Rosa Mexicano (Lincoln Center) — 79.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We went to the Rosa Mexicano located just across the street from Lincoln Center to meet up with friends who were attending a midday performance.  The space began to fill up as the other patrons streamed in to what is one of the larger restaurants nearest to the Center.

As soon as we walked in we knew that the space was going to be live, as there was a large expanse of glass in the front of the space on both levels.  Fortunately there were curtains and a textile floor covering, but it didn’t appear that the textiles helped to absorb much of the sound.

We were seated on the second level.  It was fairly noisy, with the main source of the noise  coming from the other guests.  This is one of the few times that the noise was primarily due to voices rather than music.  In fact, we weren’t even certain if music was playing.  If it was, we couldn’t hear it because of the chatter.  We suspect that the second floor is louder than the first floor, most probably because the chatter from the first floor was wafting up and adding to the chatter on the second.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Rosa Mexicano was fairly crowded but not packed during our lunch visit.  We think the combination of the hard surfaces and the lack of a barrier between the two floors made the second floor hard to tolerate. The space simply wasn’t pleasant, and we would advise that you proceed with caution. There aren’t many options that are as close to Lincoln Center, so either plan to eat a little farther away or pack a pair of ear plugs.

HOURS

Sunday and Monday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 62nd and 63rd Streets), New York, NY 10028

WEBSITE

Rosa Mexicano/Lincoln Center

Taiwan Bear House — 70.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Taiwan Bear House for a quick lunch on the July 4th holiday.  Many restaurants in Manhattan close on the 4th, but not in Chinatown.  Still, while Chinatown was generally crowded, the place wasn’t busy–only one other table was occupied. But we think our visit was pretty representative of what you can expect even if every seat is taken, because it’s a small space–there are only five tables for two and six stools–and Taiwan Bear House does not play music.  Together, these two factors ensure that eating in should be relatively pleasant.

And it was pleasant.  We were absolutely comfortable. The design elements, standing alone,  would lead one to expect a livelier soundscape, but the place was very quiet. In fact, we were surprised that the reading was over 70 decibels, but suspect that it’s due to a mechanical hum coming from the kitchen.  The hum didn’t bother us, to be frank–it sounded like white noise, and was neither annoying or distracting.

Taiwan Bear House isn’t a destination spot.  It’s a place that you order food to go or eat in and run.  The menu consists of a series of “bento boxes,” which are round containers that look like steamers that are filled with rice, vegetables (cabbage), a piece of firm tofu, some ground meat (pork?), and a protein (mostly pork or chicken).  The food was filling and tasty, and our meal was quick and quiet.  We recommend it.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. Bowery and Mott Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Taiwan Bear House

Forgtmenot — 73.2 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located in Chinatown where it merges into the Lower East Side, Forgtmenot is a laid back place that’s perfect to sit, eat, drink, and chill. It’s relaxing despite having doors and windows open to the street because this part of Division Street gets very little traffic.  There was music playing in the background, but it was fine because it actually was in the background.  Only one table was engaged in “animated” conversation, but they could be ignored for the most part.

We came to eat, but Forgtmenot probably gets more use as a bar.  It’s bigger than it looks because it extends from Division Street through to Canal Street.  The interior is divided into three separate spaces–two with bars and one smaller space in between the two.  At lunch, only the Division Street side was being served and there were some empty tables for passersby.

We were surprised how comfortable we felt given that the usual hard surface design mix was present–concrete floor, tin ceiling, and similar materials.  Maybe it was due to the oddly shaped space, or the use of textiles in the decor, or the mostly quiet crowd, but whatever the reason we really liked the space and felt relaxed and unrushed.  Conversation was not a problem, and we could easily see spending an afternoon at Forgtmenot with friends for a chat and a cocktail.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Very good service and tasty food rounded out our visit.  We added avocado to the shrimp po boy per the waiter’s suggestion and it was delicious (there’s a little heat, so ask for no hot sauce if you aren’t a fan).  We definitely recommend a visit at lunch or when it’s not packed.  Our waiter said all three rooms can get really crowded on the weekend, so if you want to visit then, or during happy hour, proceed with caution.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. (kitchen closes at midnight)

Saturday and Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. (kitchen closes at midnight)

LOCATION

Street (betw. Ludlow and Orchard Streets), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Forgtmenot

Pete’s Tavern — 71.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pete’s Tavern is a long-standing bar and Italian-American restaurant located in Gramercy Park.  It claims to be the oldest continuously operated tavern in New York City (but others make the same claim). It certainly looks like it has been around forever, with an old school tile floor throughout. That floor coupled with exposed brick walls made the front of the house somewhat loud, but the back dining room was fine even though more than half full. Why? There are dividers between booths (we were in a booth) and other structure that likely interferes with sound reflection.

There was, of course, unnecessary music playing in the background, but the music wasn’t being directly broadcast into the dining space.  Rather, what we heard was music spilling over from the juke box in the front bar.  Once again, the music du jour featured one-hit wonders from the 80’s.  Why? We don’t know, but it’s such a common phenomenon that there surely must be a reason.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There are booths and tables available in the front bar space that, while louder, appeared to be tolerable.  As in the back space, there were dividers between booths in the bar area, which presumably helped. If the music volume was lowered in this space, it would have been comfortable.  But that’s not going to happen, so aim for tolerable and you won’t be disappointed.  At least at lunch.  We have no doubt that happy hour and busy evenings will be too loud to enjoy in the bar, but the back room may be able to withstand the aural assault.

Pete’s Tavern is an attractive, old-school tavern and restaurant with reasonably priced lunch specials. The burger was pretty good, but Joe Jr. is nearby and theirs is better (but that’s a high bar). Still, this is a comfortable spot, minus the music.  With the music–and the music will remain–it is a relatively comfortable spot. If you are in Gramercy Park and want to experience a bit of old New York City, Pete’s Tavern is well worth a visit.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m.

Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Irving Place), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Pete’s Tavern

Scotty’s Diner — 74.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit at Scotty’s Diner was more comfortable than the meter reading might suggest. Even though we had the worst seat in the place–opposite the area the wait staff called in orders to the cooks–we didn’t think it was that bad. Sure, there was unnecessary dance music played quietly in the background, but it wasn’t loud enough to offend and probably only added a decibel or two to the overall soundscape.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We came for a mid-morning breakfast and found the place rather crowded. It was perfectly fine, even with an almost full house.  The drop ceiling may help with noise mitigation, but the quiet crowd didn’t hurt. The only obvious voices we heard were staff barking out orders to the cooks. Otherwise there were no obnoxious sounds, despite there being a semi-open kitchen.

Scotty’s offers standard diner fare–breakfasts, burgers, sandwiches, pasta, etc.–in a traditional old-school diner setting.  We recommend it.

HOURS

Open 24 hours (diner is closed from 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. on Mondays)

LOCATION

Avenue (near the corner of 39th Street), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Scotty’s Diner

Duke’s (Murray Hill) — 79.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Yes, we went to Duke’s in Murray Hill for lunch on purpose.  What were we thinking? In our defense, we were very hungry and entered Duke’s dripping with trepidation. On entering it was immediately clear that the decor was as loud and as the soundscape, but we were hungry, it was there, and our attempt to get a seat at nearby Sarge’s Deli, our first option, was thwarted when no one could be bothered to show us to a table.  Yes, we knew what we were getting into from the get go, but hunger won over common sense–and despite everything, we wanted to believe that we might be pleasantly surprised.  Unsurprisingly, our visit was far from pleasant.

Just four flat screen tvs over the bar?

If you look at the photos, you’ll see at least seven flat screen tvs.  There are more, of course.  All tuned to sports or cable news channels.  If an important game was playing on the tvs, there would, no doubt, have been screaming.  But there wasn’t, thank goodness, because that would have made the loud space even louder.  Mind you, there was no one noise source that stood out. It was the whole package–this sparsely populated space clocked in at 79.3 decibels and it was clear that there was nowhere to go but up.

So how was our meal? The food at Duke’s is ok for what it is, but face facts, no one really comes here for the food. It feels like a frat bar–all beers and burgers (though it is allegedly”southern,” hence food items called “The Old Kentucky Club” and “Billy Bob’s BBQ’D Brisket Sliders”). For people who like this sort of thing–drinking in a crowded bar, watching a game, and screaming at a large flat screen tv–this is the sort of thing they like.  And they should be happy to know that there are plenty of options as to where to direct their screams.

No worries, there are three larger tvs on the opposite wall!

We’re sure that Duke’s is absolutely intolerable at happy hour, late week evenings, and during their “boozy Brunch.” We could barely tolerate it at a fairly empty lunch. The only saving grace were the wait staff, who couldn’t have been lovelier.  Still, that’s hardly a reason to trek to Duke’s.  In short, there is absolutely no reason to go there unless you like to get drunk while watching sports in an uncomfortably loud space. In a word, avoid.

HOURS

Monday through Wednesday: 12:00 pm. to 1:00 a.m.

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

Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Last call for food is two hours before closing

LOCATION

(betw. 37th and 38th Streets), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Duke’s (Murray Hill)

 

French Louie — 70.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

French Louie was busier on a Tuesday lunch than one might expect for a restaurant on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. It was more than half full when we arrived, and there was turnover during our visit.  Because we visited on the first really warm day of the year, it was no surprise that the back garden was open and mostly occupied.

We noticed that the front of the house, where the bar and a small dining area are located, was noisier than the back dining room where we sat. The bar runs the length of the front of French Louie.  It is flanked by a narrow dining area with smaller tables sharing a long banquette.  The dining space in the back is wider with more banquettes and some larger tables; it seats at least 20.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There is a glass wall at end on the indoor space, with French doors leading to garden.  Music was playing during our visit.  The volume  in the back dining area was fine, but the music was louder in the front by the bar.  Overall, the soundscape was perfectly fine for lunch.

That said, busier times will be louder, particularly during brunch or dinner as people are more likely to drink and in our experience people + booze = noise.  But since there is a nice-sized back garden, there should always be a relatively calm space available.  Among other things, the garden shares a fence with abutting residential properties.  That alone suggests the garden space will not be uncomfortably loud, lest the restaurant wants to incur the wrath of its neighbors.

We can recommend French Louie for lunch and feel fairly confident that a quiet option should be available during the milder weather months.  Busier times will be louder, but they should be tolerable.  If the indoor space is too loud for your tastes, ask for a garden table and enjoy the very good food and excellent service.

HOURS

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

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

Saturday: 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

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

Three course prix fixe menu offered Monday evenings along with regular menu

LOCATION

320 Atlantic Avenue (betw. Smith and Hoyt Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11201

WEBSITE

French Louie

Barking Dog — 71.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Barking Dog, a restaurant located on the Upper East Side, for lunch one March afternoon.  It a place peopled by regulars–the neighborhood place for breakfast, a quick lunch, or to have a family meal.  American comfort food prevails and it very nicely executed.  We enjoyed salads, which were very fresh and filling.

Music played in the background during the whole of our visit. It wasn’t that loud, but, as usual, was unnecessary. Still the space wasn’t too live and the reading was perfectly acceptable.

Overall we found the space to be pleasant though it would have been better without the background music.  It wasn’t very crowded during our visit, so it’s hard to estimate what the sound level will be during a busy evening or at brunch.  We assume that it will be tolerable at worse, but proceed with caution at the very busiest times.

HOURS

7:30 a.m. to  10:15 p.m. every day

LOCATION

(at the corner of 77th Street), New York, NY 10075

WEBSITE

Barking Dog

Edward’s — 73.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We visited Edward’s for a quick lunch one February afternoon.  Edward’s is a neighborhood restaurant serving classic American comfort food–burgers, chicken fingers, pasta, and salads.  The place was about half full when we entered, but was a bit busier by the time we left. The front of the space has a bar to one side and tables on the other.  It is somewhat separated from back dining area by a short divider.  There are high ceilings, unfinished floors, and banquettes lining the back dining area.  Given the decor we thought we should be pretty comfortable during our meal.

But we weren’t as comfortable as we anticipated.  Why?  Guess.  Yes, once again a perfectly fine space was marred by music that was too loud.  It wasn’t horriblly loud but it was completely unnecessary.  And the problem wasn’t simply the volume, it was also the type of music that was playing–fast paced, with a horn section, absolutely not calming or relaxing.  Whoever chose the music needs to be reminded that Edward’s is  a restaurant not a club–we just wanted a meal, not a dance with a stranger.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As a consequence, we are concerned about what the sound level is like when every table is taken. So for now, we will say the space is tolerable but it could have been better.  Edward’s might be a good spot if you are dining with children.  It looks like a kid-friendly space, and we saw a couple of moms with strollers in the front of the house.

HOURS

Sunday and Monday: 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Tuesday through Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

(betw. Duane and Thomas Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Edward’s

Lan Larb — 73.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were wandering around the edge of Soho where it borders the Lower East Side and City Hall, when we spied Lan Larb, a restaurant featuring classic Thai cuisine.  The Soho location of Lan Larb is a favorite among nearby workers, so we stopped in for a quick lunch. Overall, we found the space to be acceptable–it wasn’t too loud despite all he hard surfaces. That’s not to say the space is serene–it leans towards live–but a drop ceiling may have helped to absorb sound. Otherwise the space is filled with the catalog of noisy design choices: tile floor, lots of glass, and a mirrored wall. But the other wall running the length of the space had rattan mats attached to it which may have minimized reflection.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As usual, there was background music.  Once again the music choice was at least as offensive as the fact that music was playing at all.  Namely, the music was courtesy of a radio station that featured dance music. Why this genre? We don’t know. There was no obvious reason other than someone must think that the customers enjoy it. They don’t.

Fortunately the other diners were fairly quiet, so the noise level was fine. In the end, Lan Larb is the kind of place you go to for a quick work day lunch.  It’s nothing special, just a good meal at a decent price.  And while it’s not calm, it isn’t terrible either.  You could do worse.

HOURS

11:30 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. Grand and Broome Streets), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Lan Larb