Tilia

Though I usually write about restaurants in New York, as that is where I live most of the time, this past weekend I was lucky enough to be home in not-so-snowy Minnesota. The trip was filled with family, food, lovely Christmas traditions, and more food (including, for better or worse, lutefisk). However, aside from the lye-soaked cod, one of the nicest parts of the trip was a lunch yesterday at Tilia with my family.

I had heard rave reviews of this restaurant from Twin City-darling Steven Brown from several sources, and couldn't wait to go as soon as I arrived home. Situated in the lovely Linden Hills neighborhood of Minnapolis, "tilia" is actually Latin for the Linden tree. Though Brown has worked at many of the Twin Cities' best restaurants, this is his first solo venture, and I couldn't wait to see if it lived up to the hype.

Fittingly, as soon as we walked in the door of the restaurant at 1:15, the host told us it would be at least an hour wait for five people. My face fell -- as I needed to leave for the airport in two hours, that would have been impossible. However, with a little flexibility (fitting five people into a booth), we were able to be seated immediately. Our server was engaging and funny, and had many recommendations. We ended up sharing several dishes, including pork belly with lentils and apple chutney (stellar), french fries (salty and marvelous), and the fish taco torta (crunchy and creamy and spicy all at once). However, I would have to say that the two stand-out dishes were on the sweeter side. The first was called, whimsically, "Millionaire's Bacon". This consisted of crispy-succulent bacon drenched in -- wait for it -- salted caramel sauce. More a dessert than a side dish, this was rather remarkable. Though I couldn't eat ore than a few bites, the saltiness of the bacon offset the sweet vanilla of the caramel perfectly.

My other favorite dish was the butterscotch pudding topped with crème fraîche. Wonderfully creamy, with subtle vanilla undertones and lovely butterscotch flavor, the crème fraîche added a nice tart note to the sugary pudding. This was accompanied by a perfectly made macchiato.

Overall, Tilia surpassed all of my expectations. The service was a little slow at times, but understandable given how busy their lunch service is. It feels like a real neighborhood restaurant, an excellent place to meet a friend for a glass of wine (or a beer from their excellent list). Make sure to share everything.