La Bonbonniere

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

 

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