Dudley’s — 79.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Dudley’s is an attractive Aussie restaurant and bar located in the Lower East Side.  We stopped by for lunch on a Monday and it was packed.  Mondays tend to be a bit less hectic as a rule, so we were surprised.  With the tables all taken, we headed to the bar.

The place has a really nice feel and is aesthetically pleasing (at least we thought so).  There is definitely a low-key vibe about the space, but it also is decked out in hard, unforgiving materials–stainless steel, glass, mirror, and tile.  With two sides of the space consisting of windows and a mirrored bar as the third, it ensures that Dudley’s will be loud most of the time. One potential mitigating factor–emphasis on potential–was the unfinished brick vaulted ceiling.  We have found that vaulted ceilings seem to help in other settings, but are unsure whether it diffused any sound here.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And there was music, of course. The volume wasn’t awful, but given that the space is essentially a small glass box, it would have been nice if it was lowered or shut off entirely. The end result is that we found it tolerable, barely, at a busy lunch, and we assume the sound quality will be at least the same–if not worse–at brunch and dinner.  It’s a real shame, because if the sound level wasn’t a factor we would highly recommend the place.  The staff was laid back, the food was good, and it had the potential to be a comfortable space.

So it would be best to avoid Dudley’s when there is a crowd and to proceed with caution any other time. Happy hour or other boozy times are likely to be a scream fest, so don’t even think about it.

HOURS

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday through Thursday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Bar stays open to 2:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. x and y), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Dudley’s

Shopsin’s — 73.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Shopsin’s is a genuine New York City institution.  It’s been around since 1971, though it has had to move twice due to criminal rent increases. The owner, Kenny Shopsin, is famous (or is that infamous?) for being unconventional.  It used to be that if you asked too many questions or otherwise got on his last nerve he would throw you out of his restaurant. But he may have mellowed. To get a flavor of his character and approach to food, you could pick up a copy of his cookbook: Eat Me.

The original Shopsin’s space was on Bedford Street in the West Village.  It kept “interesting” hours, as in no one really knew what the hours were. There were lots of unhappy neighbors when Shopsin’s lost their lease and had to move to Carmine Street.  And then they had to leave Carmine Street. Fortunately, Shopsin’s found space in the Essex Street Market and it feels like a good fit. Yes, the space is much smaller than either of the earliest spaces, but there are  about six small tables and some stools by the counter.  Maybe you’ll have to wait.

Once seated you will be given an odd, rambling menu that reads like a Dr. Bronner’s label–voluminous doesn’t come close.  Seriously, there are 100s of items to choose from, and it’s hard to know where to start.  Order something savory, and a tray with seven hot sauces will be placed on your table.  Because you should have choices.  Prices are interesting, with some items costing more than you would think, others less.  Nothing really makes sense at Shopsin’s, and that’s the point.  It exists to give voice to Kenny Shopsin’s take on life. In fact, he was chatting with a regular when we were there, talking about running a business and how difficult it had become, the decline of work, automation, etc.  It was fascinating and we didn’t feel guilty listening in. (not that we could avoid listening in).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We tried one of Shopsin’s signature sandwiches called the Jewboy (and yes, there’s a Jewgirl). It was tasty but had hot sauce which wasn’t included in the short description on the menu.  It wasn’t head exploding hot, but tongue tingling at the least.  So if you can’t handle hot sauce, just ask if it’s included in whatever you are ordering.

So what is the sound level like? The soundscape of the place is perfectly fine. The only real sound came from Kenny Shopsin holding court, Shopsin’s staff  making and serving the food, and people entering the market (Shopsin’s is by one of the entrances).  We thought it was comfortable.  During our visit about half the tables were taken at one point, but even if full we think the sound level should be fine.

Shopsin’s is not a typical restaurant.  It’s a one-of-a-kind place worth experiencing if you want to have a taste of what New York City was like and still can be.

HOURS

Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Wednesday through Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (in the Essex Street Market), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Shopsin’s

Russ & Daughters Cafe — 78.5 decibels

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

Ost Cafe — 67.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ost Cafe is a very nice little coffee shop offering coffee, tea, and sweet treats.  It’s located on the very edge of the Lower East Side where it meets Two Bridges.  This part of the Lower East Side hasn’t been over-developed yet; many of the nearby stores still have signs written in Hebrew.

Music played quietly in the background during our visit–mostly jazz instrumentals, no voices–and there were only four other patrons working silently on their laptops.   So we were not surprised that the decibel reading was under 70.  Other than the four laptoppers, a couple of people stopped by for a coffee to go, waiting quietly until their drinks were served.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Overall, we had a very pleasant visit to Ost Cafe.  It was very nearly perfect except for one thing– the front door was open to the street.   We assume the door was open because it was a mild late spring afternoon and the space was cooled by the gentle breeze.  Presumably the door is shut during the dog days of summer and in the winter, so street noise should not be a problem most of the year.  But street noise was an issue during our visit because several too-big-for-the-city semi-trailers were stopped outside the entrance, idling loudly as they waited for the green light.  The only other source of noise was the occasional buzz of the bean grinder.

Ost Cafe was very manageable even with the doors open.  It should be absolutely delightful in the height of the summer and winter.   We recommend that you visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. East Broadway and Henry Street), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Ost Cafe

Round K Cafe — 71.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We loved the physical space of Round K Cafe, which was matched by great service and very nice coffee.  When you enter you will see a takeaway space in the front where you can order a beverage and a sweet or savory treat.  The takeaway space  is separated from seating in the back by not one but two sets of drapes, which helps to keep the noise from the espresso maker and takeaway chatter from entering the back seating area.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

During our visit the space was almost serene.  It would have been perfect except for one couple–they both were loud and they did not stop talking, even while they were eating.   When the male got up to use the restroom we noticed that our decibel meter, which continually averages the decibel reading, dropped by five points!  In fact, it was so quiet we could hear him flush and leave the restroom without the benefit of stopping at the sink to wash his obviously filthy hands.  Together again, they were insufferable (which was not the cafe’s fault at all, of course)

We only ordered a coffee and kept our visit short because of them, but note that there were other customers in the room who were quiet.  Some Sinatra played softly In the background, and we realized that if that one couple wasn’t there the space would have been perfect.  Which is why we intend to follow up this visit with another in the near future.

The website indicates that there may be events scheduled occasionally in the space, so you may want to check their schedule to avoid it (or join in).  Round K Cafe is cash only, so hit the ATM before you visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

reet (betw. Delancey and Broome Streets), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Round K Cafe

Aux Epices — 75.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Aux Epices, a popular French Malaysian restaurant located on the Lower East Side, for a relaxed lunch on a lazy summer day. The place has a nice, casual vibe.  Despite all the hard surfaces–tile floor, tin ceiling, open kitchen, brick wall, and a glassed front wall–the narrow space didn’t feel live, and although it was open to the dining room, the kitchen was subdued and added very little noise to the soundscape.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We don’t know why the space didn’t wasn’t louder than it was–perhaps the narrowness helped?–but it wasn’t. Even with music playing–bossa Nova and lite Euro jazz which felt appropriate if unnecessary–the soundscape was manageable.  Checking the meter mid-visit we saw that the reading was a hair under 76 dBC, which surprised us because  we would have guessed that the reading was at least a few decibels lower.

There were, of course, some empty tables–the place was more than half full when we arrived but emptied over time–and the space will inevitably get louder if every seat is taken. That said, at more than half full, Aux Epices was surprisingly manageable.

Aux Epices offers very tasty food and attentive service in a relaxed space.  We recommend a visit.

HOURS

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Hester and Canal Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Aux Epices

Dudley’s — 79.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Dudley’s is an attractive Aussie restaurant and bar located in the Lower East Side.  We stopped by for lunch on a Monday and it was packed.  Mondays tend to be a bit less hectic as a rule, so we were surprised.  With the tables all taken, we headed to the bar.

The place has a really nice feel and is aesthetically pleasing (at least we thought so).  There is definitely a low-key vibe about the space, but it also is decked out in hard, unforgiving materials–stainless steel, glass, mirror, and tile.  With two sides of the space consisting of windows and a mirrored bar as the third, it ensures that Dudley’s will be loud most of the time. One potential mitigating factor–emphasis on potential–was the unfinished brick vaulted ceiling.  We have found that vaulted ceilings seem to help in other settings, but are unsure whether it diffused any sound here.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

And there was music, of course. The volume wasn’t awful, but given that the space is essentially a small glass box, it would have been nice if it was lowered or shut off entirely. The end result is that we found it tolerable, barely, at a busy lunch, and we assume the sound quality will be at least the same–if not worse–at brunch and dinner.  It’s a real shame, because if the sound level wasn’t a factor we would highly recommend the place.  The staff was laid back, the food was good, and it had the potential to be a comfortable space.

So it would be best to avoid Dudley’s when there is a crowd and to proceed with caution any other time. Happy hour or other boozy times are likely to be a scream fest, so don’t even think about it.

HOURS

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday through Thursday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Bar stays open to 2:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. x and y), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Dudley’s

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

Black Cat LES — 69.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Black Cat LES is another nearly perfect coffee shop in the Lower East Side.  We really liked the feel of this space.  Yes, there was background music, but it was playing at the best possible volume.   If a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop insists on playing background music, Black Cat should be used as the example of how to play music comfortably.  We guess that on a range of one to ten the volume was set around two or three–high enough to be heard but not so high as to interfere with conversation.  It was perfect.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The design of the space feels organic, as if the owners added bits and pieces that they acquired over time.  It’s dotted with padded chairs and upholstered armchairs and sofas, which no doubt help to absorb sound.  Most of our fellow customers were glued to their laptops, but a few fellow patrons sat together and chatted, including a family of five with two young children.   One nearby customer was talking urgently to an unseen friend, but otherwise the room was fairly quiet.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Black Cat LES is what a bohemian coffee shop should be: a casually quirky space where conversation is easy.   Add in very good coffee–a latte with a double shot of espresso was fairly priced and delicious–and there is no reason not to visit.  If you live in this neighborhood, we just found your new neighborhood coffee shop.  You’re welcome.  The only black mark we could find was the jarringly loud electric hand dryer in the restroom, which appeared to be a used Xlerator slathered with red paint.  While not ideal, it did not mar an otherwise delightful visit.   Black Cat LES is definitely worth a visit.

HOURS

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

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Clifton and Attorney Streets), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Black Cat LES

 

Atlas Cafe — 67.9 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit to Atlas Cafe was almost perfect.  The background music not too loud though it seemed louder than necessary since the place was otherwise calm and quiet.  The laptop brigade was present, of course, so not a sound was to be heard as they focused on their screens and quietly drank their coffees, bless them.  This is a truly quiet space.  That said, within a second of shutting off our meter someone ran a very small dish washer that was located right behind the counter area.  It was annoying, but not horrible.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Atlas Cafe features very good bagels, but also offers paninis, salads, and coffee.  The bathroom was small and, um, aromatic (not in a good way), but they have paper towels instead of a loud and useless electric hand dryer, so there’s that.

If you need a quiet place to do your work, or you want to linger over a well-made coffee, stare quietly into the distance, and contemplate the world, come to  Atlas Cafe.  You will not be disappointed.

HOURS

Open daily 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Atlas Cafe