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It may not rank with Columbus hitting upon America, but dining guide guru Tim Zagat has discovered Brooklyn.

This week he unveils his "Zagat Survey: Brooklyn," acknowledging for the first time that restaurants in this borough deserve his undivided attention. He’ll celebrate with a launch party July 11 at The Grocery restaurant on Smith Street.

In his annual "New York City Restaurants" survey, a sprinkling of Brooklyn’s most famous restaurants, like Peter Luger’s steakhouse in Williamsburg have made the cut since the 1970s, Zagat told GO Brooklyn on Wednesday. Now, for the first time, Zagat has published a guide solely dedicated to the restaurants, attractions, nightlife and shopping in Brooklyn.

"Eight years ago, there was the fear factor," said Zagat. "People were scared to go to New York, and they were scared to go anywhere in the outer boroughs. Now with improved safety, cleanliness and shopping amenities in Brooklyn, it’s almost revolution­ary."

Zagat said that like the "New York City Restaurants" survey, he’s committed to updating the Brooklyn version annually.

"When we first started we had six Brooklyn restaurants; now we have 140," said Zagat. "It’s really gotten so it’s really serious. It’s almost the size of a restaurant guide in any other city - except for New York.

"People in Brooklyn tended to be voting for Brooklyn restaurants. Now people from Manhattan are going to Brooklyn. It used to be one-way - Brooklyn to New York. Starting two or three years ago it became a two-way trip."

Brooklyn gourmands will likely rush to buy the guide to see if their favorite eateries or gourmet shops made the cut - and see if they received the ratings they deserve. But with its maps and listing of attractions, it’s also useful for tourists, and the shopping guide is a must-have for professional and amateur chefs alike.

Zagat senior editor Benjamin Schmerler, a Carroll Gardens resident, said he predicts readers - even those from Brooklyn - will be impressed with the late dining scene here.

"You would be surprised. There are tons of places," said Schemerler, who’s been with the Zagat company for five years and is a self-described "big booster for the borough."

"There are also a lot of outdoor dining places here, too, relative to the number of restaurants," he added.

Schmerler said that even he made some discoveries in compiling the survey results for the shopping chapter - like the 40-year-old, family owned JoMart Chocolates at 2917 Ave. R between East 29th Street and Nostrand Avenue.

Unlike the New York City guide, with one book dedicated to restaurants and another dedicated to the marketplace, the Brooklyn guide contains both.

"The shopping section is the largest," said Schmerler. "There are wonderful stores here. You can see [in the guide] where the action is here: Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens and Smith Street obviously. Williamsburg for more. This is a pretty large, substantive book."

Schmerler pointed out that the Zagat Survey is not all-inclusive. "It’s not a listing of all the restaurants - and it’s not exclusively the best restaurants. This is what the public [who fill out the surveys] feels. Peter Luger and Grimaldi’s - those are famous. There are others that are not as well known, too."

The Brooklyn Zagat guide follows - a bit late - the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s 1999 restaurant guide, "Brooklyn Eats," as well as GO Brooklyn’s online dining listings (at www.brooklynpapers.com) and Time Out New York’s annual "Eating & Drinking" guide which is exhaustive - but too large to be carried in a purse - never mind slipped into a pocket like the Zagat guide.

Among the top 10 restaurants in the borough - and rated best in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO along with Grimaldi’s and River Cafe - is the Italian restaurant Queen at 84 Court St.

Newcomers to Brooklyn may pass by this eatery with its unassuming exterior and interior and never look back. Yet they’ve been open since 1958. The pricey Queen (average price of dinner, with a drink and tip is $39 according to the guide) is run by brothers Pat and Vincent Vitiello who took over the biz from their father, chef Anthony Vitiello.

"Queen is a very popular place, it’s been in the [’New York City Restaurants’] book for years," said Schmerler. He suggests that interested readers take advantage of Queen’s prix fixe lunch to find out what all the fuss is about.

Although it might not be a surprise that there are top-quality Italian restaurants in Brooklyn, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

"The range of cuisine speaks well for the borough," said Schmerler. "You’ll find Austrian, Cambodian, Peruvian, Mexican, Malaysian and even South African - like Madiba in Fort Greene."

Other subheadings in the book corral places to eat when on jury duty, attractions, historic places (open longer than 50 years) and eateries with children’s menus.

It’s apparent that with all it has to offer, a Zagat guide to Brooklyn is overdue.

"Brooklyn seemed to be in a renaissance," Zagat explained as his reasoning for the new volume. "There’s a lot of nightlife. It’s a lot more exciting certainly than I had realized. There are so many things that, when put together, I had a really interesting book."

"Brooklyn had already reached the stage in terms of great institutions like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and BAM," observed Zagat. "But when people go somewhere they want to go before or after to eat or drink. Now Brooklyn has a lot of those amenities."

 

What do you think?
These are the favorite restaurants in each neighborhood, listed in order of food rating, according to the new "Zagat Survey: Brooklyn," edited by Benjamin Schmerler (Zagat Survey LLC, 2002).

Bay Ridge
-
Areo (8424 Third Ave. at 85th Street)
- Tuscany Grill (8620 Third Ave. at 86th Street)
-
St. Michel (7518 Third Ave. at Bay Ridge Parkway)

Brooklyn Heights/DUMBO
- Grimaldi’s (19 Old Fulton St. at Front Street)
- River Cafe (1 Water St. at Furman Street)
- Queen (84 Court St. at Livingston Street)

Fort Greene
-
Cambodian Cuisine (87 South Elliot Place at Lafayette Avenue)
-
Chez Oskar (211 Dekalb Ave. at Adelphi Street)
- A Table (171 Lafayette Ave. at Adelphi Street)

Park Slope
- Blue Ribbon (280 Fifth Ave. at 1st Street)
- Cucina (256 Fifth Ave. at Carroll Street)
- Rose Water (787 Union St. at Sixth Avenue)

Smith Street
- Grocery (288 Smith St. at Sackett Street)
- Saul (140 Smith St. at Bergen Street)
- Smith St. Kitchen (174 Smith St. at Warren Street)

Williamsburg
- Peter Luger (178 Broadway at Driggs Avenue)
- Planet Thailand (133 North Seventh St. at Berry Street)
- Bamonte’s (32 Withers St. at Lorimer Street)

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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