One could say the past six months at the Afton House Inn mark quite a sea change for Current Restaurant—literally and figuratively. For the first time since the in-hotel dining venue opened in 2011, co-owners Dan and Dave Jarvis say, the menu is changing, the décor has been completely revamped and the general food philosophy is taking a more “current” bent, all under the direction of multiple executive and sous chefs. All puns intended.
Since January, “We’ve undergone a complete cosmetic remodel, on both the inside and out. Just 200 yards from the beautiful St. Croix, the patio is completely new (other than the tables), and people are going to walk into the interior and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is not the same place,’” Dan Jarvis says. “The look and feel is just entirely new.”
Indeed, guests to town for popular events like Apple Fest and Art in the Park who happen to stop in for a quick bite or sip of wine will be enthralled at how décor and dining have tied the elements together—the lighting and colors represent earth, water and fire. “Being on the river, we wanted to tie in the natural elements, so you’ll see orange and red in our lighting, blue on the main bar, the upper deck seating area that’s more like sandstone or earth tones, a more natural, lighter space,” Dave Jarvis says. “Everything from the plates to the glassware have changed, to represent our name, ‘Current’ being really a triple-entendre—currents of the river, currents are sort of electrifying, and ‘current,’ as in, being on-trend.”
The skillset required for such an undertaking—which also includes the offerings at Swirl wine bar (the largest wine club in the Midwest at more than 700 members), the fine-dining and catering from the inn, and the two dinner boats of St. Croix cruise lines—is quite robust, and it takes a talented team of executive and sous chefs to see it through. The Jarvises, in fact, have had two executives this year.
The menu that was rolled out in June encourages a fundamental shift in the tides at Current: Guests will still find entrees in the $15 range—burgers, tacos, sandwiches—but the kitchen staff wants to encourage a new way of dining. “We want people to try new, creative bites, if you will,” Dan Jarvis says. “You don’t have to get just one, but maybe four to five of a few different small plates.” Consider, for example, the $2 avocado wontons, a fusion of flavor profiles, or the tuna poke ($3), just a beautiful dish served on watermelon radish, that tastes fresh and light as air—again, elemental.
“Art in the Park brings a lot of people to Afton,” Dave Jarvis says, “particularly on the patios, if its nice out. “We hope guests enjoy Afton in its entirety—have a small plate at Swirl and glass of wine, then head next door to Current and have lunch or dinner, visit the park, get ice cream down the road at Selma’s, check out a few of the shops (we have really neat, unique shops here), and take a walk down to the river.”
In business for the past 41 years, Afton House Inn with its 25 guest rooms, cozy fire places and Jacuzzi tubs, is a common venue for date nights, short staycations and a respite for skiers from Afton Alps in the winter. The dinner cruises have been operating out of Afton and Hudson cruise lines for the past 30 years, and host public trips monthly through October. They can also be rented for everything from weddings to corporate business to bar mitzvahs. The Jarvis brothers’ mother, Kathy, is still head of operations for the inn all of these years later.
“People around our community have found us to be a fun social place, a modern-day Cheers bar, if you will, where so many friendships are formed,” Dan Jarvis says. “It’s just a fun environment, whether it’s a family coming in for lunch or couples that go out. The social piece has been super-cool.”
“It’s really our neighbors in Woodbury, Afton and Lakeland that make the place what it is,” Dave Jarvis adds. “It’s the people.”
There’s little more refreshing as the seasons start to change than autumn-inspired fare—and this naturally inspires our drinks, too. The folks at Pier 500 agree, but note September often behaves more like summer than fall, which is why the refreshing combination of apples and a cool, copper-encased vodka drink is the recommendation of the month.
Pier 500 Shares a Trendy Cocktail Recipe
The Drink: Cran-Apple Mule
The Bar: Pier 500
The Tender: Owner Andy Kron
3 oz. ginger beer
2 oz. cranberry liqueur
2 oz. apple liqueur
2 oz. Tito’s vodka
1/2 lime, for juice
Lime slice, for garnish
Combine ginger beer (or ginger ale, if ginger beer is scarce), the liqueurs and vodka in an ice-filled Moscow Mule copper mug. Squeeze lime juice over mixture. Stir gently, and garnish with a lime slice.