La Bonne Soupe — 71.2 to 75.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We’ve visited La Bonne Soupe for lunch on three separate occasions, as it’s conveniently located a few blocks away from The Museum of Modern Art.  On our first visit, we had a very pleasant late lunch at this midtown French bistro.  The door was open to the street–and there was street noise–but it really did not impact the noise level in the place.  The main space was at least half full, and the other patrons were chatty, but the space was really comfortable.  There were a couple of obvious reasons for this: background music was actually in the background, there were upholstered banquettes lining the room, and the cloth-covered walls appeared to be padded.  The design decisions, coupled with restraint with regard to the background music, kept the noise at reasonable levels.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our second and third visits were in late autumn, so the door was not open to the street, but the dining room was packed.  On both occasions we were seated near the loudest part of the first floor dining room–tables situated near the bar.  This area is bustling, as the busboys come over to replenish glassware and to grab utensils to reset tables, and the very friendly bartender has a booming voice.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Still, despite the chatter and glassware noise, we would still recommend a visit but would suggest that you ask for a table furthest away from the bar or ask if there is a free table on the second floor.  While we haven’t eaten in the second floor dining room, we popped up for a quick visit and discovered that it was quieter than the first floor.  There also appears to be a back dining space on the first floor, but it wasn’t clear whether customers were seated there during lunch service.

Long and short, La Bonne Soupe is a good safe option for bustling midtown.  The sound level is mostly manageable, the food is good, service was fine, and the meal was reasonably priced for the location.

HOURS

Sunday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

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

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

LOCATION

WEBSITE

La Bonne Soupe

La Bonbonniere — 76.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

La Bonbonniere is an old school diner on 8th Avenue, where the West Village folds into the Meat Packing District.  It’s a neighborhood favorite that feels like it’s been around forever, the go to place for breakfast or a burger.  In short, it’s the kind of place every neighborhood should have (and, miraculously, it still exists in the West Village somehow).

The place was relatively full during our lunch time visit, so full that we had to sit at the counter.  The front door was open to the street since the weather was mild.  Despite the open door, the street noise wasn’t that bad.  There was no music playing, which helped a lot.  The only real noise was from the staff talking to each other and the short order cook’s metal spatula hitting the grill top.  It’s an open kitchen, so that can’t be avoided. The sound was more noticeable for those of us who were seated at the counter; kitchen sounds should be less obtrusive at the tables.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Overall, for a full place with a door open to 8th Avenue, La Bonbonniere was quieter than we  expected.  It’s not calm, but it is at least tolerable.  It is a good, Inexpensive option in the West Village.  Cash only.  Odd hours.

HOURS

Monday: 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Tuesday: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Wedensday: 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. W. 12th and Jane Streets), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

La Bonbonniere

Malatesta Trattoria — 88.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

What a disappointing visit.  We enjoyed the food and loved the look and layout of the space, but  Malatesta Trattoria is the single loudest restaurant that we have visited to date.  The design elements did not bear the brunt of the blame this time.  No, it was the combination of unnecessary background music, an open kitchen,  yelling staff, and overwhelming street noise that combined to make for one of the most unpleasant dining experiences we have ever had.

August 2016 will be remembered as a particularly uncomfortable, hot, and humid month; it was a real struggle slogging through the month.  Opening the windows may have seemed a sensible choice, particularly as Malatesta is located close to the Hudson River and the open windows invited in the occasional breeze.  But you know what also helps?  Air conditioning.  And under the circumstances–it was hot as hell and muggy to boot–air conditioning was called for.

There was some air conditioning or a strong fan going in the space, but the open windows meant the space was not going to approach cool.  And if the windows were closed, at least the traffic noise could have been kept out.  That said, if the windows were closed and the music was kept at the same volume, the experience might have been worse since glass is unforgiving.  So what could they do to mitigate the sound overload?

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

As usual, the simple act of shutting off the music that no one was listening to would have gone a long way to make the space more hospitable.   We could hear the other patrons screaming over the music but we could not hear the music clearly enough to “enjoy” it.  In short, it simply added a thick layer of unnecessary sound that brought no pleasure to anyone.  The only reason we didn’t run from the place was because the open windows kept the space from being live and, to be frank, it was too damn hot to contemplate finding another place for a nosh.

The physical space is charming and the food was lovely–we wanted to fall in love with Malatesta Trattoria.  Sadly, we could not, and must regretfully recommend that you avoid it.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (on the corner of Christopher Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Malatesta Trattoria

 

Root & Bone — 80.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The music volume was entirely too loud from the moment we entered Root & Bone.  To their credit, when asked if the volume could be lowered, it was done immediately.  Once lowered, the sound quality of the space was far better, but it was clear that loud is the default.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The restaurant’s windows were open to street, allowing in traffic noise.   Fortunately, street traffic wasn’t too bad (although one fire truck did pass by).  Only a few other nearby tables were occupied and they didn’t really add to the noise profile.  No, the main factor  for the high decibel reading was the loud music.  Keep in mind that the meter constantly averages the decibel reading, so 80.8 decibels reflects the noise level before and after the music volume was lowered  on our request.   That is, the much calmer period after the music volume was reduced was averaged with the super high volume before the adjustment.  Had we not asked for the music to be lowered we believe the reading would have been around 85 decibels.

After the music was lowered, the space was pleasant enough but could not make up for the initial blast of sound.  The food was fine, although we weren’t sure if we like fried chicken with a pronounced citrus note (and we still aren’t sure).  One standout was the fabulous service.  Our waiter could not have been nicer–it was he who responded immediately to our request to turn down the music, and he went around the restaurant until he found the person with access to the volume knob.   We mourn for his ears, as one of ours felt a bit numb after we left.  One saving grace: there were no electric hand dryers in the bathroom.  There’s that.

HOURS

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

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

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

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

LOCATION

Street (at Avenue B), New York, NY 10009

WEBSITE

Root & Bone

Edgar’s Cafe — 75 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by Edgar’s Cafe for a leisurely lunch, opting for an inside table as the sidewalk tables on busy Amsterdam Avenue would be uncomfortablly loud.  Sadly, the front door was open, allowing street noise to enter the dining room.  And the street noise had a negative impact, as at least one nearby siren and a couple of motorcycles contributed to the soundscape which, while not awful, was not calm.

Unnecessary music played in the background adding a layer of noise.  The music wasn’t too loud, but what we could hear sounded like the sound track to a middling 1960s film.  In the end we were left with a recurring question that was highlighted here: If a restaurant, bar, or coffee shop insists on playing background music, why can’t they show some care with the music they choose to play?   That is, if you are going to deny the customer a quiet space, at least pick something that doesn’t bore or insult them.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

All of the  surfaces at Edgar’s are hard– stone tile floor, stone topped tables, lots of windows, hard plaster walls.  Nothing was forgiving.  And when a metal cafe chair was dragged across the floor, the sound was loud and jarring.  The traffic noise was coupled with the high-pitched pinging coming from a bus boy who was setting up for the evening–we could hear every plate and fork–and the milk frother was one of the loudest we’ve ever encountered.   We can only assume that the space would be uncomfortably loud when full, as our visit reached 75 decibels even though only a few tables were occupied.

Still, it’s hard to find a reasonably quiet place in the Upper West, so you could do worse.  Our meal was fine–everything looked and tasted freshly made–and service could not have been better.  We would recommend visiting only if the place is not busy, as the design choices insure a live space.  Avoid if packed.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 91st and 92nd Streets), New York, NY 10025

WEBSITE

Edgar’s Cafe

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

Jefferson Market Garden — 74.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Jefferson Market Garden is similar to another of our favorite outdoor spaces, Jackson Square, in that it is an absolutely beautiful, well-tended, and well-loved park, but it suffers from its location.  Located on the site of a former women’s prison, the garden is bordered by 6th Avenue and Greenwich Avenue and is plagued with constant traffic, unrelenting horn honking, and never-ending construction noise of some sort or another.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Our visit was short.  It started off louder than it ended due to a utility truck that was idling very loudly nearby.  There’s a fire house about a block away, so loud sirens are common (one returning fire truck made its way back home during our visit), as are those purposefully loud motorcycles.  There wasn’t one silent moment, not a minute of calm during our visit.

That said, Jefferson Market Garden is still worth visiting.  The plantings are lovely, with bursts of color throughout, and fragrance has not been ignored.  We could smell the roses whenever a breeze swept through.   So come and enjoy the lush plantings and riot of color.  Just don’t expect a peaceful visit, because you won’t get it.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The garden is open when a member is present, which generally is not a problem during the season (April through November).  Some bench seating is provided but is often occupied as the garden is very popular.

HOURS

Tuesday through Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to dusk (from April through October), weather permitting

Closed Mondays

LOCATION

70 A Greenwich Avenue (betw. 6th Avenue and W. 10th Street), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Jefferson Market Garden

Doma Na Rohu — 73.6 decibels

Photo credit: quietcitymap

Photo credit: quietcitymap

This German-Czech-Hungarian restaurant is relaxed at lunch, but can be busy–and loud–at brunch.  It clocked in at 73.6 decibels during a early autumn lunch.  The background music wasn’t too loud, and fellow diners were relatively quiet, but the front door was open allowing street noise from a very busy 7th Avenue to waft in.   Overall, the sound level was manageable but punctuated by the occasional impatient driver honking his or her horn or the sound of not so distant sirens.

Note that live music is on the menu for Wednesday and Saturday nights, usually spotlighting gypsy, swing, and jazz bands.  Given the size of the space, and the omnipresent background hum from street noise, it’s best to assume that Doma will be very loud to intolerable on live music nights–either avoid them or come with a very good set of ear plugs.  That said, things should be different on Mondays (Drawing Club) and Sundays (Game Night).  Drawing Club or Game Night participants get a 10% discount.

With cautions noted, Doma Na Rohu is worth checking out.  It offers good food that focuses on cured meats and cheeses (vegetarian options are offered), a nice selection of craft beers, and excellent coffee.

HOURS

Sunday through Wednesday: 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Thursday through Saturday: 9:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Doma Na Rohu

Jackson Square Park — 73.3 decibels

20160321_120717_resizedThis pretty little square is actually a triangle that bisects 13th Street and is bordered by 8th Avenue to the east, Greenwich Avenue to the west, and Horatio Street to the south.  It’s an adorable space that is sadly marred by street noise–loud idling trucks, honking taxis, and impatient drivers.  The trees and shrubs can only block so much noise, but it’s a losing battle as there is constant frenzied traffic around the square, at least during the week.

And so, in the end, Jackson Square Park is merely tolerable for a quick respite.  This is a damn shame, as it is clear that the park is well loved by area denizens who thoughtfully and tastefully decorate the park for holidays and otherwise keep it in tiptop shape.

Jackson Square

Jackson Square

That said, the reading was taken around noon on a busy Friday.  As we recall, the pace is a bit less frantic on the weekends–we will go back to take a reading on a future weekend to confirm.  For now, if the weather is nice,  traffic isn’t hellish, and you are looking for a place to rest your feet in the West Village, check out Jackson Square Park.  It really is a pretty green space.

HOURS

Dawn to 10:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

At the conflux of 8th Avenue, Greenwich Avenue, and Horatio Street, New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Jackson Square Alliance

Bar Bacon — 85.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Does bacon make everything better?  We would have said “yes” before our visit to Bar Bacon.   In fact, that was the lure that got us to cross the threshold despite all of the warning signs.  We won’t do that again.

Our review in short: No.  No.  No.  No.  Never.

It’s hard to disappoint when the focus of the menu is bacon, but Bar Bacon succeeded.  Why?  It was loud from the get go.  The food was ok, but it was accompanied by loud background music and customers screaming over the music, all of which was exacerbated by a punishing array of hard surfaces and the constant roar of 9th Avenue traffic which was invited into the space through it’s open  windows and doors.  It’s 9th Avenue not Perry Street, what were they thinking?  They were thinking that noise = fun.  And they were wrong.

If Bar Bacon hits 85.7 decibels during a not too busy lunch time visit, evenings must make one’s ears spit blood.  Don’t bother with the ear plugs, just avoid this place.  There are plenty of  other options nearby.

HOURS

Sunday and Monday: 12:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.

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

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Bar Bacon