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

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

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

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

Russ & Daughters Cafe — 78.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were pleasantly surprised about the noise level at Russ & Daughters Cafe–it wasn’t bad at all for a very busy, celebrated place.  Every food site has written it up, and the food is very good, so of course there was a wait (45 minutes at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday in August).  As a consequence, almost every seat was taken during our brunch time visit, so we think the decibel reading can be relied on for lunch and dinner as well.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were seated in the front dining space.  The music was a bit louder than we would have liked, but in the end it was tolerable and sometimes more than tolerable (depending on the song), which was astonishing given that every surface in the front was hard.  We can only speculate that something was done to mitigate the noise.  Did the rounded ceiling helped to deflect sound?  Maybe, but we can’t be sure.  The back dining room is separated from the front, which helped, but the kitchen was open.  That said, the open kitchen occupied the space between the front and back dining areas, so kitchen noises didn’t intrude as much as one might have thought.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Whatever the reason, the space was not as loud as we anticipated.  In fact, we thought the space felt more comfortable than 78.5 decibels.   So, despite the hype and crowds, Russ & Daughters Cafe is worth a visit.  Yes, it could be a bit more comfortable, and it would have if they just lowered the music, but in the end it’s tolerable and the smoked salmon makes the visit worth it.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Rivington and Delancey Streets), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Russ & Daughters Cafe

622 3rd Avenue — 66.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The indoor portion of this privately owned public space (POPS) is tolerable, barely.   A POPS is “an amenity provided and maintained by a developer for public use, in exchange for additional floor area.”  POPS can vary in quality, but the covered public spaces tend to offer more amenities, like cafes and public restrooms, and they tend to be better maintained.

The covered POPS at 622 3rd Avenue is, essentially, the lobby of an office building, and it is not used much by the public for good reason.  There were some stone benches for the public to use, but the absense of softer surfaces or materials–everything was glass or stone–made the space an echo chamber.   The space was so live that the sudden chatter of workers leaving the lobby elevators was startling.  So this public space could be useful if one had to escape a sudden storm, but 622 3rd Avenue is not a place to linger or enjoy.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The nearby outdoor POPS looked nice, though, and there are tables and chairs for public use in the  adjacent court yard.  There is also a second level terrace that’s the public may use, and an elevator is provided for access by the physically disabled.

Unlike other covered POPS, the public space at 622 3rd Avenue does not provide public bathrooms.   In short, the indoor POPS will serve in a pinch but it is less than inviting.

HOURS

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

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

Landscaped Terrace w/ access for disabled open same hours from April 1st through November 1st, but weekdays only from November 2nd through March 31st (winter hours)

LOCATION

622 3rd Avenue (at 40th Street), New York, NY 10017

WEBSITE

APOPS/MASNYC’s review of 622 3rd Avenue

High Street on Hudson — 81.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We normally avoid new or notable places because they tend towards the boisterous, but this NYC location of a Philly fave restaurant received nothing but raves, so we aimed for a Thursday lunch to avoid the evening crush.  When we arrived we saw that about half the tables were taken, but even with empty tables we were confronted with a wall of noise.  We braved on and managed to eat a rushed meal.

Reviews have mentioned that High Street breads are fabulous–and they are–and we loved our side order of Sicilian cauliflower.  That said, we won’t be back.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Why?  High Street was too loud from the get go despite being less than half full–ear plugs had to be deployed.   We can’t even contemplate how loud a packed house at night would be, which is a real shame because place is getting a lot of deserved buzz and the food was delicious.  But delicious food served in an echo chamber with music that is too loud and trebly simply is not enjoyable.  Even if the music were lowered it unclear if the space could be comfortable.  Once again, the typical design culprits were present–glass, glass, and more glass–and we could hear the people around us raising their voices to be heard.

High Street on Hudson has a take away counter.  Use it.

HOURS

Monday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Tuesday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday and Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Note: Hours are for summer; winter dinner hours will close an hour later

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Horatio Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

High Street on Hudson

 

Parm (Upper West Side) — 73.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were surprised that our visit to the Upper West Side location of Parm was unexpectedly comfortable.  Why unexpectedly?  Because we’ve been to the original Parm on Mulberry Street and it was LOUD.   And, to be frank, a quick look around the place was concerning because there were lots of hard surfaces–glass, tin ceiling, mirrors, tile floor, and marble bar top–and two flat screens tvs at the bar where we ate our lunch.

So why was the space pleasant?  First, the tv volume appeared to be off–we couldn’t hear it.  Second, while we could hear music, it was playing very softly in the background.  Third, nearby tables were quiet, including a table that had a handful of very small children.   All in all our experience was perfectly fine, but we must note that our visit was at lunch time so it may not be a fair indicator of what the space is like during a busier seating.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The bar counter is in the front of the large space, which also housed a number of tables and an outdoor seating area.  There are larger dining spaces in the back that are separated from the front of the house by a column or archway.  We checked out the main back dining area and it was fine, but not many tables were occupied.  Given the hard surfaces, large flat screen tv, and the bigger space, it is very likely that the back space would be uncomfortably loud when packed, but we think the front dining area would be fine even if the back is busy.

We can certainly recommend this location of Parm for lunch and suggest a seat in the front area, particularly if the back dining area is busy.  The food is good (although the chicken parm sandwich was not quite as good as was at the original location) and at 73.6 decibels the space is quiet…for the Upper West Side (at least at lunch time).

HOURS

Sunday to Thursday:  11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p..m.

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

LOCATION

nue (betw. 70th and 71st Streets), New York, NY 10023

WEBSITE

Parm

 

Edgar’s Cafe — 75 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Edgar’s Cafe for a leisurely lunch, opting for an inside table as the sidewalk tables on busy Amsterdam Avenue would be uncomfortablly loud.  Sadly, the front door was open, allowing street noise to enter the dining room.  And the street noise had a negative impact, as at least one nearby siren and a couple of motorcycles contributed to the soundscape which, while not awful, was not calm.

Unnecessary music played in the background adding a layer of noise.  The music wasn’t too loud, but what we could hear sounded like the sound track to a middling 1960s film.  In the end we were left with a recurring question that was highlighted here: If a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop insists on playing background music, why can’t they show some care with the music they choose to play?   That is, if you are going to deny the customer a quiet space, at least pick something that doesn’t bore or insult them.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

All of the  surfaces at Edgar’s are hard– stone tile floor, stone topped tables, lots of windows, hard plaster walls.  Nothing was forgiving.  And when a metal cafe chair was dragged across the floor, the sound was loud and jarring.  The traffic noise was coupled with the high-pitched pinging coming from a bus boy who was setting up for the evening–we could hear every plate and fork–and the milk frother was one of the loudest we’ve ever encountered.   We can only assume that the space would be uncomfortably loud when full, as our visit reached 75 decibels even though only a few tables were occupied.

Still, it’s hard to find a reasonably quiet place in the Upper West, so you could do worse.  Our meal was fine–everything looked and tasted freshly made–and service could not have been better.  We would recommend visiting only if the place is not busy, as the design choices insure a live space.  Avoid if packed.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 91st and 92nd Streets), New York, NY 10025

WEBSITE

Edgar’s Cafe

Nanoosh (Upper West Side location) — 81.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were catching a movie at the AMC Loews at Lincoln Square and decided to try out Nanoosh, a local mini-chain of “mediterranean” restaurants offering a selection of salads, hummus (many varieties), and “powerfood plates.”  It seemed like a safe choice, particularly since  the place was far from crowded.  But we were wrong.

Despite being a Monday night, and with just a few tables occupied, Nanoosh was unnecessarily loud.  Why?  There was not one forgiving material in the place.   Despite the high ceilings, the dining room pulsated with sound as music and chatter bounced off of the large glass windows, on to the slate floor, and off of the tiled niches.  It didn’t help that the music volume was set on loud.  When we asked if the music could be lowered our waitress said that it could not because “the music can only be turned on or off,” and, apparently, off wasn’t an option.  To add insult to injury, the music selection was largely beige talentless chewing gum for the ears.  Why?

Our one-word recommendation: Avoid.  The food was ok, but there’s much better hummus in the city.  More importantly,  we make it a point to avoid places that will not lower the music when asked.  The customer may not always be right, but if a polite request to lower the music is made and ignored then it’s clear that your patronage is not needed or welcomed.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

(betw. 68th and 69th Streets), New York, NY 10023

WEBSITE

Nanoosh