Six weeks ago, the Red Clay Cafe opened its doors in Pennsbury Township at 880 Baltimore Pike, just east of Kennett Square, toward Chadds Ford, in front of and adjacent to Brandywine River Antiques and Holly Peters Oriental Rugs.Located in the little one-story building in front of the carpet and antique stores, with its "Espresso" banner waving in the wind, the Red Clay Cafe is easy to spot on the right but comes up fast on Route 1 about two miles from Longwood.

Owner-manager Meryle Voytilla (formerly manager of Harrington's) said, "The building is 150 years old - it used to be a chicken processing plant. We cleaned it up, though. a lot."

Really, the Cafe is pristine, and Voytilla has furnished it in traditional cafe style, particularly the main counter and display case, which seem to have authentic patinas from years of service.

More proud than she is of the building and its furnishings, Voytilla is excited about the quality of the food and beverages she serves.

"Because of the wide range of coffees and teas we offer, we ensure that we start with the best water. Our water softening system is quite high-tech," she said.

In addition, freshness is paramount at the Red Clay Cafe. Voytilla roasts her own fresh turkey, bakes her scones on-site from hand-made ready-to-bake dough, and makes her chicken and egg salads fresh daily.

Already, the Red Clay Cafe has achieved a local reputation for several items, including coffee ice cubes. Voytilla's assistant, Tammy, said, "If regular ice cubes are used in iced coffee, the beverage becomes watered down. So, we use coffee ice cubes; people love them."

And the baked-on-the-premises, sugar crusted, fruit-filled scones - containing fresh ingredients like real cherries - are a huge hit. Voytilla said, "They are gone by 9 a.m.; don't be late."

The Red Clay Cafe is basically a breakfast and lunch establishment that also fills the coffee void left when Chadds Ford's Wawa closed. Although its hours are limited - 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends - the menu seems unlimited.

Take a salad, for example: Roasted vegetables (eggplant, peppers, zucchini, and onion) and Parmigiano shavings served on a bed of fresh spinach with a freshly baked cafe roll. The menu also offers seven different sandwiches, soup of the day, and quiches served with fresh spinach or fruit salad. The list of coffees goes on and on - drip, latte, mocha, cappuccino, au lait - and every flavor the palette can imagine is offered. All this at prices that could be from the 20th Century - so long ago.

Ideally situated on Route 1, convenient for morning commuters into Philadelphia or at least those traveling east from Kennett Square, the Red Clay Cafe could easily become habit-forming for those with a taste for hot coffee, a morning scone, or even scrambled eggs.

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