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

Caffébene — 64.1 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Jeanine Botta

Photo credit: Jeanine Botta

By Jeanine Botta

With my first bite of caramel cinnamon honey bread at Caffébene’s Brooklyn College location, I thought, “I will have to get more of this!” and absolutely meant it.  But the serving size was generous, and I almost couldn’t finish it.  With a cup of Americano coffee and the Sunday paper, it was the perfect brunch.

If you’ve ever thought of exploring central Brooklyn, a good place to start is at the end of the 2 and 5 subway lines where the corners of four neighborhoods converge: Flatlands, East Flatbush, Flatbush, and Midwood.  Local destinations include Brooklyn College, home to the Conservatory of Music and the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, which has a peaceful and beautiful campus.  Just south of the campus and across Nostrand Avenue is Triangle Junction, a busy shopping center anchored with a Target store and featuring HomeGoods, David’s Bridal, and other retail stores.

Caffébene is located off campus, just across from one of the main campus entrances on Campus Road and one block from the subway station on Nostrand Avenue.  The cafe runs the length of the building, and there is another entrance on Kenilworth Place.  The menu includes specialty coffees and teas, smoothies, power shakes, non-alcoholic mojitos, pastries, waffles, gelato, hot sandwiches, and several kinds of honey bread, a Korean dessert.  The Caffébene franchise was started in South Korea and is said to have been inspired by old world European coffee houses.

There is no music playing at Caffébene, making it is easy to communicate with companions without having to raise your voice or strain to hear.  When I was there, there were solo diners, pairs, and small groups of friends, and tables can be arranged to accommodate larger groups.  With its earth tones and book shelves along one wall, the atmosphere is warm and calming.

Whether you are stopping by on your way from another destination, or exploring the area, you’ll find this café to be a great place to relax and recharge or as a good meeting place.  If you live in the neighborhood, Caffébene is the perfect place to grab a coffee and read the Sunday paper.  Free wifi is available.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

150 Kenilworth Place, Brooklyn, NY 11210

WEBSITE

Caffébene

Hungarian Pastry Shop — 72.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit to Hungarian Pastry Shop was surprisingly relaxed given how crowded it was–there were lots of students hanging out during our visit.  We ordered at the counter and found our way to a small table.  When an order is ready, a name is called and acknowledged, and someone ferries your order to you.  We thought the coffee was good enough and a Napoleon wasn’t as sweet as it looked (which was a good thing).

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Importantly, despite being crowded the place was calm.  Why?  No music!  The benefits of not playing music is on display at Hungarian Pastry Shop.  Even though the space was almost fully occupied, and at least half of the occupied tables were small groups of friends chatting with each other, the other half could comfortably work on their laptops or read a book. Yes, a real book.  And yes, it was comfortable enough to do it.

And that’s the word that’s best used to describe this place, comfortable. The coffee is decent, not great, and the pastries looked better than they taste, but the space is comfortable and for New York City that’s saying something.

Hungarian Pastry Shop is located across the street from St. John the Divine.  It’s worth a visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Saturday: 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

LOCATION

nue (at 111th Street), New York, NY 10025

WEBSITE

Hungarian Pastry Shop

 

Think Coffee @ Bowery & Bleecker — 71.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Think Coffee’s Bowery location was packed but quiet when we visited.  Why was it quiet?  Because most of the customers were members of the laptop brigade and they spent their time  staring intently into their laptop screens as they silently sipped their coffees.  There were a few chatty couples present, but they weren’t screamers.  And while the space had mostly hard surfaces, an unfinished wood floor probably helped absorb some sound.

But the primary reason the space was fairly comfortable was the absence of loud music.  There was music playing during the first few minutes of our visit, but then it stopped.  Which was a very good thing, as the piece that was playing had to have been the single most annoying thing ever–the “music” was a series of high-pitched synth sounds, with no voice, no other instruments.   Fortunately, it only lasted a minute or two, and once it was turned off, the space was perfectly fine.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We must note that although it wasn’t a particularly hot day when we visited, the air conditioner was set on max–it felt like we were sitting in a meat locker.  Perhaps we shouldn’t have ordered cold brew coffee, but it hit the spot and at only $3.50 for a large serving, they were a real bargain for downtown Manhattan.   Think Coffee offers free wifi at some locations but not one.  Still, the laptop brigade has adopted this spot, which is why you can enjoy  it.  Recommended.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

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

Saturday: 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Sunday: 7:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

1 Bleecker Street (at Bowery), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Think Coffee

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

 

Idlewild Books — 65.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Idlewild Books is a travel bookstore and langauge school which was located on 12 W. 19th Street but recently moved to 7th Avenue in the West Village.  They were in the process of unpacking some of the boxes and arranging the space when we visited, but they were open for business and customers were streaming in.  As with their older location, books are arranged by continent and country, with each section offering guidebooks, fiction, and nonfiction.  They also sell gift items (a selection of maps and cards), and offer language classes (all levels) on site in French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The decibel level during our visit registered a very quiet 65.6 decibels even with several customers browsing and chatting.  Because language classes will now be held in dedicated classrooms in the back of the space, visiting while class is in session should be fairly quiet.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If you are looking for books about a specific country or region, or just want to get inspiration for your next vacation, Idlewild Books is not to be missed.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 12:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Idlewild Books

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

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

Meskerem — 71.6 decibels

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Meskerem is a West Village Ethiopian restaurant located on MacDougal Street in the heart of NYU’s main campus.  It offers a very inexpensive and tasty vegetarian combo special at lunch ($10 + tip weekday, a bit more on the weekend).

Lunch time visits tend to be less crowded.  While the background music was a bit louder than we would have liked, it was more than manageable and always interesting.   Service is relaxed but attentive.   Expect a louder space in the evening.

HOURS

12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. every day

LOCATION

124 MacDougal Street (betw. 3rd and Bleecker), NY, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Meskerem