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Ask the Critic: Non-Alcoholic Cocktails; Where to Eat in Ditmas Park and South Slope

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[Illustration: Robyn Lee]

Editor's note: Here to answer your questions is contributing writer, former managing and SENY editor, and frequent author of our NYC restaurant reviews Carey Jones. We'll take a few of your questions each week and give you the New York restaurant advice you're looking for. Email carey@seriouseats.com with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!

This week on Ask the Critic, we're finding non-alcoholic cocktails and chatting about Ditmas Park.

Ditmas Park and South Slope

I'm a college student who will be living in NYC for the first time this summer. This is a pretty generic question, but what are some good eats for the Prospect Park / Ditmas / Park Slope area?

Welcome to Brooklyn! Let's start with Ditmas Park, which is the simplest; Cortelyou Road is a mini restaurant row that would make other neighborhoods jealous. There's Mimi's Hummus, my own personal happy place, which makes the best hummus I've ever had in the States (and is suited to a student's budget). There's Farm on Adderley, a friendly, rustic farm-to-table spot that's open all day, great for a neighborhood dinner, but equally nice in the mornings, when sun streams in and they'll refill your coffee all day. There's the Filipino Purple Yam (which, disclosure, I have not visited, but trusted sources recommend).

I assume, if you're curious about Ditmas, you're interested in the southern stretches of Park Slope? There are excellent tortas at El Tenampa, pizza at Toby's Public House and Giuseppina's. There's Lot 2 for an all-around great neighborhood restaurant. Standout coffee at Southside Coffee, excellent bagels at Terrace Bagels, and Bagel Hole a little farther north. And venture a little further north to find Talde and Thistle Hill Tavern, both with chef Dale Talde at the helm.

... Writing this, I'm realizing that the South Slope / Windsor Terrace is getting to be a pretty impressive food neighborhood. Not every corner of the city has good bagels, coffee, and pizza, which are three of life's more important things. Enjoy!

Booze-Free Cocktails

My last few visitors have been expecting and I'm running out of spots with good non-alcoholic cocktails and good food.   Blue Smoke was always my go to with good food and good cocktails, virgin and otherwise, but looking for a few other options to add to my list for my summer visitors.  Most of the spots I can find with good cocktails for the moms to be, lack in the food department. Bonus points for a good beer list too :)

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[Photo: Alice Gao]

The best nonalcoholic cocktails are those that are developed as nonalcoholic cocktails, so you're looking for an establishment that puts real thought into them. ("I'll have a virgin Old Fashioned... oh, wait. Virgin Manhattan? Dammit...")

Two fine establishments with whole lists of virgin drinks: The Nomad and Gramercy Tavern. Leo Robitschek of The Nomad has done incredible things with their cocktail program, and devotes a section to booze-free drinks, many with bold flavors: I'd bet a basil-fennel-lemon soda wouldn't seem like it's missing anything, and nor would pineapple, jalapeño-infused agave, and lime.

Gramercy Tavern comes closer to traditional cocktails, cleverly mimicking alcohol in booze-free ways. Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir juices (not wines) both make an appearance. And the "N/A-Groni" makes use of Pelligrino Sanbitter, which itself tastes like a Campari-soda, sans alcohol.

As such, Gramercy might be a great choice for a person with a taste for alcohol who's choosing to remain sober. (Whenever I get around to having kids, I'll be pretty reluctant to give up Negronis for 9 months. A N/A-Groni would probably ease the pain considerably.)

Note: Both these places are pretty pricey if you sit down and do a full dinner. But both have more casual lounge areas where you can drink and have a few bites and spend a lot less. (Especially if you're ordering virgin drinks. $6.50 drinks at Gramercy Tavern, you can have a few.)

Ask Us!

Email carey@seriouseats.com with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question. All questions will be read, though unfortunately not all can be answered.

Your Thoughts?

Have more advice for these folks? Jump in, in the comment thread!

About the author: Carey Jones is the former Senior Managing Editor of Serious Eats. Follow her on Twitter (@careyjones).

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