By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This week the Twin Cities food community honored a dozen restaurants and chefs with the Charlie Awards.

And the restaurant taking top honors is Tilia in Linden Hills, where Chef Steven Brown has created a huge success.

Tilia is everything I want a restaurant to be. Great vibe. Beautiful design. And incredible food.

Chef Steven Brown and his partner Jorg Pierach opened Tilia in March of 2011.

“I think the magic of this space are the people of this community,” Brown said. “We love being in this neighborhood and we struck a chord.”

The Star Tribune, Minnesota Monthly, and Metro promptly named it best of the year.

“I wanted an environment that was very casual and approachable,” Brown said. “The food’s intelligently sourced and we deliver good service along with that. It is what everybody wants to do. I think the hard part is probably doing it.”

It’s a neighborhood restaurant that can turn out a delicious bacon cheeseburger, or great bistro food, like the mussels with pumpkin and mushrooms.

And the kitchen does top-notch fine dining.

Brown was at the leading edge of molecular gastronomy, the burger trend, and now leading the small, wonderful, affordable neighborhood restaurant trend.

“We want food to be front and center, but we want people to feel part of the neighborhood,” Brown said.

Children’s meals are just $3.

Tilia doesn’t take reservations, after a year in business, people are still waiting at the bar to get a taste.

“I’m pretty happy,” Brown said. “We’re fortunate. Very fortunate indeed.”

Tilia is having a T-shirt design contest right now, and if you come up with the winner you get a chef’s dinner for six.

Jason DeRusha