Tillie’s in Short Hills

Tillie’s, owned by Wirt and Karen Cook, offers farm-to-table American dishes such as shrimp and grits, cassoulet and chicken liver pate.

Tillie’s, owned by Wirt and Karen Cook, offers farm-to-table American dishes, such as shrimp and grits, cassoulet, chicken-liver pate, Shepherd’s pie and mocha-icebox cake with mascarpone and chocolate chip cookies. Put this newly opened restaurant on your go-to list. What we tried was excellent.

The 50-seat casual, storefront restaurant has wooden floors and tables, dishcloth napkins and a long banquette against one wall with pillows to add to your comfort. Mirrors decorate the wall, while mismatched bread plates and crystal chandeliers add a whimsical touch.

When seated warm organic, course-textured cornbread paired with honey butter, both made in house, are presented in a silver bucket. It was so good that at the end of the meal, although I was uncomfortably full, I took the last piece and smeared it with the addictive honey butter. We hope this bread never comes off the menu.

The onion soup was also memorable. Served in a large bowl with multi-shaped onions (chunks, slivers and even whole cipollini), the rich short-rib/bourbon broth and topping of Gruyere made this a spectacular dish. Also consider ordering the charred and tender slab bacon, which sits atop a burnt-onion, caraway-mustard coleslaw presented on a wooden board; we fought over the last piece. Mashed root vegetables with a spicy kick and kale accompanied the extremely voluptuous short ribs that fell apart with the touch of a fork. Chicken can be a ho-hum dish. Here a half of an Amish chicken soars with flavor, is juicy and served on the bone surrounded by orange and purple heirloom carrots, farro and shaved Brussels sprouts.

If offered, Key lime pie is a favorite and usually our dessert of choice. At Tillie’s, a citrus key lime pie with a wonderfully thick graham cracker crust, tart filling and homemade whipped cream was a most delicious ending to our meal. Other enticing options were the previously mentioned icebox cake, chocolate peanut pie and oatmeal cranberry cookies.

Executive chef Wirt Cook, a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE), has previously worked at Alex Guarnaschelli’s restaurants (Butter and The Darby) and The Waverly Inn all in NYC and as well as in New Orleans and other venues. Tillie is his grandmother.

Open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 PM.

519 Millburn Avenue
Short Hills

Bacon with burnt onion caraway mustard coleslaw

Key lime pie
Photos courtesy of Lowell Saferstein

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