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

Penelope — 77.7 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Penelope offers “[h]eartwarming comfort food just like your mom used to make,” or so their website declares.  Well, perhaps we were lucky, because we recall eating far better in our youth.  What we found at Penelope was inoffensive food served in a “rustic” cafe that felt like it was designed by a successful if boring restaurant partnership.

The physical space was fine: unfinished wood floors, some tile.  At least the space wasn’t live, which was good, but what could have been a relaxing spot was not because the background music was too loud by two or three notches.  Loud and bland.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We tried the BBLT, a BLT with double the bacon, and found it  forgettable.  The french fries were meh.  The service was the best thing about the place–it was very good–and the coffee wasn’t bad.  But honestly, there is no compelling reason to eat here.

We wandered into Penelope looking for a relaxing lunch and we did not get it.  We don’t know dinner would fare, except it probably will be louder.  If you are in the neighborhood, are desperately hungry, and can’t find something acceptable nearby, lunch should be tolerable, barely, most days.  But if it’s this loud in a half-filled room at lunch, it must be intolerable when fully packed.  Proceed with caution.

HOURS

8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Avenue (at 30th Street), New York, NY 10016

WEBSITE

Penelope

Gorilla Coffee (Bergen Street) — 71.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Bergen Street location of Gorilla Coffee was louder than it needed to be at the beginning of our visit on a Friday afternoon.  The culprit, as usual, was the music volume.  But shortly after we sat down the volume was lowered, immediately improving the space, and our experience went from tolerable to positively pleasant.

The place was pretty full during our visit, but most people were working on their laptops or chatting softly with their companions.  None of the parties was loud.  So this location of Gorilla coffee can be recommended, but whether the experience will be pleasant versus tolerable depends on the vagaries of whomever determines the music volume.  Right after we stopped the meter, the volume again increased.  We suspect the reason for the leap in volume was that the counterperson liked the song, because once the song was over, the volume was reduced to the previous setting.

Expect a tolerable experience, with the possibility of comfort, at the Bergen Street location of Gorilla Coffee.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Flatbush and 5th Avenues), Brooklyn, NY 11217

WEBSITE

Gorilla Coffee

 

Underline Coffee — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Underline Coffee is located by the 20th Street entrance to the High Line in West Chelsea.  The attractive space was busy during our early afternoon visit.  While the crowd was mostly quiet, once again we were assaulted by music that was too loud.  There were the usual coffee-making sounds, but they weren’t that bad.  No, it was just the music.  Had the volume been lowered one or two notches, the space could have been comfortable.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Still, there aren’t many other options in the immediate location, and the coffee was good, so you could do worse.  With luck, perhaps whoever is working that day may show some restraint.  The noise level wasn’t awful, but that shouldn’t be the measure.  Underline Coffee is tolerable, but it could be far more.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (close at 6:00 p.m. in winter)

Sunday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 10th and 11th Avenues), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Underline Coffee

 

Joe Coffee (Lexington Avenue) — 76.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The Lexington Avenue location of Joe Coffee was crowded when we arrived.  A long table with stools placed around took up most of the space; a ledge ran along a wall providing some additional seating.  The space was tight as a line of people waiting to order snaked around the seating area, making for a less than pleasant experience.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

This location of Joe is a very live space.  It was tolerable but not comfortable.  One annoying customer who droned on to anyone and everyone was distracting, and in a small space there is no escape.  Unnecessarily loud music did not help.

If you really need coffee and you’re standing on Lexington Avenue between 74th and 75th Street outside of Joe, sure, consider it.  But if you want a calm, comfortable spot to enjoy that coffee, we suggest keep on walking.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

LOCATION

nue (betw. 74th and 75th Streets), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Joe on Lex

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

Teremok — 75.6 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Teremok is a 300-strong fast food chain in Russia that just recently opened two locations in Manhattan.  We visited their Chelsea location, which had just opened the week of our visit.  True to its roots, Teremok offers Russian fast food: blinys (sweet or savory), kasha, soups (including borscht, of course), salads, and drinks.   It’s a nicer fast food joint, not a cafe or restaurant, but we thought Teremok offered a nice change from burritos or burgers and the coffee was good (regular drip and iced coffee).

The physical space was fine.  There were a couple of tables and a shelf with stools, but every surface was hard.  There’s a lot of glass in the front and a big expanse of tile.  Once again we were confronted with unnecessary music that was a bit too loud and better suited for a discotheque (why were they playing generic dance music?).  But the space isn’t big enough to get horribly loud, though we have no doubt that it wouldn’t be pleasant if was crowded.  Long and short, the Chelsea location of Teremok should be tolerable most of the time.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The staff was very attentive as the place had just opened and they were trying to doing their best.  If you are in Chelsea and need to eat and run and want something different, you could do worse than Teremok.

HOURS

11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

nue (at 16th Street), New York, NY 10011

WEBSITE

Teremok

 

Russ & Daughters Cafe — 78.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were pleasantly surprised about the noise level at Russ & Daughters Cafe–it wasn’t bad at all for a very busy, celebrated place.  Every food site has written it up, and the food is very good, so of course there was a wait (45 minutes at 10:00 a.m. on a Sunday in August).  As a consequence, almost every seat was taken during our brunch time visit, so we think the decibel reading can be relied on for lunch and dinner as well.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We were seated in the front dining space.  The music was a bit louder than we would have liked, but in the end it was tolerable and sometimes more than tolerable (depending on the song), which was astonishing given that every surface in the front was hard.  We can only speculate that something was done to mitigate the noise.  Did the rounded ceiling helped to deflect sound?  Maybe, but we can’t be sure.  The back dining room is separated from the front, which helped, but the kitchen was open.  That said, the open kitchen occupied the space between the front and back dining areas, so kitchen noises didn’t intrude as much as one might have thought.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Whatever the reason, the space was not as loud as we anticipated.  In fact, we thought the space felt more comfortable than 78.5 decibels.   So, despite the hype and crowds, Russ & Daughters Cafe is worth a visit.  Yes, it could be a bit more comfortable, and it would have if they just lowered the music, but in the end it’s tolerable and the smoked salmon makes the visit worth it.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Rivington and Delancey Streets), New York, NY 10002

WEBSITE

Russ & Daughters Cafe

Madman Espresso — 75.4 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The music was louder than is should have been at Madman Espresso, and the espresso maker was, without doubt, the loudest we have ever heard.   But the service was perfect and the small space was not crowded.  If the music volume had been lower, the space would have been more than tolerable.  As it was, tolerable is the best one could hope for.

That said, there aren’t many coffee options around New York Eye & Ear and Madman Espresso is right across the street, so it is worth considering a visit there if you are in the neighborhood.  The coffee was very good and the barista couldn’t have been nicer.   You could do worse.

HOURS

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

Saturday and Sunday: 8:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. 1st and 2nd Avenues), New York, NY 10003

WEBSITE

Madman Espresso

 

Cafe Luka — 75.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Cafe Luka is more of a diner than cafe.  It serves standard American diner favorites, like wraps, sandwiches, and a pretty good burger.   It’s fine for what it is but it could have been a lot more pleasant if they just lowered the music (or shut it off as no one was listening to it).

Other than the music, the other layers of sound were manageable.  A flat screen tv was prominently placed, but we couldn’t hear the audio.  The chatter was fairly quiet even though the place was full.  In fact, we had to sit at the counter as no tables were free.  Kitchen sounds occasionally colored the soundscape as a bussing station was situated near us, but the bussing noise was manageable,  as was the staff chatter as they ran the orders back and forth.  The only reason for a lackluster review was the music.  It was unnecessary and intrusive.

In the end, Cafe Luka was tolerable.  If you are in the neighborhood and looking for a quick, basic meal, you could do worse.

HOURS

6:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day (may be open slightly later on Fridays and Saturdays to accommodate customers)

LOCATION

nue (betw. 70th and 71st Streets), New York, NY 10021

WEBSITE

Cafe Luka