A dining tour of Linden Hills

Tilia chef Steven Brown. File photo

You live in Linden Hills? Well, aren’t you special! You get to walk/bike to all the dining hot spots—the epicenter of noteworthy neighborhood cafes—while the rest of us consult our Google maps as we set out for a night of Destination Dining.

Put the blame (or credit) on Steven Brown, who debuted Tilia in a tiny storefront on West 43rd, launching the lodestone of adventurous dining for the area. Sup (but don’t plan to converse; it’s far too noisy) on his uber-seasonal spring pea soup, into which he’s transplanted tastes of the Pacific (ahi tuna, coconut, Thai basil). Or an irresistible soft shell crab given a makeover in mole verde. Another tip of the toque to Mexico appears in his chicken thigh, sided with chorizo. And the pork tenderloin with huitlacoche stuffing and masa (OK, he calls it polenta). P.S.: Brown recently opened a second kitchen, St. Genevieve, just across the border at 50th & Bryant.

Tilia's charming entrance. File photo
Tilia’s charming entrance. File photo

Saunter across the street to Upton 43, the newest cool kid on the corner, where Erick Harcey has transformed a former hardware store into a room of spare Nordic whites and blues in which to hail his grandma’s Swedish cooking, rebooted for 2016: pickled herring with potatoes, cukes and dill, for sure, but with new add-ons of nuts and apples. Nordic beets paired with gjetost cheese, gooseberries and rye crumbs. Meatballs and mashed potatoes, ya you betcha, but also fermented lettuce dusted with powdered walnuts, straight out of a mad scientist’s lab.

Their near neighbor, The Harriet Brasserie, earlier recognized the potential of rehabbing a former firehouse into a four-alarm succession of red-hot small plates. What to recommend? The mussels. The scallops with sausage. The bison tartare, for sure. Also the octopus. The sardines. The pork belly—and those are just the starters. And for folks who consider Southern fried chicken their idea of heaven, welcome to the promised land. Here, it’s served alongside chicken-liver mousse, a buttermilk biscuit, chestnut and caramelized orange. Take that, Colonel!

Hungry for Thai? Stay put on 43rd, where Naviya runs a classy bistro, serving a fresh and filling Pad Thai as well as Panang curry. Her windows face those of Zumbro, the neighborhood go-to before there was much else to eat at the intersection. For over 20 years, it’s been hailed as “best breakfast in Minneapolis,” thanks to eggs Bennie, homemade muffins, your choice of hearty pancakes (cornmeal, buckwheat wild rice, buttermilk) and huevos zumbrosos. Stick around for lunch if you’re in the mood for Star Prairie trout sluiced in maple balsamic (and who isn’t?), or a BLT mac & cheese for the indecisives who want it all. And, while Sebastian Joe’s isn’t truly a restaurant, you know where to head when heatstroke hits (or hail, or a blizzard). Same for brand-new Rose Street Patisserie, showcasing elite baked goods like jewelry.

Pay a call on Trattoria Tosca, over on 44th, for tastes of the season with an Italian flair, from asparagus with crispy prosciutto to cavatelli pasta rich with ramps and more, or spring pea agnolotti featuring both pea puree and shoots. If it’s pizza you’re mad about, Ann Kim’s Hello Pizza recreates the ultimate slice shop of her New York roots, complete with the ease of counter service. Draft micro- brews, too.

Now you’re closing in on two old-timers in another niche of Linden Hills: The Great Wall, serving Chinese since forever, and Chatterbox, same for burgers (plus board games to pacify the kids, or your inner Monopoly magnate). Before we call it a day, a shout-out to Bread & Pickle, keeping foodies alive and well without leaving the shores of Lake Harriet. Told you it was a great neighborhood!