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