Ahimsa — 69.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ahimsa is a vegetarian Indian restaurant located on the edges of NYU’s sprawling campus.  We planned a visit to Ahimsa because it offers a lunch buffet, something that is increasingly difficult to find below 14th Street. We arrived shortly after noon and found one other table waiting to dig in.  But we had to wait 15 minutes for the buffet to be stocked (not sure if there was a snafu or if this is standard operating procedure).  Given our early arrival, it’s no surprise that the place was dead quiet at first, but it got louder once a few more people filtered in and background music was turned on. Fortunately, the music–Indian pop ballads–was played at an acceptably low  volume.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Despite a wall of windows fronting the space, the room didn’t feel live. There were some columns and a small nook off to the side, breaking up the space a hair, but we chalked up the overall soundscape up to a mindset. Namely, the other patrons were engaged in conversation, but they  spoke softly to each other, for the most part, keeping the overall volume fairly low. It felt like there was something about the space that encouraged a quieter atmosphere.

That said, the very low reading is due, in large part, to ten minutes or more of dead quiet in the beginning of our visit, and we think a typical lunch reading could be a few decibels higher.  But even if that is the case, Ahimsa is a very comfortable place and it’s easy to have a conversation.  The food was good, and the buffet offered lots of options. Have we had better Indian vegetarian food in the city?  Yes, but Ahimsa’s lunch buffet is well worth a visit and is a veritable bargain at $11.95.  Recommended.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

210 Thompson Street (betw. Bleecker and W. 3rd Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Ahimsa

Everyman Espresso (Soho) — 69.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Canal Street location of Everyman Espresso is smaller than the East Village location.  Only a couple of chairs at two small tables and a few benches are available for seating, but they were more than enough to accommodate all who entered on a Thursday evening.

LIke the East Village location, the espresso machine in this location of Everyman Espresso was one of the quietest we’ve experienced.  We assume that Everyman uses special noise-sensitive machines, or maybe it’s because the espresso maker was situated so that the noise making elements face away from the seating area (similar to the East Village location).  Whatever the reason, it is appreciated, particularly since many of the surfaces are hard and more than capable of bouncing the sound around the small space.  Wood slats on the ceiling may have helped deflect sound, but other than a couple of mats on the floor (probably there temporarily to sop up rain), there were no textiles or softer materials to absorb sound.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We liked this location as much as the East Village spot, but note that since it is smaller it doesn’t have a restroom (the East Village location does).  That aside, the Canal Street location of Everyman Espresso is a nice little niche of serenity near chaotic Canal Street.  It’s worth a visit.

HOURS

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

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

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. Canal and Grand Streets, closer to Canal), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Everyman Espresso (Soho)

Everyman Espresso (East Village) — 69.7 to 70.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited the East Village location of Everyman Espresso twice, and both times we found it to be a very relaxed space.  During our first visit on a Wednesday afternoon, most people were working on laptops, with just one chatty, but not particularly annoying couple engrossed in conversation nearby.  Music played softly in the background and was mostly fine, if unnecessary.

One thing we couldn’t help noticing was that the espresso machine was one of the quietest we’ve heard.  We suspect the reason for this is because it’s on the front counter, with the working bits facing the back wall.  In many coffee shops, the espresso machine is on a back or side counter facing the seating area.  In any event, the coffee-making noises were really manageable and they didn’t feel jarring or startling at all.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On our second visit a week later, the place was nearly perfect.  The only thing we would change is to lower the background music, but the noise level is still very low compared to many places.   As before, the coffee machines were not a distraction, and the crowd was very relaxed.  If the background music were lowered or shut off, the space would be perfect.  But it’s nearly there and that’s pretty fabulous.

If you are looking for a comfortable spot in the East Village/Union Square area, Everyman Espresso should be on your short list.  There is plenty of seating and the place is pretty comfortable.  Throw in very good coffee and great service, and there’s no reason not to go.  Recommended.

HOURS

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

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

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 3rd and 4th Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Everyman Espresso

Gorilla Coffee (Bergen Street) — 71.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Bergen Street location of Gorilla Coffee was louder than it needed to be at the beginning of our visit on a Friday afternoon.  The culprit, as usual, was the music volume.  But shortly after we sat down the volume was lowered, immediately improving the space, and our experience went from tolerable to positively pleasant.

The place was pretty full during our visit, but most people were working on their laptops or chatting softly with their companions.  None of the parties was loud.  So this location of Gorilla coffee can be recommended, but whether the experience will be pleasant versus tolerable depends on the vagaries of whomever determines the music volume.  Right after we stopped the meter, the volume again increased.  We suspect the reason for the leap in volume was that the counterperson liked the song, because once the song was over, the volume was reduced to the previous setting.

Expect a tolerable experience, with the possibility of comfort, at the Bergen Street location of Gorilla Coffee.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Flatbush and 5th Avenues), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Gorilla Coffee

 

Underline Coffee — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Underline Coffee is located by the 20th Street entrance to the High Line in West Chelsea.  The attractive space was busy during our early afternoon visit.  While the crowd was mostly quiet, once again we were assaulted by music that was too loud.  There were the usual coffee-making sounds, but they weren’t that bad.  No, it was just the music.  Had the volume been lowered one or two notches, the space could have been comfortable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Still, there aren’t many other options in the immediate location, and the coffee was good, so you could do worse.  With luck, perhaps whoever is working that day may show some restraint.  The noise level wasn’t awful, but that shouldn’t be the measure.  Underline Coffee is tolerable, but it could be far more.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (close at 6:00 p.m. in winter)

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 10th and 11th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Underline Coffee

 

Telegraphe Cafe — 75.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Telegraph Cafe was fairly busy during our visit, but despite being completely full it was comfortable.  It’s a small space with a handful of tightly packed tables to the right of the entrance and stools lining the counter and the front windows.  Despite having a large glassed front, the sound level was manageable.  We assume that window shades, which had been drawn halfway down, helped to absorb or deflect the sound.

Music was playing during part of visit, but the volume was low so it didn’t add much to the soundscape.  All told, given how crowded the space was, we were quite happy with the sound level and would gladly return.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Telegraphe Cafe offers breakfast and lunch items and well made coffees.  In an neighborhood that offers few comfortable options, Telegraphe Cafe is worth visiting.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Telegraphe Cafe

 

Gila’s Nosh — 70.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Gila’s Nosh is a nice little place located in Kips Bay.  Even though it’s home to plenty of hard surfaces, including the floor to ceiling glass front window and entrance, It’s too small to get uncomfortably loud (the  drop ceiling tiles probably help).  There was unnecessary music playing during our visit, as usual, but it wasn’t not too loud.  We were surprised to find a place this calm on 23rd Street, which is, after all, a busy cross town road.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Gila’s Nosh is perfectly fine for a nosh or a coffee.  The food is Middle Eastern/Mediterrenean, with very good, friendly service.  It’s a nice alternative to the chains that proliferate around this area.   We recommend a visit.

Note: There is scaffolding next to Gila’s Nosh which may make it appear to be closed, but the restaurant is open.

HOURS

9:45 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

. 23rd Street (betw. 2nd and 3rd Avenues), New York, NY 10010

WEBSITE

Gila’s Nosh

 

Katsu-Hama– 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Katsu-Hama is a calm oasis in midtown.  The menu features panko-breaded fried pork or chicken cutlets.  They offer a number of lunch specials for all appetites, including a seafood katsu option.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The decibel reading for our visit was higher than we would have guessed, because we found the place to be very comfortable, even relaxing.  Although we were seated in the front where parties of one or two are placed, we believe the reading fairly reflects the entire space as we checked out the back dining area and found it to be consistent with our experience up front.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Calm is the word that best describes Katsu-Hama.  Instrumental jazz played very softly in the background.  Nearby diners chatted, in person or, sigh, on their phones, but it wasn’t bad–no screamers.   We did pick up some kitchen sounds, but they weren’t jarring or pingy.  The space is not live, and the low lighting and soft music really make for a relaxing experience.  We highly recommend a visit to Katsu-Hama.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 5th and Madison Avenues), New York, NY 10017

WEBSITE

Katsu-Hama

Mimi’s Hummus (14th Street) — 73.5 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The food at Mimi’s Hummus is absolutely fabulous.   We think it’s the best hummus in the city, and many food writers and sites agree.  All around us plates were emptied, leaving not a crumb–ours were wiped clean.  Yes, it’s that good.

Mimi’s first Manhattan location is a small space with lots of tile and glass, so we were apprehensive when we entered.  But the side walls in the dining space sport wooden panels with uniform holes that look like they may have sound abatement properties.  Or not.

Perhaps the wooden panels helped to keep the noise level at a reasonable level, we aren’t certain, but there was one thing that could have been done to make the space really comfortable but was not–lower the music.  Once again what could have been a comfortable space was made merely tolerable because the music volume was too loud.  In addition, the sound system gave certain songs an odd reverb or echo-like quality that could be felt as well as heard.  There was no reason for playing the music at the volume  we experienced, as most people were engaged in conversation with workmates or friends.

Without the music the space would have been ideal.  At least it wasn’t so so loud that we ran out screaming–it’s tolerable.   And the food is so good that it’s still worth going to Mimi’s even with the music volume higher than we would like.  One hopes that they consider turning down the volume going forward, because the space would be much more comfortable.

Although we paid a  lunch time visit, the place was busy enough to give a good indication of what one could expect when it is packed.  It’s a small space, so it is not likely that the noise level will top 80 decibels, but that’s a low bar.  Please, Mimi’s, lower the music.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 2nd and 3rd Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Mimi’s Hummus

Milk & Hops — 71.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Milk & Hops focuses on beer and sandwiches featuring a selection of good cheeses.  A BLT was served naked on a plate–just one pickle slice and one cornichon cut in half–but the bacon was very good and crisp.  Ten beers are available on tap (you can get your growler filled here, too); the selection rotates so check the website for what’s on offer.   Flights are available, with four 4 oz. servings for $10.

Although the design choices favor hard surfaces–everything is covered in marble and subway tiles–the sound level was a reasonable 71.6 decibels during our visit.  No doubt the high ceiling helped, but we must note that the reading was taken on a not very busy Saturday afternoon.  Given the design choices, it is likely the space will be noisy when crowded.  Still, it’s worth poking your head in to check.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Milk & Hops also has a small market selling hipster staples (McClure pickles, Mast Brothers chocolate, etc.) and, of course, a really good selections of beers to go.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Thursday through Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Milk & Hops