One typically does not gush about chicken salad. This is not just any chicken salad. Strange as it may sound, Elegance Cafe in Paoli has some of the very best chicken salad you will come across. Ever. They also offer a wide variety of homemade breads and baked sweets.
Let’s start with the chicken salad. There are three varieties: Tarragon, Waldorf and Curry, all of which start with huge chunks of white meat chicken, some chopped celery and just enough, but not too much mayo. From there, they diverge to create three unique salads. Though the Waldorf and Tarragon are the most popular, we love the Curry best. Added to the chicken/mayo base is mild/sweet yellow curry powder, grapes and pecans. The sweet and savory pairing is brilliant! Next best is the Waldorf, with grapes, walnuts and granny smith apples. The Tarragon is your more traditional chicken & celery salad, with a tang of tarragon holding it all together.
I asked cafe manager Zia Vafa to share the secret of their great salads. He wouldn’t admit to there being any true secret, but instead offered that the combination of selecting fresh, good ingredients, pairing flavors that go well together and finally putting together a dish that is healthy and nutritious are the keys to their success. I couldn’t agree more with his assessment, but I do think the large pieces of tender, succulent white-meat chicken are what allows these salads to shine, along with the resistance to over-indulge with the mayo.
Interestingly, Vafa also told me that making chicken salad wasn’t even their idea. When his parents started the bakery, they originally focused on sweets and slowly expanded to include freshly-baked breads. Over time, repeat customers often suggested that they should offer chicken salads to go with their wonderful breads. So they did. It’s not exactly the story you’d expect behind such a great dish!
From a savory standpoint, aside from the chicken salads, Elegance does offer soups, some salads and, in the morning, breakfast sandwiches. But most of their offerings are breads and sweets. The bread is excellent — crispy on the outside and fluffy within, particularly the multi-grain loaves and rolls, though it would be nice if they offered more whole grain options (the multi-grain is clearly made from mostly white flour).
On the sweet side they offer a wide variety, from simple stuff like cookies and danishes, to more complex cakes and pastries. Compared to the breads and salads, our experience with sweets has been somewhat disappointing. The chocolate chip cookies and brownies are rather bland, without the rich chocolate flavor that makes these treats so great. The pecan cookie, on the other hand, is excellent, as the brown sugar base makes for a crispy-chewy texture and blends nicely with the roasted nuts.
Elegance Bakery & Cafe
15 Paoli Shopping Center
Paoli, PA 19301-1438