Han Dynasty (East Village) — 75.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The East Village location of Han Dynasty was less than half full when we arrived for lunch, but it quickly filled up and was at least half full by the time we left.  Overall we found the space merely tolerable, which raises concerns for the noise levels when the space is packed.  Han Dynasty has lots of hard surfaces with few few elements that could absorb sound, though unframed art work may have mitigated noise a hair.  Once again there was one overarching factor for the less than optimal soundscape: the music was too loud.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Yes, it could have been worse–our ears weren’t bleeding, after all–but we found the space to be  rather live, and the music (odd choices, by the way) just dominated the soundscape.  There were lots of work groups in the place and they were chatty, but their voices were manageable.  If the music were lowered a couple of notches, the space could have been comfortable.  It was, instead, merely tolerable, and that depended, more on less, on the song that was playing at any given time.

Han Dynasty offers very reasonable and tasty lunch specials.  If the place is packed and the music volume is as loud as it is at lunch, the noise level  probably will be intolerable.  That said, we tolerated the noise level during our visit, but wish it was better.  Why not aim for comfortable?  We suggest that you proceed with caution.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 12th and 13th Streets), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Han Dynasty–East Village

Govinda’s — 65.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Located on the bottom floor of the Hare Krishna Temple on Schemerhorn near Nevins, Govinda’s is not to be missed.  On the Temple’s website they extoll the virtues of Govinda’s, inviting the public to enjoy “great Vegetarian food at affordable prices and served to you in a peaceful stress free environment.”  And they delivered on what they had promised.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Govinda’s is located in a large meeting room.  A buffet style counter is set up by the entrance, to the space.  You wait in line, tell the server what you want, pay, and find a free seat at one of the large shared tables throughout the roomy space.  It feels like a church basement and not a restaurant for good reason, but this church basement restaurant is packed with believers and non-believers who enjoy a good vegetarian nosh.

Govinda’s features one entree that changes every day–eggplant parmagiana was offered when we visited–and a number of side dishes.  You pay for the number choices you want: two choices are $7, and a combo plate of eggplant Parm, string beans, cabbage and potatoes, and a very tasty slaw set us back $10.  A “complete meal,” which must feature everything, is only $12 and apparently is enough food for two people.  Free bread and unlimited water or orange lemonade (very good and refreshing) come with the meal.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There were lots of coworkers (it’s located near city government buildings) or friends chatting as they ate during out visit, and music playing in the background, but it the soundscape was mostly comfortable.  The room was half full when we first entered but quickly filled up; it was nearly full by the time we left.  Because the space is roomy and there is a drop ceiling, the sound level was more than manageable.  The only thing that made the space less than perfect was the sitar music, which can be a bit trebly–if high-pitched sounds are your personal nemisis, you may want to avoid Govinda’s.  That said, the space is very comfortable and it’s easy to carry on a conversation here.

If you enjoy a good vegetarian meal in a fairly relaxed setting, you must stop by Govinda’s.  Note that Govinda’s is only open for lunch Monday through Friday, and it is cash only.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Closed Saturday and Sunday

LOCATION

305 Schermerhorn Street (betw. Nevins and Bond Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch

 

Amber West Village — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Amber West Village is part of a small New York City chain that focuses on Japanese and Asian cuisine (sushi plus Thai noodle dishes).  It wasn’t very crowded during our lunch time visit, but the background music was a little louder than it should have been and we could hear kitchen noises, including banter among the staff.  That said, we were surprised that the meter read 75.1 decibels because the space felt more comfortable than that.   We assume the decibel reading  was due, in part, to the large front windows, sealed brick wall, and tiled floor, but there were mitigating design features, such as the upholstered banquettes and a wall of unfinished wood, that kept the sound from ricocheting around the small space.  The hard surfaces were balanced with more forgiving materials, resulting in a reasonably manageable experience.

Overall, Amber is worth considering for lunch.  We’ve been told that dinner is usually tolerable, but there advertisements for evening and weekend happy hour events that could be much louder.  One nice touch: no electric hand dryer in the bathroom.

HOURS

Monday through Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

WEBSITE

Amber West Village

Fika (6th Avenue) — 71.6 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was unnecessary music playing when we visited Fika on 6th Avenue in Chelsea, but we can still recommend it.  We generally see a lot of the laptop brigade in this location during the week, but we visited on a weekend when there were fewer laptoppers and more tourists.  Even with a chattier crowd, the space was fine.

As with other Fika locations–it’s a Swedish chain with 13 Manhattan locations–the decor features lots of hard surfaces.  But even though there were not many textiles–only the chairs are upholstered–the noise level was more than manageable.  High ceilings and a relaxed crowd are mostly responsible for the soundscape.  If they only lowered the background music a notch or two–or turned if off–the space would be close to perfect.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Fika serves very good coffee and lovely sweet treats (try the cardamom bun), but it’s a bit more expensive than other coffee shops.  Also, we noted that they were advertising a live music performance later in the early evening.  We would suggest avoiding live performances in that space given how unforgiving it could be.  We’re not sure if the performance was a one of or a regular gig, so proceed with caution on weekend nights.

HOURS

Monday through Fri

Saturday and Sunday:

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. 15th and 16th Streets), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Fika NYC

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

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

Karczma — 71.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Karczma is a lovely Polish restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a neighborhood that still has a large Polish population.  There is a bar in the front with a few tables on the opposite wall, and further back there is a dining room.   Unsurprisingly, the menu offers Polish home cooking served by women in traditional dress.

All of the booths in the dining room were taken during our lunch time visit, and there were only a few tables free.  Most tables were occupied by couples or groups, so there was plenty of conversation (and beer).  Polish music played softly in the background, yet the dining room was perfectly pleasant.  No doubt the decor helped, as it featured a fair amount of unfinished wood and was decidedly old school–the antithesis of the Industrial look responsible for much of the loudness at most restaurants today.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If the place is packed it will, of course, be louder.  That said, the dining room was over half full during our visit, plus a handful of people at the bar, and it was perfectly fine.

Our lunch was big, fresh, and tasty.  Filling doesn’t come close to describe it.  Somehow we managed to finish it, convinced that we wouldn’t have to eat until the next day (and we were right).  Note that it’s a meaty menu, so it’s not the place to bring your vegan friend.

HOURS

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Monday through Thursday: 12:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

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

LOCATION

Avenue (betw. Manhattan and Franklin Streets), Brooklyn, NY 11222

WEBSITE

Karczma

Telegraphe Cafe — 75.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Telegraph Cafe was fairly busy during our visit, but despite being completely full it was comfortable.  It’s a small space with a handful of tightly packed tables to the right of the entrance and stools lining the counter and the front windows.  Despite having a large glassed front, the sound level was manageable.  We assume that window shades, which had been drawn halfway down, helped to absorb or deflect the sound.

Music was playing during part of visit, but the volume was low so it didn’t add much to the soundscape.  All told, given how crowded the space was, we were quite happy with the sound level and would gladly return.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Telegraphe Cafe offers breakfast and lunch items and well made coffees.  In an neighborhood that offers few comfortable options, Telegraphe Cafe is worth visiting.

HOURS

Monday through Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Friday: 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 6th and 7th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Telegraphe Cafe

 

Gila’s Nosh — 70.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Gila’s Nosh is a nice little place located in Kips Bay.  Even though it’s home to plenty of hard surfaces, including the floor to ceiling glass front window and entrance, It’s too small to get uncomfortably loud (the  drop ceiling tiles probably help).  There was unnecessary music playing during our visit, as usual, but it wasn’t not too loud.  We were surprised to find a place this calm on 23rd Street, which is, after all, a busy cross town road.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Gila’s Nosh is perfectly fine for a nosh or a coffee.  The food is Middle Eastern/Mediterrenean, with very good, friendly service.  It’s a nice alternative to the chains that proliferate around this area.   We recommend a visit.

Note: There is scaffolding next to Gila’s Nosh which may make it appear to be closed, but the restaurant is open.

HOURS

9:45 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

. 23rd Street (betw. 2nd and 3rd Avenues), New York, NY 10010

WEBSITE

Gila’s Nosh

 

Khe-Yo — 65.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

What a lovely place!  Khe-Yo offers “Laotian-inspired Southeast Asian cuisine” in the heart of Tribeca.  It wasn’t very crowded when we arrived for a Tuesday lunch, and was mostly empty by the time we left.  So while the reading suggests that it was absolutely serene, please keep in mind that  Khe-Yo will be louder when full.

That said, Khe-Yo has a balance of hard and soft surfaces.  The wood floors are unfinished and the brick walls are not sealed, both of which could possibly absorb some sound, something that isn’t likely with more highly finished surfaces.  Fabric wall hangings are placed around the main dining area, and they probably helped to abate sound–they surely didn’t reflect it.  Upholstered banquettes circled the room, adding yet another relatively soft surface.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There was music was playing in the background during our visit.  It was at a perfect volume–loud enough to recognize what was playing but not so loud as to force people to scream over it–and the choice of music was neither jarring nor inappropriate.

We enjoyed our meal, and our Vietnamese coffees–one hot, one iced–were first rate.  Khe-yo’s space is attractive and comfortable, and we found it very relaxing.

Given the vibe of the place and the materials used in its design, we think that Khe-Yo should be tolerable even when fairly full.   You will be hard pressed to find a more relaxed, comfortable spot in Tribeca.   We were very happy with our visit and intend to return to confirm that Khe-Yo is  comfortable during dinner or brunch service.

HOURS

Monday through Wednesday: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Thursday and Friday: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Saturday: 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. West B’way and Hudson Street), New York, NY 10013

WEBSITE

Khe-Yo