|The Kitchen at Tilia Restaurant in Linden Hills, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
Dining alone can be a bit uncomfortable. After all, when I'm alone I have no one to entertain me. And reading or texting while waiting for the meal to come makes me seem antisocial. But, on occasion, dining alone can also be fun. At least, that was my experience at Tilia Restaurant in Minneapolis.
It doesn't happen often but occasionally I travel alone for work. When I go out of state, I multi-task my trips and combine my day job as a lawyer with my hobby as a food blogger. If you follow my Pinterest pinboard, you'll see that I've pinned a list of buzz-worthy Minneapolis restaurants. Tilia was listed as one of the 50 Best Restaurants for 2014 in Minneapolis St. Paul Magazine. The list is compiled in part by celebrity chef and Minnesota native Andrew Zimmern, so Tilia's inclusion is a big honor. Located in the cozy residential area of Linden Hills, this small eatery has been open for only three years and has developed a loyal following in that short time. After dining there, I now know why.
The restaurant admits its space is small, holding only 40 patrons at a time. So, reservations are not taken. That is often a problem for groups of any size. But the solo or coupled diner has two good seating options: the traditional bar or the chef's countertop. As a very inquisitive foodie, you can take a guess where I chose to sit. The chef's countertop offered a coveted front row seat of all the kitchen action. From that vantage point, I eagerly watched the cooks prepare plates, toss pastas, sear filets and dress salads. And the quick pace of the kitchen was highly palpable. The cooks in front of me volleyed shorthand commands to each other while tracking orders and answering occasional questions from myself and other onlookers. No one in the kitchen missed a beat. It was a definitely quite the show ... followed then by a great meal.
As a solo diner, the Tilia menu was a bit intimidating at first. Apart from a few entrees, it appears that most of the menu contemplates sharing among friends. But small plates shouldn't be a conundrum for the solo diner. They are an invitation to taste a variety of dishes without overwhelming one's palate and gorging one's stomach. And when asked politely enough, I don't turn down an invitation to enjoy good food. That night at Tilia, I had three great small plates to enjoy. All plates an homage to my princess Anna. She must have been heavy on my mind.
|Raddichio salad with dolce gorgonzola, currants, radishes, chive blossoms and sunflower seeds|
She'd have loved the cavatelli carbonara too. A beautiful handrolled pasta tossed with local seasonal vegetables, cooked al dente and topped with a unique egg yolk custard. Salty salume, subtle sharp parmesan, and tart scallion offset by the creamy yolk and buttered pasta. This dish too would have been right up Anna's alley. Just looking upon it I knew it would be perfect for my little Italian!
|Housemade cavatelli with salume, zucchini, parmesan and scallion topped with an egg yolk custard|
I know the idea of eating snails is off-putting for some, but I don't quite understand why. We eat a lot of other things that are equally strange without the same trepidation. Don't we? Oysters, clams, mussels are all equally odd, right? And some of these we'll even eat raw! Need I say sushi anyone? So snails shouldn't be at all intimidating for even the most novice of food lovers.
|Escargot with grilled bread|