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

Han Dynasty (East Village) — 75.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The East Village location of Han Dynasty was less than half full when we arrived for lunch, but it quickly filled up and was at least half full by the time we left.  Overall we found the space merely tolerable, which raises concerns for the noise levels when the space is packed.  Han Dynasty has lots of hard surfaces with few few elements that could absorb sound, though unframed art work may have mitigated noise a hair.  Once again there was one overarching factor for the less than optimal soundscape: the music was too loud.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Yes, it could have been worse–our ears weren’t bleeding, after all–but we found the space to be  rather live, and the music (odd choices, by the way) just dominated the soundscape.  There were lots of work groups in the place and they were chatty, but their voices were manageable.  If the music were lowered a couple of notches, the space could have been comfortable.  It was, instead, merely tolerable, and that depended, more on less, on the song that was playing at any given time.

Han Dynasty offers very reasonable and tasty lunch specials.  If the place is packed and the music volume is as loud as it is at lunch, the noise level  probably will be intolerable.  That said, we tolerated the noise level during our visit, but wish it was better.  Why not aim for comfortable?  We suggest that you proceed with caution.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 12th and 13th Streets), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Han Dynasty–East Village

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

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

 

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

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