Mary’s Fish Camp — 77.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There usually is a line snaking up to the entrance to Mary’s Fish Camp every evening.  People start lining up before the 6:00 p.m. start to dinner service, something they’ve done for years.  Why? It’s a fabulous seafood restaurant, well known for its lobster roll and other offerings.  So it’s a real shame that a dinner visit to Mary’s is impossible.  The space is so live that it’s almost as if the designer’s brief at the top read “make the space as intolerably loud as possible.”  Sadly, he or she delivered.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

So we paid a visit at lunch time, which is the only time you can go to Mary’s and not have your ears implode. Even then the place is uncomfortably loud. And it’s painfully obvious why it’s so uncomfortable: almost every surface in the place is hard, and it doesn’t help that at least one-third of the exterior wall is glass. The kitchen is open and there is a lot of stainless steel, a tin ceiling, exposed brick walls, and lots of tile.

But, as with other aural offenders, it is the unnecessary background music that really pushes things to the edge. The music–high-pitched and too loud–bounces off every hard surface making conversation almost impossible. You have to make a real effort to listen to your companions, but it is possible with some makeshift hacks (blocking one ear, cupping the other).

Why is the soundscape so uncomfortable?  We don’t know.  Could it be a deliberate attempt to get people in and out? Possibly. The service is pretty brisk. We hope that’s not the reason, because that kind of cold calculation is simply unconscionable, particularly since  you can’t visit Mary’s without dropping a fair amount of cash. We prefer to assume it’s a misguided aesthetic  decision.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Long and short, if the music were turned off the place would still be too loud, but at least there could be a slight chance that dinner at Mary’s could clock in at under 80 decibels. But that won’t happen. We’ve stopped by Mary’s every once in a while for years now, and it won’t change. It’s been this way forever and it’s best to assume that it will continue. The food is lovely, though, so if you want to check it out go at lunch time and hope for the best.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of W. 4th Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Mary’s Fish Camp

Ahimsa — 69.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Ahimsa is a vegetarian Indian restaurant located on the edges of NYU’s sprawling campus.  We planned a visit to Ahimsa because it offers a lunch buffet, something that is increasingly difficult to find below 14th Street. We arrived shortly after noon and found one other table waiting to dig in.  But we had to wait 15 minutes for the buffet to be stocked (not sure if there was a snafu or if this is standard operating procedure).  Given our early arrival, it’s no surprise that the place was dead quiet at first, but it got louder once a few more people filtered in and background music was turned on. Fortunately, the music–Indian pop ballads–was played at an acceptably low  volume.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Despite a wall of windows fronting the space, the room didn’t feel live. There were some columns and a small nook off to the side, breaking up the space a hair, but we chalked up the overall soundscape up to a mindset. Namely, the other patrons were engaged in conversation, but they  spoke softly to each other, for the most part, keeping the overall volume fairly low. It felt like there was something about the space that encouraged a quieter atmosphere.

That said, the very low reading is due, in large part, to ten minutes or more of dead quiet in the beginning of our visit, and we think a typical lunch reading could be a few decibels higher.  But even if that is the case, Ahimsa is a very comfortable place and it’s easy to have a conversation.  The food was good, and the buffet offered lots of options. Have we had better Indian vegetarian food in the city?  Yes, but Ahimsa’s lunch buffet is well worth a visit and is a veritable bargain at $11.95.  Recommended.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

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

LOCATION

210 Thompson Street (betw. Bleecker and W. 3rd Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Ahimsa

Pomme Frites — 74.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

 

The menu at Pomme Frites couldn’t be simpler: Belgian fries, poutine, sauces, garnishes, and beverages.  It’s a place to visit with friends for some very tasty fries, a couple of dipping sauces–and the choices are extensive–and a beer.  Given it’s location and menu, it is almost always filled with NYU students.

During the day and early evening, the soundscape is fine, even when crowded.  At night, though, one must assume that throngs of drunk students will ensure a “livelier” soundscape.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Music played in the background during our visit, but it was louder in the back by the kitchen.  For the most part, the soundscape was dominated by voices.  Since we stopped by in the early evening, those voices weren’t that loud–everyone appeared to be sober. Overall, we found the noise level to be pretty good given the circumstances, but caution that it was early in the evening.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pomme Frites occupies a small space with a limited menu that is perfect drunk student food.  Expect a tolerable soundscape during the day, but proceed at caution at night, particularly after the bars empty out.

HOURS

Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 a.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. W. Houston and Prince Streets), New York, NY 10012

WEBSITE

Pomme Frites

Jack’s Stir Brew — 74.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Jack’s Stir Brew on W. 10th Street was the first location of this New York City mini-chain.  It’s still popular, and as a result, it can be difficult to find a seat in this small place. But we did!

And we’re glad we did.  The place was pretty calm.  In fact, the decibel reading was higher than anticipated.  We suspect the meter picked up the conversation at the next table, not that the couple was loud (they weren’t).  Whatever the reason, it was a relaxing 74.3 decibels. This location of Jack’s is a very chill space, which is how a coffee shop should be.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Jack’s Stir Brew offers very good coffee and a small selection of sweet treats. It’s usually crowded, but unlikely to get impossibly loud as there are just a few seats and background music is not obtrusive.  Recommended.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Waverly Place and Greenwich Avenue), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Jack’s Stir Brew – West Village

Waverly Restaurant — 74.1 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

The name maybe be Waverly Restaurant but this West Village mainstay is a quintessential diner with booths and counter service.  There is a full menu offering a wide range of items.  You can’t go wrong with their burgers and sandwiches, but they shine with their breakfasts.  Eggs, meat of choice, and potatoes come to the table in a small frying pan resting on a wooden plank.  The food is hot and the potatoes are actually worth eating.  And service is friendly and efficient.

For an 11:00 a.m.-to-noon visit the sound level was a comfortable 74.1 decibels.  The reading must have reflected the bustle of waiters running back and forth, because the background music was low and the surrounding chatter was manageable.   In a different space 74.1 decibels could have been uncomfortable, but not here.  That said, the restaurant was busy but not packed.  A line forms at the door after 12:00 p.m. during busy weekend brunch hours, so go earlier or be prepared to wait 15 minutes or so.

HOURS

Open 24 hours every day

LOCATION

385 6th Avenue (at the corner of Waverly Place), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Waverly Restaurant

 

Three Lives & Company — 61.9 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Simply the best bookstore in New York City.  It’s smaller than most, so it doesn’t have the same selection as a megastore, thank goodness.  None of the tat, just a great selection of fiction and nonfiction classics and newly published books.  There is a small but excellent collection of cookbooks, and a wonderfully curated selection of books about New York City.  Most importantly, Three Lives looks and sounds like a bookstore should: quietly creaky wooden floors, very low and appropriate background music, small niches where you can sit and preview your potential purchase, and staff and customers (usually) talking at a whisper.  No surprise that it registered at a calming 61.9 decibels.   A must visit for the book lover.

HOURS

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Monday and Tuesday: 12:00 p.m. to 8:00

Wednesday through Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

LOCATION

154 W. 10th Street (at the corner of Waverly Place), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Three Lives & Company

A.O.C. — 69.5 to 78.5 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

A.O.C. had been a well frequented West Village haunt in the past. The food is reliably good, featuring French bistro classics (croque monsieur, mussels, coq au vin, etc.) and a very good burger with salad and fabulous fries.  Sadly, we had a disappointingly loud Saturday brunch visit that clocked in at 78.5 decibels. The waitstaff will lower background music if asked, and, in fact, they complied with our request on this visit, but the volume crept up when someone’s favorite song came on.

A lunch time visit was a more tolerable 74.8 decibels, but it could have been better.  Two exuberant and chatty patrons at the bar and an open the front door that let in street noise from a very busy Bleecker Street were the offenders.  A visit in late fall or the winter should be more pleasant as the door will be closed.  Once again the background music was louder than necessary, but this time the level was lowered it as soon as we requested it and it did not creep back up.  As soon as one of the loud chatty patrons left, the sound level became appreciably better.  It is worth checking out A.O.C. at lunch, but the space will likely be more pleasant earlier in the week when it is less crowded (Friday lunch is busy).

Finally, a breakfast visit was a mostly pleasant 71 decibels.  Once again the background music was a little louder than it needed to be, but there were only a handful of patrons so the space was relatively quiet by default.  The front door was open when we got there, allowing in noticeable street noise, but was shut on request (due to temperature not noise).

Overall, A.O.C. is worth the visit but should be avoided at brunch or during busy lunches and dinners.  There is a back garden that is almost always calm.  If you can get a seat in the back garden, take it–it should be tolerable at any time.  The indoor space is noticeably calmer during weekday lunch service and off hours.  One ear friendly factor: they offer paper towels along with an electric hand dryer in bathrooms.

Update: A recent mid-afternoon visit for a cafe au lait was wonderful.  Not surprising, as the place was empty.  The background music was fine this time and featured French ballads, jazz, and instrumentals.  Most importantly, the music was loud enough to be heard and no louder. Bliss.

HOURS

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

Friday and Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m.

LOCATION

314 Bleecker Street (at the corner of Grove), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

A.O.C.

Mary’s Fish Camp — 77.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

There usually is a line snaking up to the entrance to Mary’s Fish Camp every evening.  People start lining up before the 6:00 p.m. start to dinner service, something they’ve done for years.  Why? It’s a fabulous seafood restaurant, well known for its lobster roll and other offerings.  So it’s a real shame that a dinner visit to Mary’s is impossible.  The space is so live that it’s almost as if the designer’s brief at the top read “make the space as intolerably loud as possible.”  Sadly, he or she delivered.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

So we paid a visit at lunch time, which is the only time you can go to Mary’s and not have your ears implode. Even then the place is uncomfortably loud. And it’s painfully obvious why it’s so uncomfortable: almost every surface in the place is hard, and it doesn’t help that at least one-third of the exterior wall is glass. The kitchen is open and there is a lot of stainless steel, a tin ceiling, exposed brick walls, and lots of tile.

But, as with other aural offenders, it is the unnecessary background music that really pushes things to the edge. The music–high-pitched and too loud–bounces off every hard surface making conversation almost impossible. You have to make a real effort to listen to your companions, but it is possible with some makeshift hacks (blocking one ear, cupping the other).

Why is the soundscape so uncomfortable?  We don’t know.  Could it be a deliberate attempt to get people in and out? Possibly. The service is pretty brisk. We hope that’s not the reason, because that kind of cold calculation is simply unconscionable, particularly since  you can’t visit Mary’s without dropping a fair amount of cash. We prefer to assume it’s a misguided aesthetic  decision.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Long and short, if the music were turned off the place would still be too loud, but at least there could be a slight chance that dinner at Mary’s could clock in at under 80 decibels. But that won’t happen. We’ve stopped by Mary’s every once in a while for years now, and it won’t change. It’s been this way forever and it’s best to assume that it will continue. The food is lovely, though, so if you want to check it out go at lunch time and hope for the best.

HOURS

Monday through Saturday: 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Sunday: 12:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of W. 4th Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Mary’s Fish Camp

Jack’s Stir Brew (W. 10th Street) — 74.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by the W. 10th Street location of Jack’s Stir Brew, the first location of this popular local chain, for a post-lunch coffee and were happy to find it a pretty relaxed place. How relaxed? We were surprised at the meter reading, because it was a few decibels higher than anticipated.  We assume the meter picked up the conversation at the next table, but must note that the couple wasn’t loud–no one was.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Music played quietly in the background and traffic noise did not intrude, even as the owner or manager propped open the door to make a repair.  We’ve walked past this location of Jack’s many times and it’s usually crowded, so we were happy we found a table.  Even when crowded, though, it’s unlikely to be uncomfortable as there are only four tables and several stools.  Add in very good coffee and a nice selection of sweet treats, and we recommend a visit.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

Street (betw. Waverly Place and Greenwich Avenue), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Jack’s Stir Brew

Meme Mediterranean West Village — 81 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We’ll start out by saying how disappointed we were with our visit to Meme Mediterranean in the West Village.  Why? The space is attractive, the food was good, but the space was intolerable.  The usual culprit was at play–the music was entirely too loud.  In fact, the music alone clearly pushed the meter reading into the “avoid category.”  That said, music aside, the room is just poorly designed–it’s too damn live.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

How bad could it be?  When we arrived, we were the only table in the restaurant, as all of the other diners opted for sidewalk tables, and yet the space was uncomfortably loud.  It only got worse as people straggled in.

Now Hudson at Bank Street isn’t as heavily trafficked as other streets, but it’s still busy and can get noisy.  Plus we would rather not breath in car exhaust as we eat. But the sidewalk tables appeared to be more tolerable, as least as far as sound levels are concerned.  So if you want to take a chance, go ahead.  But if you will only eat in the restaurant, take a pass.  It simply isn’t worth it.

HOURS

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

Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (at Bank Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Meme Mediterranean West Village