Elcy’s Café owners Al and Amy Chapman stand beside — what else? — their café’s ever-active coffee machines. (Photo by Richard S. Lee)

by Mary Price Lee & Richard S. Lee

A funny thing happened on the way not to the forum but to Glenside. We got sidetracked at the junction of lunchtime and Elcy’s Café in the waiting room of the Glenside train station at 1 W. Glenside Ave. In the process, we discovered a coffeehouse-restaurant with a neat vibe that encompasses great coffee, hearty and original food, a station waiting room doubling as dining room (complete with train announcements) and a strong sense of community. Besides that, Elcy’s has an absorbing backstory.

But first, the food. Elcy’s serves breakfast, lunch and commuter take-outs from 5:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and from 7 to 2:30 on Saturdays. They are closed evenings and Sundays, the only exception being First Fridays, when many Glenside businesses stay open late.

Breakfast fare includes Scramblettes, four varieties of “scrambly omelettes” (to quote the menu): Veggirific (spinach, roasted veggies and melted provolone), Herb Garden (with tomato, spinach, basil, mushrooms and feta), Bacon Baby (which needs no description) and a classic Western. These are all served with Baker Street toast, wheat or marble rye. Tabs: $7.75 and $8.

The menu name-game really reflects Elcy’s delightfully askew thinking with its selection of breakfast sandwiches. Each starts with egg (E) and American cheese (C) on a choice of bagel, Kaiser roll, whole wheat, marble rye or croissant, and goes on from there. Prices bob from $3.75 to $5.25, and the names go this way: “EC” (the classic), “EC plus” (with tomatoes and spinach), “BEC” (did you guess with bacon?). Well, you get the idea. The others are BELT, HEC, SEC, VEC and WEC. There are also two breakfast burritos (one with hot sauce — at that hour!), plus four granola/oatmeal/yogurt options, and a panoply of bagels, pastries, scones, muffins and croissants, etc.

Elcy’s lunch menu offers a bodacious beef chili, a French onion and a daily soup, $3.75 to $5.50 depending on type and size (cup or bowl). There are four salads as well as a hummus platter ($7.50), chicken Caesar ($7.95) and Elcy’s house salad ($5). All the dressings are Elcy’s own blends, with red wine vinaigrette leading the way.

We could go on and on, since the sandwich and wraps list runs to 14, plus a daily special on the days when the staff is so moved. Our second visit was enlivened by an Arcadia, a grilled sandwich honoring the nearby university by generously combining hot turkey, bacon, tomatoes, roasted peppers and Swiss cheese with honey mustard and Dijon mayonnaise on a croissant, and just about the best $7.95 we ever spent.

Coffee — in this case, Valley Green coffee — is the segue to Elcy’s backstory. Amy and Al Chapman of Wyncote have owned Elcy’s since June, 2011. Valley Green Coffee — Al’s other business — was the choice of Elcy’s founder and previous owner, Lisa Rittler. In 2000, Rittler opened the café and created a community coffee house in the station’s inbound waiting room (later expanded to the entire ground floor).

Over the years she developed the unusual recipes, forged the dedicated staff, made “fresh, local, friendly” her motto — and made Valley Green her coffee vendor. When Rittler was ready to follow other interests, the Chapmans took over Elcy’s. Most of the café’s previous staff is still in place, and the Chapmans are now roasting all their own meats and doing more baking in-house.

Amy and Al Chapman, both in their 40s, have hospitality in their backgrounds along with a collective path that includes small business, banking and publishing. (Who doesn’t remember Lippincott’s, the onetime publishing giant headquartered on Washington Square? It was Amy’s working home in days past.)

Al gives full credit to Lisa Rittler for the creativity she brought to Elcy’s during its years under her operation. “We are standing on the shoulders of giants,” he says of the founder and the staff. “Our mission is to polish the gem.”

If you visit, Al can provide a coffee tutorial as well as several varieties of fresh-roasted Valley Green Coffee to drink or take home as whole beans or ground. (Or visit www.valleygreencoffee.com.)

By the way, where does the name Elcy’s come from? The founder, Lisa Rittler, was originally Lisa Costello. Hence, her initials L and C. Add an E up front and finish with a Y, ands voila, Elcy’s.

More information at 215-884-5600.