Malatesta Trattoria — 88.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

What a disappointing visit.  We enjoyed the food and loved the look and layout of the space, but  Malatesta Trattoria is the single loudest restaurant that we have visited to date.  The design elements did not bear the brunt of the blame this time.  No, it was the combination of unnecessary background music, an open kitchen,  yelling staff, and overwhelming street noise that combined to make for one of the most unpleasant dining experiences we have ever had.

August 2016 will be remembered as a particularly uncomfortable, hot, and humid month; it was a real struggle slogging through the month.  Opening the windows may have seemed a sensible choice, particularly as Malatesta is located close to the Hudson River and the open windows invited in the occasional breeze.  But you know what also helps?  Air conditioning.  And under the circumstances–it was hot as hell and muggy to boot–air conditioning was called for.

There was some air conditioning or a strong fan going in the space, but the open windows meant the space was not going to approach cool.  And if the windows were closed, at least the traffic noise could have been kept out.  That said, if the windows were closed and the music was kept at the same volume, the experience might have been worse since glass is unforgiving.  So what could they do to mitigate the sound overload?

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As usual, the simple act of shutting off the music that no one was listening to would have gone a long way to make the space more hospitable.   We could hear the other patrons screaming over the music but we could not hear the music clearly enough to “enjoy” it.  In short, it simply added a thick layer of unnecessary sound that brought no pleasure to anyone.  The only reason we didn’t run from the place was because the open windows kept the space from being live and, to be frank, it was too damn hot to contemplate finding another place for a nosh.

The physical space is charming and the food was lovely–we wanted to fall in love with Malatesta Trattoria.  Sadly, we could not, and must regretfully recommend that you avoid it.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (on the corner of Christopher Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Malatesta Trattoria

 

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

 

L’Express — 75.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

L’Express is a perfect example of when a restaurant with a reading of 75 decibels is so uncomfortable that we cannot recommend that you go there.  We raced through our meal when we visited on an early Sunday evening.  The culprit?  It was the music.  Sure the design elements could have been more forgiving, but the place was far less than half full–only three other tables were occupied–and there were maybe seven people at the bar.   A flat screen tv hovered over the bar, but we couldn’t hear it over the music, which was a forgettable mash of bland pop played too loud with an echo-y reverb that we felt as well as heard.  What purpose did it serve?  The other customers were speaking with their companions–no one was listening to the music.

Our meal at L’Express was fine, but we won’t return.  After all, if L’Express was this uncomfortable on an early Sunday evening, imagine how unpleasant it must be when it’s busy.  Avoid.

HOURS

Open 24 hours every day

LOCATION

(betw. 19th and 20th Streets), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

L’Express

Blarney Stone — 76 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

You just got out of Penn Station and you’re tired, thirsty, and hungry.  You know there is a high-end food court somewhere nearby, but you’re not sure where it is.   Frustrated you look for the first place that offers something to eat and drink, and there it is: the Blarney Stone.  You’ve read that many other locations of the Blarney Stone have closed in the last few years and you think this may be your only chance to experience it.  So suspending disbelief, you wander in hoping that you may be pleasantly surprised.  Never stop dreaming.

Sadly, your dream will not be realized at Blarney Stone.   Long and short, it’s dark, the music is too loud, and the food is merely adequate.  But it will do in a pinch.   The music was both loud and odd during our visit–we felt like we were sitting in an airport hotel lounge circa 1993.  A couple of regulars lingered at the bar, one of whom slurred a bit too loudly that he couldn’t go to another nearby bar because he got in trouble on account of his drinking too much.  Somehow the waitress was cheery despite her surroundings.

Our lunch at Blarney Stone was okay and we got to cross “check out Blarney Stone” off our bucket list.  There isn’t much right around Penn Station, so you could do worse.   We were there for a late lunch so we can only guess as to how loud the space gets at night.  From reviews left at various sites it appears that the Blarney Stone is a good, cheap place to stop off for a drink or nosh before seeing a game or concert at Madison Square Garden.  Presumably the place will be packed at those times and could be raucous, so avoid if packed.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. 30th and 31st Street), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

Blarney Stone

Root & Bone — 80.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The music volume was entirely too loud from the moment we entered Root & Bone.  To their credit, when asked if the volume could be lowered, it was done immediately.  Once lowered, the sound quality of the space was far better, but it was clear that loud is the default.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The restaurant’s windows were open to street, allowing in traffic noise.   Fortunately, street traffic wasn’t too bad (although one fire truck did pass by).  Only a few other nearby tables were occupied and they didn’t really add to the noise profile.  No, the main factor  for the high decibel reading was the loud music.  Keep in mind that the meter constantly averages the decibel reading, so 80.8 decibels reflects the noise level before and after the music volume was lowered  on our request.   That is, the much calmer period after the music volume was reduced was averaged with the super high volume before the adjustment.  Had we not asked for the music to be lowered we believe the reading would have been around 85 decibels.

After the music was lowered, the space was pleasant enough but could not make up for the initial blast of sound.  The food was fine, although we weren’t sure if we like fried chicken with a pronounced citrus note (and we still aren’t sure).  One standout was the fabulous service.  Our waiter could not have been nicer–it was he who responded immediately to our request to turn down the music, and he went around the restaurant until he found the person with access to the volume knob.   We mourn for his ears, as one of ours felt a bit numb after we left.  One saving grace: there were no electric hand dryers in the bathroom.  There’s that.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

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

Saturday: 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (at Avenue B), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Root & Bone

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

 

St. Andrews — 77.9 to 79 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If St. Andrews, a Scottish restaurant and bar, were in any other part of town, we would advise that you only stop in when it’s empty.  But it’s in Times Square and that makes it a viable option at most times (but not happy hour).  Simply put, there are very few quiet places in Times Square that offer decent food at a reasonable price, which is why St. Andrews is one of the loudest places we will recommend.

We visited St. Andrews for a Friday lunch and were seated in the ground floor dining room; it was at least half full.  Background music played throughout our visit, and while it was mostly in the background (at least at first) it unnecessarily added a layer of sound.  Midway through our meal the music volume was suddenly increased.  We asked if the volume could be lowered and were pleased when it was immediately adjusted to what it had been earlier.

In addition to the music, unnecessary noise was provided by two customers seated near our table who were very noticeably loud (a sign of early hearing loss, we suspect).  Fortunately the ceilings were of a good height and upholstered banquettes may have absorbed some of the sound.  In addition, the dining area was separated from the bar by a wall that had a couple of open spaces between both rooms.  This design choice kept most, but not all, of the sound emanating in one room from ricocheting into the other.  Overall, the sound level during our lunch visit was manageable, particularly after one of the loud customers left.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We also visited St. Andrews at brunch, which generated the higher decibel rating.  While the noise level wasn’t ideal, it was more manageable than the reading alone would suggest.  We were seated near the entrance during that visit and suspect that our decibel meter may have picked up the sound of customers and staff entering and leaving the dining space and bar, resulting in the higher than expected reading.  St. Andrews has an upstairs dining room that was not available at lunch but generally is open for brunch.  If that space is available, our experience is that it is a better option than the ground floor.

We did not visit St. Andrews during happy hour, but we’ve been told that happy hour is very popular, crowded, and loud.  In short, avoid.

Overall, St. Andrews is not a bad option if you must be in Times Square and want to get a drink or a nosh.  It has a great selection of beers and scotch, the food is decent bar grub (not fabulous, but not bad), and the prices are reasonable for Times Square.  Just don’t expect a serene space, and avoid happy hour.

HOURS

11:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. every day

(kitchen closes at midnight on Monday and Sunday, 2:00 a.m. every other day)

LOCATION

(betw. 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10036

WEBSITE

St. Andrews

 

O’Hara’s Restaurant and Pub — 78.6 decibels

Can you see all the flat screen tvs?

Can you see all the flat screen tvs?

A reading of 78.6 decibels insured a harried lunch.  While the waitstaff were friendly and efficient, there is no compelling reason to eat here.  The space is designed for noise: mounted televisions set to CNBC, loud patrons, and absolutely unnecessary background music that featured lesser-known numbers by one-hit wonder 80’s bands.  Why?

If you are visiting the 9/11 memorial, or just dropped some dough at Century 21, suddenly find yourself ravenously hungry, and are a huge Survivor fan, this is your place.   For everyone else, avoid.  Food is barely adequate American bar fare (fried appetizers, burgers, wraps, etc.).

HOURS

Tuesday through Thursday: 11:00 am to 12:00 a.m.

Friday through Monday: 11:00 am to 2:00 a.m.

LOCATION

120 Cedar Street (betw. Greenwich Street and Trinity Place), NY, NY 10006

WEBSITE 

O’Hara’s Restaurant and Pub

Lombardi’s Pizza — 80.5 decibels

Lombardi's

Lombardi’s

Lombardi’s claims to be America’s first pizzeria as well as the birthplace of New York style pizza.  It’s been going strong for over 100 years and is an established tourist destination, which explains the almost full main floor dining room during a midweek lunch service.

The restaurant’s design features mostly hard surfaces–tile floor, glass, metal–and they are unforgiving.  When completely packed, which is likely most evenings, the noise level must be unbearable as there is a full bar along one wall that must be jammed with people waiting for an available table.  And there are always people waiting for a table on nights and weekends.

If you are doing a pizza history tour and absolutely must visit Lombardi’s Pizza, go during off hours and hope for the best.  Otherwise, bring your ear plugs or avoid.

HOURS

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

Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Mott Street), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Lombardi’s Pizza

City Winery (the Barrel Room) — 83.7 decibels

City Winery Barrel Room

City Winery Barrel Room

It was a Monday night.  The restaurant was less than half full.  And the decibel reading averaged 83.7 decibels over one hour, twelve minutes, and 48 seconds.

City Winery has two restaurants: one is in a performance space and the other (the “Barrel Room”) is a restaurant/bar in an adjoining building.  We had our meal in the Barrel Room, the restaurant sans performance space.   But you wouldn’t have known that by the meter reading, as the space was really really loud.  We repeat:  83.7 decibels.  On a Monday night.  With more than half the tables empty.

There was absolutely no reason for the place to be this loud.  Avoid.

HOURS

Sunday and Monday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. (bar closes at 11:00 p.m.)

Tuesday through Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (bar closes at 12:00 a.m.)

Saturday: 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (bar closes at 12:00 a.m.)

LOCATION

Street (betw. Spring and Vandam Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

City Winery | New York City