Paul’s Da Burger Joint — 74.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Paul’s Da Burger Joint despite its name because we read that it had been around for at least 25 years, which is starting to be a real milestone for New York City restaurants.  We assumed that the good reviews on various restaurant sites, coupled with the 25+ year history meant we were going to have some pretty fabulous burgers.  But we were wrong.  There’s no compelling reason to come here.

Background music was playing softly when we entered, which was encouraging. There’s an open kitchen, so you’ll hear the annoying grill sounds along with the cooks and staff chatting but it’s manageable.  Shortly after we were seated the waitress took our order. Then, inexplicably, someone raised the volume of the music–a classic rock radio station–when a song by Meatloaf came on.  On purpose.  Just our luck, it turns out it was a block of Meatloaf.  While the volume wasn’t set at 11, it was too loud.  And it was Meatloaf.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

A really tasty burger could have made up a bit for the soundscape, but what we got was just meh.  The burger looked good but it had an odd taste, or, more accurately, not much taste–it was more like a chopped steak than a burger, and not in a good way.  The space smells of beef fat and whatever oil they use to fry their french fries, and it didn’t smell fresh.  So we thought to ourselves, why come here? Streecha is around the corner, Veselka is nearby, and if you want a good old-fashioned burger, walk nine short blocks to Joe Jr. to taste what a great diner burger should taste like.

In short, there’s no reason to eat here: the place smells of stale fried beef fat, the burger is fairly tasteless, and the music is too loud.  Ok, one reason to eat here would be that you’ve completed an East Village bar crawl, you drank way too much, and you need to put something–anything–in your stomach right this minute.  Otherwise, avoid.

HOURS

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

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 7th and 8th Streets), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Paul’s Da Burger Joint

Nancy Whiskey Pub — 86.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

When we entered Nancy Whiskey Pub we wanted to love it.  It appears to be the perfect neighborhood dive bar–not contrived or styled, it simply is a place you go to drink with your buddies.  And we did fall in love with the place, for five, maybe ten minutes. But after our brief love affair, things quickly turned ugly when a bartender began feeding bills into the jukebox and destroyed what had been a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

No one asked the bartender to play music, so either management requires the bartenders to turn it on at a certain time or maybe she was bored.  We don’t know.  What we do know is that the volume was punishing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We also don’t know if deafening music is played every day or whether the bartender just wanted to hear some tunes, but when we asked if the volume could be lowered, the bartender shouted, “go upstairs,” which we understood to be “no.”

We did go upstairs and found a smaller space crammed with people who were not quite drunk and already screaming–not surprisingly, this space was only slightly quieter than below. We threw back our drinks and left, emerging onto the comparatively serene street, and continued our search for the perfect bar.

So, sadly, we must advise that you avoid Nancy Whiskey Pub if you cherish your hearing more than finding a genuine neighborhood bar. The prices were good, the physical space  was perfect, but it’s just too damn loud.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. every day (sometimes close earlier on Sundays and Mondays)

LOCATION

Street (on the corner of 6th Avenue), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Nancy Whiskey Pub

 

 

Empire Diner — 86.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Everything is wrong at the Empire Diner. Well, everything except the food, which was tasty. Every surface is hard, street noise from open windows let in the regular siren screams from racing ambulances, and loud dance music pulsates throughout the space, dominating the soundscape. Ouch!

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And what a shame, as the food is really good, the space is attractive, and Empire Diner is a reminder of Chelsea’s not so distant past, when it was very gay and glam. Yes, Chelsea wasn’t very quiet back in the day, but we don’t recall racing through a meal to get out before our ears exploded, either.

That said, the main room and outdoor eating were uncomfortably loud, but there was a room further in the diner that was quiet.  It was also empty.  Unclear if it would remain quiet as it fills up with spill over from the main space.  So, sadly, we must suggest you avoid Empire Diner, unless, that is, you don’t mind dining while wearing noise-cancelling headphones.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

Avenue (at the corner of 22nd Street), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Empire Diner

Five Leaves — 85 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This will be our shortest review ever: We walked in, sat down, started the meter, looked around, stopped the meter, and left. Why? The music in this attractive space was punishing. The food must be good–the place was crowded–but we’ll never know, as the music volume made the space intolerable. After just two minutes, we felt our jaw muscles tightening. To be frank, we didn’t feel like putting in ear plugs to make our way through lunch.  We just wanted to enjoy our meal, and it shouldn’t be that hard.

If it’s this crazy loud at lunch, dinner at Five Leaves won’t be better. They are open for breakfast, though, so if you get there at 8:00 a.m. before they remember to turn the music on, you might have a shot at a meal without a side of tinnitus.  Otherwise, avoid.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

nue (where it meets Lorimer Street and Nassau Avenue), Brooklyn, NY 11222

WEBSITE

Five Leaves

Filicori Zecchini (Upper West Side) — 80.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were wandering around the Upper West Side, enjoying a constitutional after a lovely meal at Ayurveda Cafe (to be reviewed soon), when we spied Filicori Zecchini.  We fondly remembered visiting their Chelsea location last year and eagerly went inside.  What a disappointment.  It quickly became clear that this space was not at all like the Chelsea location, which we remembered as a calm oasis (and reading our review later, saw that despite being crowded, the Chelsea location clocked in at a  very comfortable 72.4 decibels). No, this location was loud and uncomfortable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Why? They were playing loud music in a live box. The front of the store is a wall of glass.  The floors are tiled, the counter area was covered with some shiny, hard surface, and the bean grinding and espresso machines were loud.  Throw in the other customers screaming over all of the above and you have the recipe for not very comfortable experience.

Speaking of experience, we also were confused/amused by a little interchange with the barista.  We had ordered a cortado.  On ordering, the barista said, “oh, water comes with this.  Would you like some.”  “Sure, ” we replied.  And then the barista poured sparkling water into a one-ounce jigger glass.  No, really.  He poured us an ounce of sparkling water.

We’d rather have a tasty cortado and mouthful of sparkling water at Zecchini’s Chelsea location.  This one should be avoided.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

(at the corner of 95th Street), New York, NY 10025

WEBSITE

Filicori Zecchini

 

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

Nancy Whiskey Pub — 86.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

When we entered Nancy Whiskey Pub we wanted to love it.  It appears to be the perfect neighborhood dive bar–not contrived or styled, it simply is a place you go to drink with your buddies.  And we did fall in love with the place, for five, maybe ten minutes. But after our brief love affair, things quickly turned ugly when a bartender began feeding bills into the jukebox and destroyed what had been a lovely relaxed atmosphere.

No one asked the bartender to play music, so either management requires the bartenders to turn it on at a certain time or maybe she was bored.  We don’t know.  What we do know is that the volume was punishing.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We also don’t know if deafening music is played every day or whether the bartender just wanted to hear some tunes, but when we asked if the volume could be lowered, the bartender shouted, “go upstairs,” which we understood to be “no.”

We did go upstairs and found a smaller space crammed with people who were not quite drunk and already screaming–not surprisingly, this space was only slightly quieter than below. We threw back our drinks and left, emerging onto the comparatively serene street, and continued our search for the perfect bar.

So, sadly, we must advise that you avoid Nancy Whiskey Pub if you cherish your hearing more than finding a genuine neighborhood bar. The prices were good, the physical space  was perfect, but it’s just too damn loud.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. every day (sometimes close earlier on Sundays and Mondays)

LOCATION

Street (on the corner of 6th Avenue), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Nancy Whiskey Pub

 

 

Tom & Jerry’s — 84.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Tom & Jerry’s looks like a fun place to meet friends for a drink.  Located on Elizabeth Street north of Houston, it’s right in the thick of things and yet it isn’t overwhelmed by car or human traffic.  But we wouldn’t suggest you meet your PETA buddies there–the righthand wall sports a number of taxidermied hunting trophies (click the photo above to see the stuffed bear on the righthand side).

We stopped by on the early side of happy hour for a quick drink before another engagement.  The bar’s space is physically comfortable (taxidermy excepted) and one could imagine aimlessly hanging out with friends, except for one glaring flaw: the music volume was set at 11.   Simply put, Tom & Jerry’s is entirely too loud.   A nearby table of workmates was shouting at each other just to be heard.  The shouting wasn’t the cause of our discomfort–and yes, we were not comfortable–it was the music.  Setting the music volume this loud makes absolutely no sense, because scoping the crowd it seemed clear that Tom & Jerry’s is the place you go to hang out with friends or work buddies, not hook up with a stranger (although later on the scene could be much different).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were terribly disappointed because we wanted to like Tom & Jerry’s, but a potentially comfortable spot was ruined by unnecessarily loud music.  It’s possible that the volume is manageable in the afternoon when the bar first opens and crowds have yet to gather.  Try your luck, if you wish.  As for us, we must recommend that you avoid.

HOURS

12:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. E. Houston and Bleecker Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Tom and Jerry’s

Clinton Hall — 87.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

It’s early evening and you’re in the Financial District looking for a place to chill with your friends.  You spy Clinton Hall and see that there is plenty of seating and a nice crowd.  Should you pay a visit?  Nope.  Why?  We have 87.7 reasons why you should avoid Clinton Hall (with a proviso below).  Which is sad, really, because Clinton Hall has the potential to be a good bar option as it has a very good beer list and tasty snacks.  But a good beer list and tasty snacks cannot make up for a punishing noise level.

We were seated inside during our visit and wondered if the noise level might be more tolerable sitting outside during the warmer months, but we were advised by someone familiar with the place that it is just as loud outside as it was inside.   So what was the culprit?  The usual, very loud music.  And once again it was very loud bland, nondescript music.  We didn’t recognize a song–it was nonstop forgettable corporate pop drivel.  Why do places do this?  If they are going to bombard their guests with loud music, they should at least have the decency to play something interesting.  But we shouldn’t have been surprised as Clinton Hall smells like it’s owned by one of those hospitality partnerships.  That said, it has the potential to be a mostly fun place as they have lots board games, including some oversized games meant for groups, and plenty of seating inside and out.  That is, It could be fun if one could hear one’s companions, but it was really difficult to do so during our visit.

We must note that within minutes of turning off the decibel meter the music volume dropped off dramatically.  Why?  It was 10:00 p.m. and we assume that they were observing the New York City Noise Code rules governing places that play music.  Good for them for being observant.  One hopes they eventually recognize that the bar becomes comfortable only after the music volume is lowered.  And yes, it was actually comfortable once the volume was lowered.

Generally we would advise you to avoid a place with a decibel reading this high, but the Financial District has few real options and there are ways you could negotiate a visit to Clinton Hall.   Long and short, we advise that you visit only if the temperature is warm enough to allow you to sit outside, you aim for a table furthest away from the indoor space, and the place is fairly empty.  Or you could stop by after 10:00 p.m.

NOTE: Our visit occurred before the scaffolding appeared.  With the scaffolding there could be a difference in noise level, certainly for the outdoor seating.  Proceed with caution.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Thursday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

90 Washington Street (betw. Rector and Joseph P. Ward Streets), New York, NY 10006

WEBSITE

Clinton Hall