Ella’s Deli & Ice Cream Parlor: Big Time, Big Top Fun
“Wonderful,” “magical,” “family favorite,” “whimsical,” and “sensory overload,” are all words other people have used to describe Ella’s Deli & Ice Cream Parlor in Madison, WI. Located at 2902 East Washington Ave, it’s a hop-skip-and-a-jump from where Highway 30 spills out into stop and go traffic. You can’t miss it. Really, it’s the only circus themed building with a giant, functional, carousel for miles around.
The cliché “we’re regulars” is a bit of an understatement for our family. Whenever someone comes to visit from out-of-town, Ellas is a mandatory stop on our makeshift Madison tour. A friend of ours introduced my husband and I to Ella’s before kids and we were hooked even then (now it’s just easier to point obnoxiously at all of the things flying and moving around the room without seeming like you’ve lost your mind).
Ella’s is a hard place to describe in words. I’ve agonized over this review for some time, as Dr. Seuss himself probably would have had to make up a word or two to do it justice. You can come for the kosher deli, the malt shop, or to ride the carousel. You can eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner or just order a container of home-made chicken soup to go. The tables are interactive and for a dime, you can ride the mechanical pony on the way to the bathroom. Conversations as a family are almost impossible at Ella’s. Either you are all quietly nibbling on your food (drawing out the meal and taking it all in), or the kids are randomly shrieking every time a plaster of Paris Bart Simpson flies over their heads. The electric bill must be a large line item on the monthly budget.
Everything is extreme at Ella’s, including the kids menu. With choices ranging from Kid’s Kugel, to Sloppy Joe’s, to Fish and Fries, there’s something for every appetite. Even babies are catered to with the “very little of each” meal (apple sauce, yogurt, mandarin oranges, turkey, cheese, crackers, jelly, peas, and carrots for $1.95). Thirty years ago I, personally, would have ordered the Teddy Bear French Toast with a Humpty Dumpty Kids Sunday chaser. Thankfully the variety is just as wide on the regular (adult) meal.
Now residents of the Madison area, we purchased a seasonal coupon book as our own Christmas present last year. Included were two unlimited ride bands for the carousel and freebies for blue drinks, coffee, and ice cream cones. Kids eat free on Monday and Tuesday nights and new lunch specials include $5 meals. Check the website for hours, special events, and promotions like the Kids Birthday Club. We’ve never had to wait for a table at Ella’s, but if your party is over eight people or more, I’d recommend calling ahead. And if you’re in a hurry, Ella’s should wait until you have time to really appreciate the ambiance as much as the meal.