Szechuan Gourmet — 79.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Szechuan Gourmet for a midweek lunch, arriving slightly before 12:45 p.m.  Surprisingly, we found the vestibule absolutely full.  A large party was waiting for a table, but there were also people waiting for smaller tables and take away orders.  The line moved quickly because there was frequent turnover in the dining room, and we were seated after a ten-minute wait. Our guests had been to Szechuan Gourmet a number of times and remarked that though the place is usually busy at lunch, they never saw it this busy.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As a result, the decibel reading reflects the incredible turnover the restaurant experienced during out visit, and it did affect the noise level.  We were near the front door, so the meter definitely picked up the chatter and other noise of people moving to and from the dining room and staff shouting orders to each other. That said, the noise level didn’t seem as loud to us as the reading suggests.  Why?  There was no music. The sound was composed of voices and the usual sounds of a busy restaurant.

So despite being dangerously close to 80 decibels, we do not advise that you avoid Szechuan Gourmet. Just recognize that this is not the place you should go to if you want a calm or relaxing meal, but it will be tolerable.  For midtown, you would be hard pressed to find a better moderately priced Chinese restaurant. There’s a reason it’s busy.

HOURS

11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. 5th and 6th Avenue), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Szechuan Gourmet

The Red Flame Diner — 70.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Looking for a no-nonsense place in midtown for a quick meal in relatively peaceful surroundings? Look no further than The Red Flame Diner on W. 44th Street, near 6th Avenue.  The Red Flame Diner has plenty of booths for two or four and a small counter with stools near the back.  This is not haute cuisine–the food is straight forward diner classics done right.  More importantly, you can eat and have a conversation with your guests–and most people were chatting–with ease.  No straining, no screaming.

The Red Flame will have you in and out in short order.  But despite the bustle–and the place was nearly filled to capacity during our Saturday brunch time visit–it’s comfortable.  The only black mark was background music, but the volume was low enough so it could be ignored.  That said, why have it at all?  No one was listening to it and it added an unnecessary layer of sound.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Given that almost every seat was filled, we were pleased with the noise level during our visit.  It’s unlikely that it would be much louder if the few empty seats were filled, so we have no reservations in recommending the Red Flame Diner.  If the music were turned off or lowered, we would give this place our highest mark.  Still, second place isn’t bad at all.

HOURS

Open 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. every day

LOCATION

67 W. 44th Street (betw. 5th and 6th Avenues), New York, NY 10036

WEBSITE

The Red Flame Diner

La Bonne Soupe — 71.2 to 75.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We’ve visited La Bonne Soupe for lunch on three separate occasions, as it’s conveniently located a few blocks away from The Museum of Modern Art.  On our first visit, we had a very pleasant late lunch at this midtown French bistro.  The door was open to the street–and there was street noise–but it really did not impact the noise level in the place.  The main space was at least half full, and the other patrons were chatty, but the space was really comfortable.  There were a couple of obvious reasons for this: background music was actually in the background, there were upholstered banquettes lining the room, and the cloth-covered walls appeared to be padded.  The design decisions, coupled with restraint with regard to the background music, kept the noise at reasonable levels.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our second and third visits were in late autumn, so the door was not open to the street, but the dining room was packed.  On both occasions we were seated near the loudest part of the first floor dining room–tables situated near the bar.  This area is bustling, as the busboys come over to replenish glassware and to grab utensils to reset tables, and the very friendly bartender has a booming voice.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Still, despite the chatter and glassware noise, we would still recommend a visit but would suggest that you ask for a table furthest away from the bar or ask if there is a free table on the second floor.  While we haven’t eaten in the second floor dining room, we popped up for a quick visit and discovered that it was quieter than the first floor.  There also appears to be a back dining space on the first floor, but it wasn’t clear whether customers were seated there during lunch service.

Long and short, La Bonne Soupe is a good safe option for bustling midtown.  The sound level is mostly manageable, the food is good, service was fine, and the meal was reasonably priced for the location.

HOURS

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

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

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

LOCATION

WEBSITE

La Bonne Soupe

Andrews Coffee Shop — 77.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Andrews Coffee Shop is a diner on the corner of 35th Street and 7th Avenue in the heart of midtown.  The noise level was better than the reading may suggest.  The noise profile was higher due, in part, to a manager inexplicably putting a landline phone on speaker, set at the highest volume, while he was trying to contact some who didn’t answer until after 20 rings .

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Even with all the flat screen tvs, most of the sound was due to the very busy staff bustling back and forth and kitchen sounds.  The place was packed during our visit.  In fact, no tables were available so we sat at the counter.  We tried to determine if music was playing in the background, but we couldn’t tell to be frank.  If yes, the music volume was very very low.  The noise level was mostly due to voices and kitchen sounds.  We found the space very tolerable and were surprised by the reading because we expected it to be under 75 decibels.   Finally, the food was fine and everything looked freshly made.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If you are looking for a quick nosh in midtown, you could do a lot worse than Andrews Coffee Shop.  The place is bustling for a reason–it’s a clean space that offers decent diner favorites at reasonable prices for midtown.  Though it was very busy, we found the space to be tolerable.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

nue (at the corner of 35th Street), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Andrews Coffee Shop

The Press Box — 69.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We sat at the bar for a mid-afternoon coffee and beer.  A couple of flat screen tvs were on and music was playing softly in the background,  but the space was fairly calm and it was easy to have a conversation–no screaming or straining.  That said, our experience is probably not a good measure as The Press Room wasn’t very crowded during our visit.  But we feel confident that week days at lunch time should be fine, and you could take advantage of The Press Room’s $12 lunch special.

As with most places, we would advise that you avoid happy hour and dinner later in the week.  Our waitress confirmed our suspicions, confiding that happy hour usually isn’t too crowded but it can get loud Thursday through Saturday.  She added that dinner should be played by ear, but said that brunch is almost always low key unless there is a football game on.

HOURS

Open daily 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. 49th and 50th Streets), New York, NY 10022

WEBSITE

The Press Box

 

Keens Steakhouse — 71.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Lunch was had in Keens’ pub, which was a pleasant 71.4 decibels.  There was unnecessary background music–no one was listening to it–but it wasn’t overpowering.  As usual, one’s experience will depend, in large part, on one’s immediate neighbors–a sad but true fact in any public space.  So, when a loud and whiny customer was seated near our table, the meter jumped a hair.  Fortunately, things improved when lunch was placed in front of him and he tucked in.  Relief!

The pub wasn’t completely filled, so we can’t say whether the space would remain relatively pleasant if packed, but as we walked past the busier bar and dining room we noted that they were relatively quiet as well.

Keens is well worth a visit for very hungry carnivores.  They are known for their mutton chops, which are delicious and huge!  That said, a smaller, more manageable version of the chop is available in the pub.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 11:45 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Saturday: 5:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 5:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

LOCATION

72 W. 36th Street (near the corner of 6th Avenue), NY, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Keens Steakhouse

Kinokuniya New York — 61 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Bliss.  Kinokuniya is a Japanese-based retailer selling books, magazines, and Japanese pens and stationery.  Those of you who love to try out new pens and pencils already know that Japanese stationery products are compelling, and Kinokuniya has an excellent selection that is unmatched in the city.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

That said, what makes the store so delightful is seeing the interesting array of products displayed in such a peaceful space.  Books and magazines are on the ground floor, stationery and novelties are in the basement. Give yourself some time to look around, because there is a lot more on display than you may first appreciate.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This delightful store is located directly across from hectic Bryant park, a beautiful park marred by constant, jarring street noise.  Check out the park and then escape to Kinokuniya for some peace.

HOURS

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

Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. 40th and 41st Streets), New York, NY 10018

WEBSITE

Kinokuniya US

Bar Bacon — 85.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Does bacon make everything better?  We would have said “yes” before our visit to Bar Bacon.   In fact, that was the lure that got us to cross the threshold despite all of the warning signs.  We won’t do that again.

Our review in short: No.  No.  No.  No.  Never.

It’s hard to disappoint when the focus of the menu is bacon, but Bar Bacon succeeded.  Why?  It was loud from the get go.  The food was ok, but it was accompanied by loud background music and customers screaming over the music, all of which was exacerbated by a punishing array of hard surfaces and the constant roar of 9th Avenue traffic which was invited into the space through it’s open  windows and doors.  It’s 9th Avenue not Perry Street, what were they thinking?  They were thinking that noise = fun.  And they were wrong.

If Bar Bacon hits 85.7 decibels during a not too busy lunch time visit, evenings must make one’s ears spit blood.  Don’t bother with the ear plugs, just avoid this place.  There are plenty of  other options nearby.

HOURS

Sunday and Monday: 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Tuesday through Thursday: 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Bar Bacon

Bengal Tiger — 78.2 decibels

Bengal Tiger is a decent no-frills Indian restaurant located in midtown.  Ordering takes place at the counter, but it’s not a typical steam table affair.  Rather, the food comes out from a concealed kitchen.  Our meal was good, not great, but it was filling and inexpensive for its location (a little under $10 for two entrees, rice, and naan).

The sound level was manageable by the counter but loud where we were seated (near the exit) due to unnecessarily loud music and three loud customers.  As soon as two of the loud customers left things noticeably improved, even though the last loud customer was exuberant and occasionally squealed with laughter.   This cannot be helped and was not the fault of the restaurant, but the loud music made screaming (and squealing) inevitable.

Bengal Tiger was never peaceful or serene, and the noise level only improved after the loud couple  left, leaving the room a lot more tolerable and allowing for conversation without much strain.  Because it offers good food at a great price for its location, Bengal Tiger is going to be busy at lunch time and one should expect that it will be fairly loud.  Your best bet is to visit during off hours or take your food to go.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. 5th and 6th Avenues, closer to 6th), New York, NY 11019

WEBSITE

Bengal Tiger

 

Darbar Grill — 63.5 decibels

Yes!  Yes!  Yes!  A quiet midtown restaurant!  Darbar Grill wasn’t crowded when we visited for their excellent Indian buffet lunch (a great value for midtown, by the way), but we think that the place should pass with flying colors (green, of course) even when full.  The background music was a hair louder than necessary, but it could generally be called background music.  Although the room was only half full, there was one fellow diner with a booming voice (there’s always one, no?).  He stood out, but he failed to destroy the tranquility of the space.  Why?  Lots of wood (both flooring and paneling), upholstered chairs, table linens, and we were seated in the back dining room (which had a tray ceiling), not the front dining space near the bar.

Whatever the reason for this oasis of calm in midtown Manhattan, embrace it.  We will return.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Darbar Grill