Alternating Current

The sons of the owners of the historic Afton House Inn decided the 45-year-old Catfish Saloon needed to go. In its place, they put the Current Restaurant. (Get it? The St. Croix is right outside.) We made reservations for a Saturday night, then waited 20 minutes to be seated. While waiting, we looked around hungrily: the restaurant was renovated, yet it still feels far from chic. The very-young servers wore jeans and Current T-shirts. The crowd was made up of boaters who had just docked and people who dressed like boaters who had just docked.

Seated, at last, we ordered—then waited 45 minutes to get our appetizers. Even when a restaurant is slammed, that long of a delay is not acceptable. So it’s a good thing the spicy chicken drops were well worth the wait. The chicken was extremely tender and juicy, smothered in a sriracha sauce that was spicy, creamy, and addictive. The fondue looked better than it tasted: we dipped apples and grass-fed beef tips in the runny-but-yummy sauce of Eichten’s gouda from Center City.

The Current’s head chef, Marc Paavola, veteran of Porter & Frye and Sea Change, brings a noteworthy flair to the dishes. His apricot-and-apple salad was gorgeous, delicious, and quite shareable, with a lovely five-herb vinaigrette dressing.

The entrees were more hit and miss. Skip the Tahitian BBQ ribs—they were dry and came with a house-made guava glaze that didn’t taste a thing like guava. The “Best Vegetarian Sandwich Ever!” was nothing but bland. However, there were hits: I loved the linguini and mushroom dish. The grilled wild mushrooms, fresh spinach, and slowly melting Wisconsin Gorgonzola amounted to a plate of flavorful perfection. The “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” is aptly named—this is a champion. The chicken is pan-seared, then finished in the oven with truffle oil. It’s crispy, juicy, earthy, and all-over excellent.

And that’s how I came to think of the Current as the “alternating Current”: much of what’s offered is good and at a higher level than what casual diners in Afton have previously been offered. But until the other items are amped up, the Current lacks meaningful power.

Current Restaurant, 3291 St. Croix Trail S., Afton, 651-436-8883, currentrestaurant.com

Jason Derusha is a reporter for WCCO-TV.

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