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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Exeter’s Wildflower Café

Mar 30, 2019 11:00AM ● By Enjoy Magazine

On the Wild Side

April 2019
Story by Natalie Caudle
Photos by Salina Marroquin

AS A FLIGHT attendant for Delta Airlines, Donna Bedwell spent 20 years traveling the world, exploring grand cities and tasting foreign cuisine. But it wasn’t until she happened upon Exeter, a hamlet community hidden within citrus orchards and built on cattle ranching, that she discovered a welcoming small town and a one-of-a-kind cafe.

After retiring from the airline industry in 2001, as a newcomer to town, Bedwell eagerly chatted with locals about all things Exeter, but the Wildflower Cafe and how it was the “best place she had ever found” was her favorite topic. During a random conversation in a grocery store parking lot, Bedwell realized she had been gabbing away to the owner of Wildflower, Jennifer Davis. Impressed by Bedwell’s passion for the local restaurant, Davis offered Bedwell a small food prepping position on Sunday mornings. Bedwell quickly found herself at home and five years later became the cafe manager. Continuing to love the business and the “magical little place,” Bedwell decided to buy Wildflower from Davis in 2008 and continues to give diners that special touch of home sweet home.  

With garden patio seating, colorful and eclectic dishes, brightly painted walls, a welcoming sunroom and a decadent assortment of homemade pastries, it is easy for customers to feel like they’ve found a country oasis. Bedwell strives to give patrons a hometown feel with a family environment. Celebrating 20 years this April, many locals visit the cafe daily, feasting on foods that are not only delicious but fitting for even the health-conscious snacker. A handful of restaurant regulars dine in twice a day, enjoying scrumptious scones and espresso for breakfast, only to return for an afternoon tea with a design-your-own sandwich or flavorful, fresh salad. 

 “It’s like a vacation when I go there,” says Marsha Maaske, owner of the Exeter Golf Course. “I like the outside seating and I always see someone I know.” Wildflower serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week, making it one of the busiest diners in town.

Exeter locals aren’t the only ones to be lured in by the quaint sandwich shop. “DineOut Along the Road,” a former lifestyle show produced by KMPH Fox 26, featured Wildflower Cafe in 2016. Host Ray O’Canto quickly became a fan of the warm hospitality, artistically painted lemon cookies and the customer-favorite California Chicken Panini. Wildflower’s delicious desserts and homemade classics contribute to O’Canto’s title of being a “hallmark of the community.” 

The staff of 11 keeps the bustling cafe in working order. Bedwell’s son, Jarod Barlow, is the manager of Wildflower and has worked at the cafe since he was 15. Bedwell enjoys the restaurant industry but recognizes the immense effort necessary to run a quality business and is thankful for the contribution her husband and children have made in maintaining the quality and integrity of the local diner. 

Groups of all sizes are welcome to host celebrations on the two large shaded patios beneath whimsical wind chimes. Last fall, the local police department enjoyed the outdoor patio during Coffee with a Cop, a meet-and-greet with the new City Administrator, Adam Ennis. Springtime brings a boom to business as travelers head to the Sierras and explore Exeter’s storybook downtown, delightful shops and unique murals, but Wildflower Cafe is consistently bustling, rain or shine. Diners can always find a cozy nook for relaxed conversation. On rainy days, the sunroom is perfect for a game of checkers and a spicy Mexican Mocha. Josie Shaw from Canterbury, England, loves Wildflower Café. “It’s like the American cafes you see in the movies. It isn’t trendy – it’s timeless.” •

Wildflower Cafe • 121 S. E St., Exeter • (559) 592-2656

Open 7 days a week • Find them on Facebook & Instagram