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Afton House Inn serves as Old Village crown jewel

Swirl Wine Bar employs knowledgable wine experts including Maddee Yeazl. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)1 / 18
The Afton House Inn, Swirl Wine Bar and Current are all owned by the Lakeland residents the Jarvis family: Gordy, Dave, Dan and Kathy. (File photo)2 / 18
Complimentary wine tastings occur every Friday night starting at 6 p.m. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)3 / 18
Swirl Wine Bar sells wine from around the world. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)4 / 18
5 / 18
Swirl Wine Bar offers small plates and bites on its dinner menu. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)6 / 18
7 / 18
Swirl Wine Bar employs knowledgable wine experts including Maddee Yeazl. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)8 / 18
Complimentary wine tastings occur every Friday night starting at 6 p.m. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)9 / 18
The Afton House Inn dining room is adorned with white tableclothes and is the epitome of classic fine dining. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)10 / 18
The Afton House Inn offers a full bar featuring cocktails, beer and wine. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)11 / 18
The caesar salad is traditionally made with parmesan cheese, anchovies, olvie oil and croutons. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)12 / 18
Assistant manager Peter Tveitbakk prepares Steak Diane tableside. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)13 / 18
Assistant manager Peter Tveitbakk prepared a tableside caesar salad. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)14 / 18
The Steak Diane is flamed with brandy. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)15 / 18
The Steak Diane is flamed with brandy. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)16 / 18
The Steal Dine is made with shallots, garlic, mushrooms and a demi glaze. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)17 / 18
Afton resident Ryan Kaliher is the head chef for Afton House Inn, Swirl Wine Bar and CURRENT Restaurant. (Staff photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)18 / 18

The tiny rural town of Afton may be best known for its proximity to the St. Croix River, but it's also home to some great food and great wine.

Probably considered the crowned jewel of quaint village is the Afton House Inn, Minnesota oldest operating hotel.

It was in 1976 that Lakeland residents Gordy and Kathy Jarvis decided to embark on a new venture when they bought the Afton House Inn, located at 3291 St. Croix Trail South.

The property, which was built in 1867, had only 12 rooms and two small dining areas presented a challenge for the young couple.

"The hotel was closed up," Kathy Jarvis said, "but when we first bought it, I think we just had the vision of the restaurant and hoping we could put the rooms back into work."

The electrical work was shot, the plumbing was broken and there were leaks in the roof.

The Afton House Inn officially opened its doors in 1986.

Now, the Afton House Inn has 25 rooms, a recent addition and each room outfitted with a fireplace and jacuzzi.

"We just gradually started expanding," Jarvis said. "It's a lot more work now though."

There's more to the Afton House Inn than just a place to stay though, it's also a great place to eat.

"The vision really was to have a great place where people in the community could come together and enjoy the surroundings — a great place to eat and stay, " Jarvis said. "It's a great getaway destination."

Food for thought

The Afton House Inn present three unique dining options — fine dining, small plates and locally sourced casual fare — all prepared in house by head chef Ryan Kaliher.

On the fine dining side of things is the Afton House Inn's traditional dining room with its white table cloths and formal decor.

"It is classic fine dining," said Afton resident Kaliher said.

Items on the Afton House Inn menu include pastas, seafood and steaks.

One specialty item is an almond-crusted walleye called Goldie's Walleye, which is tamed for actress Goldie Hawn.

"When Goldie Hawn stayed here, walleye was one of her favorite items," Jarvis said, "so we prepared that specially for her and then it went on the menu."

Another special feature at the Afton House Inn is its tableside cooking option.

Two items on the menu, the caesar sale and the Steak Diane, are prepared right in front of customers on a rolling cart.

"It's kind of an older tradition, people love it," Jarvis said.

"It's good because you get to know some customers," Kaliher said, "and I get to show off a little bit."

If fine dining isn't your cup of tea, the Afton House Inn has you covered in that regard as well with Swirl Wine Bar and CURRENT Restaurant, which are both attached to the hotel.

Swirl Wine Bar and Current are operated by Dave and Dan Jarvis, Gordy and Kathy's sons.

At CURRENT Restaurant, whose decor mimics its name with dark wood and unique lighting, the menu features a lot of "locally grown, line caught, sustainable" menu options, Kaliher said, such as bison, sandwiches, salads, seafood and burgers.

At Swirl Wine Bar, customers can enjoy small plates and bites with cheese plates, flatbread and crab cakes.

Wine is obviously the star at Swirl Wine Bar with wines from around the world, which can be enjoyed in house or taken home.

Every Friday starting at 6 p.m. customers can enjoy a complimentary wine tasting of the week's featured wines.

Anyone who eats at the Afton House Inn can also stop by Swirl Wine bar after their meal for a complimentary cordial tasting.

A fairly new offering at all three restaurants are themed dinners, which pair food with either beer or wine.

"Food is starting to become more of something to do, rather than just filling your belly," Kaliher said.

Visit.aftonhouseinn.com for information on all three restaurants.

More options

Afton has a lot more to offer than just those at the Afton House Inn.

One of Afton's newest offering is the Lumberyard Pub, located at 3121 St. Croix Trail South.

The Lumberyard Pub has an eclectic menu featuring pub staples such as burgers, flatbreads, salads, sandwiches and fish and chips. A few unique items on the menu include bangers and mash, street tacos and even a fried Spam sandwich.

A large outdoor patio is a nice addition to the restaurant as well.

Visit lumberyardpubafton.com for more.

If you're looking for something more on the sweet side, look no further than Minnesota's oldest ice cream shop, Selma's Ice Cream Parlour.

Selma's offers a variety of ice cream flavors in either a dish or a cone as well as old fashioned candy,selmasparlour.com.

\With a river village like Afton, it's no wonder that dinner on a riverboat cruise is also an option with Afton-Hudson Cruise Lines, which is also owned by the Jarvis families.

Public cruises included everything from brunch cruises to wine cruises to margarita cruises to even a Hawaiian luau cruise.

All food is prepared at the Afton House Inn. Visit www.stcroixrivercruises.com for more information.

Afton has also got you covered for post dinner entertainment with unique shopping.

Jarvis said Afton is a community where everyone is excited to serve you.

"You have to have a love of the hospitality industry," Jarvis said. "You want to see people happy, you want to serve good food and have good service."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

(651) 702-0976
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