books and beer?
If it's silence you seek then Burp Castle might meet your needs - the staff there actually shushes the patrons when the noise level starts rising to preserve the monastic vibe they're trying to manufacture. If you like Belgian beer, you'll be right at home.
A more diverse (and in my opinion more exciting) selection of brews can be found at Jimmy's No. 43 next door. It's more of a gastropub than a bar (the food is actually quite tasty, inventive, and primarily local & organic), but the atmosphere is warm and welcoming, and they constantly rotate their selections from local and specialty craft brewers.
Both places are in the East Village, and you'll be looking at 6-10 bucks a pint either way, which is sadly the going rate these days in Manhattan outside of the dive bar circuit.
Jimmy's No. 43
43 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003
41 E 7th St, New York, NY 10003
I went recently to Jimmy's for the first time (despite living around the corner) and was quite pleased with the food. The atmosphere is a little cave-ish and it can be hard to grab the attention of a server given the byzantine layout, but overall it was a nice neighborhood joint. The couple next to me were complaining something was too salty, so I scaled back and ordered a few small plates.
I enjoyed my roasted walnuts with local honey, sea salt, and fennel pollen. Wasn't too into the sweetness of the honey at first but it grew on me. The dish could have used a bit more sea salt as most of it fell to the bottom of the plate. I think I liked my walnuts a little more well done (these were lightly toasted) but I finished the plate nevertheless. The skillet fried beer sausages were also quite good. Spicy mustard, thinly sliced and fried sausages, and a delicious aroma that filled the room. My favorite (and standout dish) was the surf 'n' turf headcheese. Octopus and pig's head, made in house, with a green apple grainy mustard with nasturtium. I loved the way the sweetness of the octopus plays off the fattiness of the pig's head. I'd definitely go back for that again. This (and a beer) was enough food to fill me up -- I didn't try any of the large plates.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised and impressed that the chef does this entire menu with two hot plates in a tiny nook in back. Came to about $35 all told.