Elizabeth Street Garden — 65.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Looking for a really peaceful enclave in Nolita?  Then run, don’t walk, to Elizabeth Street Garden.  The garden’s future is uncertain, so use its now and help those who are trying to preserve it.   The garden is the biggest green space in Nolita and, unsurprisingly, it is under threat of development.  Unlike other green spaces, Elizabeth Street Garden is not a city park though the land is city-owned.  We hope that it is preserved, because it’s a calm oasis in the middle of busy downtown Manhattan.  It also stands out among neighborhood green spaces because of all the statues that are dotted throughout.  At first the effect suggests a lack of restraint, but it very quickly feels charmingly quirky.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The garden is obviously well loved and used.  There aren’t many chairs or benches, but people make do and have impromptu picnics during their lunch breaks. Some traffic noise intrudes, but it’s more than manageable as the garden runs between Elizabeth to Mott Streets, mid-block. Neither street is heavily trafficked, so there was no honking horns, sirens, or motorcycles during our visit.

Crowded yet calm, Elizabeth Street Garden is definitely worth a visit.

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day, weather permitting

LOCATION

Elizabeth Street (betw. Prince and Spring Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Elizabeth Street Garden

Archestratus Books + Foods — 70.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Archestratus Books + Foods is a very calm space, even with unnecessary music playing in the background. It should be calm, as it is a cafe burrowed into the back of a bookstore.  There is a short menu offering a few savory and sweet treats during the day, and a selection of coffees and teas.  Service is friendly and relaxed.

Archestratus Books + Foods offers a well-liked dinner on Thursday nights.  We’ve never been, but given the rave dinner reviews on Yelp and other rating sites, it’s on our short list to try for this year.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The bookstore portion of the space features books on food and cooking–it’s easy to get lost in the space for hours.  There is also a small selection of interesting gift items on offer.  Overall the entire space is quiet and comfortable.

There were only a couple of people sharing the cafe when we visited, so we can’t say conclusively that the space would be comfortable when full.  Still, the cafe soundscape should be fine even when crowded, as it only seats 12.

Archestratus Books + Foods is highly recommended.

HOURS

Monday and Tuesday: Closed

Wednesday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Dinner is available Thursday evenings from 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street), Brooklyn, NY 11222

WEBSITE

Archestratus Books + Foods

Govinda’s — 65.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located on the bottom floor of the Hare Krishna Temple on Schemerhorn near Nevins, Govinda’s is not to be missed.  On the Temple’s website they extoll the virtues of Govinda’s, inviting the public to enjoy “great Vegetarian food at affordable prices and served to you in a peaceful stress free environment.”  And they delivered on what they had promised.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Govinda’s is located in a large meeting room.  A buffet style counter is set up by the entrance, to the space.  You wait in line, tell the server what you want, pay, and find a free seat at one of the large shared tables throughout the roomy space.  It feels like a church basement and not a restaurant for good reason, but this church basement restaurant is packed with believers and non-believers who enjoy a good vegetarian nosh.

Govinda’s features one entree that changes every day–eggplant parmagiana was offered when we visited–and a number of side dishes.  You pay for the number choices you want: two choices are $7, and a combo plate of eggplant Parm, string beans, cabbage and potatoes, and a very tasty slaw set us back $10.  A “complete meal,” which must feature everything, is only $12 and apparently is enough food for two people.  Free bread and unlimited water or orange lemonade (very good and refreshing) come with the meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There were lots of coworkers (it’s located near city government buildings) or friends chatting as they ate during out visit, and music playing in the background, but it the soundscape was mostly comfortable.  The room was half full when we first entered but quickly filled up; it was nearly full by the time we left.  Because the space is roomy and there is a drop ceiling, the sound level was more than manageable.  The only thing that made the space less than perfect was the sitar music, which can be a bit trebly–if high-pitched sounds are your personal nemisis, you may want to avoid Govinda’s.  That said, the space is very comfortable and it’s easy to carry on a conversation here.

If you enjoy a good vegetarian meal in a fairly relaxed setting, you must stop by Govinda’s.  Note that Govinda’s is only open for lunch Monday through Friday, and it is cash only.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Closed Saturday and Sunday

LOCATION

305 Schermerhorn Street (betw. Nevins and Bond Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch

 

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

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

 

Elizabeth Street Garden — 65.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Looking for a really peaceful enclave in Nolita?  Then run, don’t walk, to Elizabeth Street Garden.  The garden’s future is uncertain, so use its now and help those who are trying to preserve it.   The garden is the biggest green space in Nolita and, unsurprisingly, it is under threat of development.  Unlike other green spaces, Elizabeth Street Garden is not a city park though the land is city-owned.  We hope that it is preserved, because it’s a calm oasis in the middle of busy downtown Manhattan.  It also stands out among neighborhood green spaces because of all the statues that are dotted throughout.  At first the effect suggests a lack of restraint, but it very quickly feels charmingly quirky.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The garden is obviously well loved and used.  There aren’t many chairs or benches, but people make do and have impromptu picnics during their lunch breaks. Some traffic noise intrudes, but it’s more than manageable as the garden runs between Elizabeth to Mott Streets, mid-block. Neither street is heavily trafficked, so there was no honking horns, sirens, or motorcycles during our visit.

Crowded yet calm, Elizabeth Street Garden is definitely worth a visit.

HOURS

10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. every day, weather permitting

LOCATION

Elizabeth Street (betw. Prince and Spring Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Elizabeth Street Garden

Ost Cafe — 67.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

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

Coffee Foundry — 68.5 to 71.5 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Coffee Foundry is our current favorite coffee shop, so we’ve had a number of visits.  Our first visit clocked in at a surprising 71.5 decibels.  Why was that surprising?  Because we did not expect to find a relatively quiet coffee shop on usually loud, and often raucous W. 4th Street in the heart of the West Village.  Background music was playing but the volume was very low, and only a few people were chatting (and they were chatting quietly).  The space is filled with hard surfaces, but there appears to be acoustic tiles on the ceiling.  That makes sense as  Coffee Foundry is an ongoing pop-up in a karaoke bar (the bar starts after the coffee shop closes).

It’s obvious that the space is a favorite of the laptop brigade, which explains why it is so calm.  And why wouldn’t it be a favorite?  Coffee Foundry offers them useful amenities, such as electric outlets along the bar, co-working spaces for rent, and an $11 unlimited tea/coffee offer (but not special tea or coffees).

Photo credit: Helene Gross

Photo credit: Helene Gross

Our second visit was even better than the first–the reading clocked in at a very respectable 70.1 decibels.  The crowd was very quiet, with most  staring at their laptops.  There was some unnecessary background music but, as during our first visit, the volume was very low.  This time there was one chatty and animated guy who apparently didn’t notice that everyone else was working (or otherwise quiet).  There almost always is one.

Finally, our most recent visit came in at only 68.5 decibels.  The music was a bit louder than we would liked this time, but the reading was under 70 decibels (and we were under the speaker).

The reason Coffee Foundry is so peaceful is that most people come here alone to do work, but it doesn’t feel like a library or an office.  It’s a comfortable space with varied seating (stools and tables/chairs), sweet and savory offerings, and outstanding service.  The two guys who are most frequently behind the bar are friendly and more than accommodating.   So come and visit.  Just don’t be the chatty guy.

HOURS

Monday through Friday:

Saturday:

Closed Sunday

LOCATION

Street (betw. Barrow and Jones), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Coffee Foundry

Jean Claude II — 66 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This French bistro was an absolutely blissful 66 decibels!  Yes, it was a Monday lunch.  Yes, the room was not crowded.  But there was background music–appropriate and low–and chatty fellow diners.  No doubt the space is louder at brunch and dinner–will visit then to confirm–but for lunch, very little comes close to this oasis of peacefulness.  Bonus?  The food is lovely.

HOURS

Monday through Sunday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

1343 2nd Avenue (betw. 70th and 71st Streets), NY, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Jean Claude II