Ask the Critic: Where to Eat in Downtown Brooklyn, Best NYC Pizza

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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 [email protected] with the subject line Ask the Critic to submit your question!

Where do you eat in Downtown Brooklyn? What's the best pizza in New York? We chat about these questions on Ask the Critic this week.

Best NYC Pizza

Okay: none of these top-10 lists or long articles. Best pizza in New York. Right now. Go.

Okay: clearly you don't want parameters on this, but I'm giving you two answers.

Best pizza in New York that's easily accessible in Manhattan, has great wine and appetizers, and isn't necessarily "New York" style—Motorino. The East Village pizzeria turns out gorgeous Neapolitan pies with a beautifully puffy, charred crust and toppings that walk a precise line between inventive and classic. I love the soppressata, I love the clam, I love the Brussels sprouts and pancetta even more. And unlike many pizza places, Motorino is, in its way, a proper restaurant. Salads and meatballs and charred octopus to start. A wine list and service to make a true meal. Killer tiramisu.

But if we're talking about the experience and the pizza, a pie that does justice to the tradition of New York pizza: Totonno's in Coney Island, hands-down. It's simply as good as coal-oven pizza can get, dates to 1924, and unlike many other classic joints that have lost their luster, Totonno's (despite recent renovations and rebuildings) has a patina that can't be imitated. After a fire and the floods following Hurricane Sandy, it's back in business and, based on a few recent visits, is as good as ever. Get the garlic-soaked white pie, and perhaps a tomato-sauced sausage and mushroom, and you'll learn some things about New York pizza you didn't know before. Feel free to stand up and grab a beer from the cooler; they'll charge you later. Order an extra pie. Take the leftovers with you. They reheat mighty well.

Downtown Brooklyn

I'm moving away from the craziness of Manhattan to the no-man's-land area of Downtown Brooklyn (on the very western border of Fort Greene). Aside from Shake Shack, what restaurants are within close walking distance that I need to try? More importantly, where can I get a good cup of a coffee and a great bagel?

Shake Sha—damn, you beat me to it.

Within Downtown Brooklyn itself, Fulton Mall and environs, you've got mostly Blimpies and Wendy's. With all the super-highrises going in at the foot of the Manhattan Bridge (in the non-neighborhood I refuse to call RAMBO), you've got to think that developers are salivating. How is there not already a Whole Foods and a cupcake shop?

Regardless, within a 5-10 minute walk, you've got options. Consider Ganso on Bond and Livingston, for spicy miso ramen and lacy-edged gyoza. Or for a less conventional dining experience, Govinda Kitchen in the lower level of the downtown Hare Krishna Temple Cafeteria, for good, cheap vegetarian Indian meals.

And by the time you're there, it's hardly farther to Bond Street. Bedouin Tent is a great choice for meze, pita, and a beautiful outdoor garden; walk a little fuather for the reliable, neighborhoody cafe-restaurant-bar Building on Bond, whether you want a beer and a sandwich, or a coffee to-go (boom, answered the coffee question). Or neighborhood favorite Italian restaurant Rucola.

Shake Shack has you for the cheap burger; for something a little more dressed up, maybe Two 8 Two on Atlantic. And don't forget about Brooklyn Fare—yes, it's a double-Michelin-starred restaurant, but it's also an excellent grocery store with great prepared food.

Good bagel, have to admit, you've stumped me. Bergen Bagel is excellent (on Bergen/Flatbush, with a few other locations) but that's a bit of a wander. Denizens of Downtown Brooklyn and thereabouts, any recommendations?

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Your Thoughts?

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