Afton House Inn Brunch

The Afton House Inn’s riverboat brunch is a rare treat.
Sampling of brunch items at Afton House Inn.

Many in the St. Croix Valley are asking themselves this month, “How do you return the unconditional love only a mother can give?” In May, the month of mothers, you could agonize over which sentimental gift shows her how much you care, or you could give her the greatest gift of all—your time.

So what else brings that ultimate comfort akin to spending time with those we cherish? Food. Oh yeah, moms like food. Such is the sentiment behind all of Afton House Inn’s brunches, so this Mother’s Day (May 8, in case you haven’t been watching the calendar), bring together the gifts of food and your company at the Afton House Inn, and show Mom just how special she is.

The Afton House has been a landmark for travelers for years, offering a warm bed and a hot meal after long hours spent wandering. Located near a set of old railroad tracks in the northernmost part of Afton, in the early 20th century, the inn became a favorite of conductors and engineers as a matter of convenience. In fact, the railroad paid for much of the construction of additional rooms to accommodate workers.

Now owned by the Jarvis family, Afton House Inn has been a part of their legacy for more than 40 years. Owners Dan and Dave Jarvis (they’re brothers) have been in the hotel business for as long as they can remember; the historic establishment was purchased in 1976 by Gordy and Kathy Jarvis, who began teaching their sons the finer points of the hospitality industry. There were beds to turn, meals to prepare and dishes aplenty to wash.

Dan Jarvis remembers many holidays in junior high and high school trying to pivot his hotel duties towards promoting his nautical leanings. “I really liked the dinner boat operation,” he says. He took every opportunity to work on the Afton Hudson Cruise Line, with the ultimate goal of becoming the captain of the dinner cruise ship—or ships, to be specific. There’s the Sweet Afton, a 40-passenger vessel designed for smaller parties; the Afton Princess is a slightly larger model, with a capacity for 50 to 110 guests. Then there’s the queen of them all: The Grand Duchess boasts two outside decks, seating for 300 guests and a dance floor perfect for parties.

They say that hard work pays off, and Jarvis will be the first to tell you that one of the biggest draws of the Mother’s Day brunch at Afton House Inn is the dinner-boat buffet, which he captains. The annual event includes a two-hour cruise, with an 11 a.m. or a 2:30 p.m. departure (for those who like to sleep in on Mom’s day). Price of admission on the ship also gets you a ticket to the buffet, which includes a variety of delicious dishes like kielbasa sausage, ham and fruit-filled pancakes for those seeking breakfast. For those in the mood for lunch, the choice is yours of juicy herb-baked chicken or crunchy tortilla-crusted tilapia. A ticket for the buffet and cruise is $37.95 per person.

This meal with a view offers unbeatable scenery of the magnificent bluffs on the Minnesota and Wisconsin shores, up and down the sparkling St. Croix.

For those seeking a more tranquil brunch environment, there are two buffets in the Current Restaurant. Sample fresh whole smoked salmon, Champagne chicken with sliced grapes or juicy beef pot roast with hearty root veggies. There’s also Atlantic salmon with a tangy lemon caper sauce or a melty three-cheese penne. Ticket price for adults for all of these delicious dishes is $26.95 per person. Kids ages 4 to10 eat for $14.95, and tots ages 3 and younger are $7.95. Brunch is served from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., so there’s plenty of time to explore the Afton House before your meal. The Jarvises note that even on non-holidays, reservations are strongly recommended.

One Can't-miss Event

Ultimate Girls' Night Out

Sometimes moms need a little "me time" with their besties. That's why, on the third Thursday of each month, Ultimate Girls' Night Out in Afton offers a great opportunity to explore the shops and dining scene of the town. Businesses and restaurants offer special promotions for the evening, with Swirl Wine Bar providing a complimentary wine tasting and Current restaurant offering discounted appetizers. Relax, socialize and enjoy what downtown Afton has to offer. All ages. Free. 5-8 p.m. Afton House Inn, 3291 S. St. Croix Trail, Afton; 651.436.8883.