Hector’s Cafe & Diner — 71.8 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Hector’s Cafe & Diner is another long-time New York City diner, but this one is in the pricey Highline neighborhood–right under it in fact–and one of the few reminders that the heavily-touristed Meatpacking District actually was a meatpacking district in the not-so-distant past.  Hector’s was a place where the butchers and truck drivers could go after a shift or delivery, followed by the club kids and sex workers after midnight.

The neighborhood has since became popular, but it used to stink of beef blood in the summers.  We remember driving in a convertible one hot, sticky August afternoon years ago–it was something we never attempted again. Not that it would be possible today. According to the Meatpacking District Improvement Association website, only five meatpacking businesses remain (where there once had been 250), so Hector’s serves as a reminder of the past while satisfying a real need by offering inexpensive and quick diner classics in an increasingly over-marketed, over-developed, and over-priced part of downtown Manhattan.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

If it seems like we favor diners, there’s a reason. First, most diners tend to play no music or set the music volume on low.  Second, although New York City appears to be teeming with diners, truth is, they are disappearing, and as they die off so too dies the possibility of securing a (relatively) inexpensive meal in a (generally) comfortable space.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

So, how is the soundscape at Hector’s? Pretty good. There is unnecessary background music, sadly, but the volume was really low. Why places insist on doing this is beyond us, as you can’t really hear the music but you can’t entirely ignore it. Still, at the end of the day the space wasn’t live despite lots of glass and tiled floors (perhaps due to the drop ceiling?), and as the meter reading shows, the sound level was in a good range.

We concede that it wasn’t very crowded when we visited for a late morning breakfast, but it was obvious that Hector’s is a relaxed place with a subdued crowd. That said, early morning hours may be quite different, especially when the partying crowd comes in for something to soak up all the booze.  So if you are visiting the Meatpacking District during the day or early evening hours, stop by for a quick, inexpensive, and mostly comfortable meal.  Proceed with caution after midnight.

HOURS

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

Monday and Tuesday: 2:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.

Wednesday through Saturday open 24 hours

LOCATION

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

WEBSITE

Hector’s Cafe & Diner

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

Hudson Diner — 73.4 decibels CLOSED

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We stopped by the Hudson Diner in the West Village for brunch one Saturday.  The Hudson Diner is a friendly neighborhood place, a favorite of nearby residents, many of whom are regulars. It offers basic American diner standards–a safe bet for burgers, breakfasts, and sandwiches–but its voluminous menu also offers Greek specialties, salads, seafood, chops, and pasta dishes.

The place was fairly crowded during our visit, but the soundscape wasn’t bad at all.  There was music playing in the background but the volume was so low that you could barely hear it.  Chatter predominated, with the sounds of the staff shouting orders to the short order cooks standing out.  Still, for a place that is bustling–and there was a lot of turnover–73.4 decibels is very respectable, particularly at brunch.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Hudson Diner has plenty of seating, so there generally isn’t a wait even during the height of brunch.  It’s worth checking out if you want something quick and relatively inexpensive in the West Village.

HOURS

6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. every day

LOCATION

Street (betw. Barrow and Grove Streets), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Hudson Diner

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

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

Sweet Life Cafe — 72.3 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Sweet Life Cafe is a neighborhood diner in the far West Village populated with a steady crew of regulars.  We stopped by for a quick lunch.  The music was a hair louder than necessary but most of the sound came from the chatter between the owner, waitresses, and customers.  In fact, we were asked if we were familiar with a recently released movie (we weren’t) out of the blue by the affable owner/manager.  It’s that sort of place, where anyone at any time may ask you a question as if you were part of the general scene.

In fact, Sweet Life is the sort of place that you assume exists only in other neighborhoods but you don’t expect to find in the West Village with its astronomical commercial rents.  Fortunately, you would be wrong.  Sweet Life Cafe is a genuine neighborhood place, an old-school diner where you can have breakfast all day or sandwiches, burgers, and other typical offerings.  The burgers were tasty and reasonably priced for the village, too.

The decor is nostalgic–tin ceiling, a couple of banquettes, old-fashioned tables and chairs–and it had an older crowd during our visit.  Even with the music and convivial group conversation, the place is fairly comfortable.  Definitely check it out if you want a tasty, inexpensive meal in one of the friendliest places in the West Village.

HOURS

Monday through Friday: 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Saturday and Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

LOCATION

Street (betw. Greenwich and Washington Streets), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Sweet Life Cafe

 

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

 

High Street on Hudson — 81.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

We normally avoid new or notable places because they tend towards the boisterous, but this NYC location of a Philly fave restaurant received nothing but raves, so we aimed for a Thursday lunch to avoid the evening crush.  When we arrived we saw that about half the tables were taken, but even with empty tables we were confronted with a wall of noise.  We braved on and managed to eat a rushed meal.

Reviews have mentioned that High Street breads are fabulous–and they are–and we loved our side order of Sicilian cauliflower.  That said, we won’t be back.

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Why?  High Street was too loud from the get go despite being less than half full–ear plugs had to be deployed.   We can’t even contemplate how loud a packed house at night would be, which is a real shame because place is getting a lot of deserved buzz and the food was delicious.  But delicious food served in an echo chamber with music that is too loud and trebly simply is not enjoyable.  Even if the music were lowered it unclear if the space could be comfortable.  Once again, the typical design culprits were present–glass, glass, and more glass–and we could hear the people around us raising their voices to be heard.

High Street on Hudson has a take away counter.  Use it.

HOURS

Monday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Tuesday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday and Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Saturday: 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

Sunday: 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. | 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Note: Hours are for summer; winter dinner hours will close an hour later

LOCATION

Street (at the corner of Horatio Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

High Street on Hudson

 

Pizzetteria Brunetti — 75.7 decibels

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

Pizzetteria Brunetti is a reasonably priced restaurant located in the West Village.  We visited at lunch time and took advantage of their $10 lunch options, which included pizzas, salads, and sandwiches.  We opted for a pizza and salad and it was more than enough food for two people.  Throw in a couple of glasses of wine, and you can dine leisurely for about $20 each.

Our visit would have been perfect but the space is a bit live and there was unnecessary background music. The volume wasn’t oppressive, but we could hear people trying to speak over the music.   Once again, the music selection did not add anything to the experience other than frustration.  Throw in one or two louder than average people and the meter soon crossed 75 decibels.   In the end, though, the space wasn’t so loud that we regretted staying, but we were not entirely comfortable either.

That said, the food was good and the prices are great for the West Village.  We noticed a small garden in the back.  It wasn’t open during our Friday lunch time visit, but we were told that it is usually open in the evenings.

We can recommend that you visit Pizzetteria Brunetti for lunch but suggest that you proceed with caution for dinner, particularly if the space is full.  The back garden should be a safer space, however, as most restaurants try to keep the noise level down so that they don’t have to deal with complaints from nearby residents.

HOURS

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

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

LOCATION

626 Hudson Street (at Jane Street), New York, NY 10014

WEBSITE

Pizzetteria Brunetti