Veselka — 72.4 to 78.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our first lunch time visit to the always crowded Veselka clocked in at 78.7 decibels.  The reading was higher than expected (we would have guessed that the sound level was in the lower 70s), but we were seated at the counter within a few feet of the open kitchen and our decibel meter obviously picked up all of the nearby sounds (staff chatter, occasional china noises, and a cook singing softly to himself).  We were also right next to the area where the waitstaff pick up dishes to deliver to their customers.

Even being in the worst possible seat in the house, the sound level wasn’t that bad. The fact that Veselka does not play background music really helps.  On our way out,  we quickly recorded the sound level in the nearby dining room.  It was 72.4 decibels, which was more than acceptable.  The lesson here is that at Veselka you must balance your desire to be seated quickly (counter seats are easier to get) against your desire for a quieter meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

On our second lunch time visit, the meter registered 75.9 decibels, which again was higher than we would have guessed.  There are a lot of hard surfaces in the restaurant, including big windows looking out on 9th street, but the absence of background music makes a huge difference because the space was mostly comfortable.  If background music had been playing we think the reading would have easily been ten points higher.   With music, the crowded room–there was a wait when we arrived–would have been unbearable.  Without music, the noise level was mostly manageable, with the bulk of the sound coming from the many conversations throughout the room that were conducted at reasonable levels (i.e., no screamers).

One other plus: No electric hand dryers at Veselka; only paper towels are provided in the restrooms.

And finally, although we focus on sound levels and comfortability, we would be remiss is we didn’t note that Veselka offers one of the finest bowls of borscht in the city.  They are also noted for their tasty and filling pierogis.

Attention restauranteurs, this is how you run a busy but comfortable space: kill or aggressively reduce the volume of background music.  It’s an easy thing to do and it offers immediate relief.

HOURS

Open 24 hours a day

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Veselka

Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen — 68.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen isn’t a calm or peaceful place yet we still recommend it.  The noise level would have been perfect if they weren’t playing Ukranian music videos on a flat screen tv.  That said, the volume was tolerable even if the music was unnecessary.  So why do we recommend a visit?  Because Streecha isn’t your typical Manhattan restaurant.

Streecha feels like a church basement because it is, essentially.  According to EV Grieve,  it “is a fundraising arm of the St George Ukrainian Catholic Church up the street.”   You enter and approach the counter at the end of the dining room to place your order.  Then sit at one of the communal folding tables.  The tables are covered with plastic tablecloths, and the chairs are stackable.  A basket of plastic utensils sits on one of the tables–help yourself.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The menu and hours are limited.  Your choices are borscht, pierogis, cabbage rolls, sausage, or the special.   We got the special, which were pork meatballs with pasta.  It was tasty and it cost $4.  No, that isn’t a typo.  We spent $4 for lunch in the East Village in 2016.

Yes, had they turned off the music videos, or just lowered the volume, the space would been really pleasant.  But to be frank, it may have killed the vibe.  Streecha is perfect the way it is.   Certainly the Japanese tourists who came during our visit agreed.   Just go.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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

Closed for the summer

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Foursquare: Streecha Ukrainian Kitchen