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

The Penrose — 70.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We had a lovely lunch time visit at The Penrose.  The space was reasonably quiet, although the background music was a hair louder than it needed to be.  We have no doubt that our surroundings were comfortable because there were very few customers seated near us, and it  certainly didn’t hurt that our meals were very nice and our waitress was attentive. That said, there are signs that suggest that the space will be much louder at brunch and in the evenings.  Namely, The Penrose has two bars, each of which is surrounded with plenty of stools, and in the front bar space we counted eight wall-mounted speakers.  The ceiling is lined with wood, which may help absorb some noise, but if the music volume is raised to fill a crowded space, it will be loud.

Yes, those are wall mounted speakers.

Yes, those are wall mounted speakers.

A staff member confirmed that the place is very busy at brunch and also during happy hour and dinner service from Wednesday through Saturday.   We suspect that during the busier times it would be impossible to have an intimate conversation, but lunches and dinner on slower nights should be fine.  In fact, our waitress confided that Monday evenings, in particular, are wonderfully relaxed and customers are apt to linger in the welcoming space.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 11:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 3:00 p.m. to  1:00 a.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to  4:00  p.m. | 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.

LOCATION

(betw. 82nd and 83rd Streets), New York, NY 10028

WEBSITE

The Penrose

Johny’s Luncheonette –73 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Johny’s Luncheonette is an authentic old-school luncheonette.   The narrow space has a long lunch counter lined with stools, two small tables in the back, and a wall mounted tv tuned to CNN (on very low volume, mercifully) hovering over a refrigerator holding cold drinks.  The prep space and grill is in full view, so you can watch your meal being made as you join the regulars at the counter and enjoy the very friendly vibe.

Almost every seat was taken during our visit, yet the place was comfortable.  The amiable owner (Johny, of course) chatted with chummy regulars as he prepared the orders, but it wasn’t too loud even with CNN playing in the background.  And this highlights an important point about restaurant comfortability in general: music or tv can play in the background in a smaller place without making the space uncomfortable as long as some restraint is shown with the volume.  At Johny’s, the tv was loud enough for someone to hear what was being reported, but not so loud that one could not read or have a conversation or just relax as they ate.

Johny’s offers breakfast and lunch all day long.  We loved the burgers, but questioned our choice when we saw the plate of perfect pancakes that were delivered to a customer near us.  The food is straightforward, simple diner fare done right.  And as an added bonus, a taste of old New York:  To access the bathroom, you have to walk through the small kitchen/dish washing space in the back, open a door into the hallway of the building’s residential space, and look for the tiny bathroom on the right.  It was a little more aromatic than we would like, but serviceable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located in the unnamed sliver that is squeezed between Chelsea and the Flat Iron District, Johny’s Luncheonette delivers good, basic, American diner classics.  It is definitely worth a visit.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 6th and 7th), New York, NY 10001

WEBSITE

Johny’s Luncheonette