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Sunday Brunch: From fresh shaved roast beef to Caribbean eggs benedict, diners have plenty of options

By the time your pockets touch your chair at the Lake Elmo Inn, you can count on one thing - fresh, hot cinnamon rolls will be delivered to your table.

By the time your pockets touch your chair at the Lake Elmo Inn, you can count on one thing - fresh, hot cinnamon rolls will be delivered to your table.

That's how mornings get started at the inn, which has a lasting legacy as one of the best places in the Twin Cities metro for Sunday brunch. Rows of breakfast favorites, fresh fruits, freshly carved ham and roast beef are on the menu weekly, as is champagne. Mix in a signature specialty item and a staggering display of desserts, and it doesn't take long to realize why the inn has such a great reputation for its brunch.

In Hudson, Wis., at San Pedro Café, things are done a bit differently. Their brunch isn't buffet style, as many are. Rather, they serve up a number of absolutely dazzling entrees for brunch, and their breakfast drink selections are certainly a wonderful way to start your morning.

Among San Pedro's signature dishes in the morning is their take on eggs benedict ($12.95). They start with a jumbo lump crab cake on the bottom. To that is added a slice of caramelized gold pineapple. Then you get your poached eggs and fresh hollandaise sauce atop it, and you are facing the best eggs benedict you may ever have. The dish is served with red beans and rice.

About those drinks: the breakfast mojito, the hand-crafted bloody marys, the orange juice mimosa and the orange juice mojito are all highly recommended.

Lake Elmo Inn

Not many places these days have their own ice carvers, but that's what you can expect to find at the Lake Elmo Inn. On a recent Sunday, an enormous carving of the state of Minnesota, complete with a version of the Twins logo, marked the beginning of baseball. Below the sculpture was an oversized display of jumbo shrimp.

Fifty-pound solid chocolate rabbits were hand-crafted and served as the bookends for one of the dessert tables over Easter.

All these touches help put the inn over the top, which has led to great demand at the restaurant. Easter brunch in 2013 was sold out five months before Easter rolled around.

"At our dessert display on a Sunday brunch, there may be 30 or 40 different desserts, all made by our pastry chef," said owner and chef John Schlitz. "Since we are as busy as we are, we can afford to do that."

The specialty items always draw a crowd, too. A few times a year, Schlitz will serve fried sunfish, a big hit among diners. Other favorites are the Cajun pork loin, walleye and jumbalaya. Then there's the fried chicken, made to order.

"It's not the most gourmet thing in the world, but it's one of the most sought after items on our menu," Schlitz said. "I have to call 10 to 20 people when we do fried chicken."

Helping everything run well on Sundays is the longtime staff members at the inn. Schiltz said that Sunday brunch is the most in-demand shift for the staff, and those with the most experience are on hand. He estimated that the average tenure of those wait staff working on Sundays is between 15 and 20 years. Those staff members even can deliver made-to-order omelettes to your table.

Brunches are typically $21.95. Children ages 3 to 11 are $10.95.

Schiltz just celebrated his 30th year as owner of the inn. He started working at the restaurant as a dishwasher when he was 16 and as a cook when he was 17. He traveled the country and while back in Minnesota, he learned the restaurant was up for sale.

"It was my dream - it's the only restaurant I ever wanted to buy," he said. "I found some investors and, 30 years later, I think we have one of the premier restaurants in the area, if not the state."

San Pedro Café

Yes, it's a little wild to think that a Caribbean-themed restaurant is open in downtown Hudson. Obviously, owners there are doing something right - the restaurant has been operating for 13 years now.

"I feel as though our restaurant continues to strive to be better every day, with our attention to detail, unique and high-quality ingredients making up our signature dishes, culinary creativity, a high level of hospitality-driven service and, most of all, listening to what our customers are asking for and reacting quickly," said owner Pete Foster. "Our customers always comment on these factors as being reasons why they continue to return to the San Pedro Café."

If you can't make the trip to Hudson in time for brunch (which ends on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 1 p.m.), you ought to try the smoked duck nachos, their fresh grouper or one of their unique wood-fired pizza offerings. Among them: the Puerco Diablo, which includes braised and hand-pulled pork shoulder, mozzarella, lemon habanero aioli and tropical salsa ($11.45).

Other great options for brunch include the huevos rancheros. Two eggs are served over corn tortillas, with pico de gallo, red onions, chipotle ranchero sauce and sour cream.

Their Scotch eggs are also a hit. San Pedro chefs take two hard-boiled eggs and wrap them in sausage before baking them. They are served over potatoes and topped with fresh hollandaise sauce.

Of course, these two restaurants are only a sample of the great options that exist for Sunday brunches in the river valley.

The Hastings (Minn.) Country Club is open to the public and they have brunch from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Sundays for $13.99. Kids between 6 and 9 pay their age, and those 5 and under eat for free.

At Liberty's Restaurant and Lounge in Red Wing, Minn., all-you-can-eat pancakes are available for just $5.59 from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m.

Pier 500 in downtown Hudson has a huge brunch menu. They have the buffet-style option that includes a nice selection of breakfast favorites. In addition, diners can order off the menu, too. There's a great prime rib hash ($10) and desserts include bread pudding and house-made apple crisp.

At Current in Afton, Minn., one of the most popular items is the Rum Chata French toast, served with organic maple syrup.

One other sure-fire hit is the Chickadee Cottage Café in Lake City, Minn. There are homemade cinnamon rolls, plus fresh fruit, wild rice sausage, grilled ham, cheesy potato casserole and French bread for just $10.99.