I can’t pass up the opportunity for an ice cream adventure—especially if it involves a side order of kitsch. And for Madison’s Ella’s Deli and Ice Cream Parlor, that side is a heaping, sugar-coated helping.
In 1976 Ella Hirschfeld opened a second location of her downtown kosher-style deli and restaurant on East Washington Avenue. Today Ella’s Deli is an animatronic haven where every table has some animated display and sensory overload rules supreme. We only spent about 15 minutes inside the small space, but I spent the entire time with my eyes darting and head spinning trying to take it all in. Tightrope-riding monkeys balanced high over the ice cream counter, trains hummed beneath diners tables, and a five-piece band periodically whirred to life.
It was Sunday afternoon so naturally the deli was full of sticky, screaming children. Instead of testing out the pastrami (which I’m sure is incredible) we opted for a chocolate shake from the ice cream counter and a $1 ride on Ella’s 1927 Parker Carousel. Built in Leavenworth, Kansas, the carousel called an amusement park in North Tonawonda, New York home for 20 years before it found its way to Wisconsin.
After a sugar fix and a quick spin on Wisconsin Badgers-themed filly, we were back on the road, with visions of automated sugar plums dancing in our heads.
Ella’s Deli and Ice Cream Parlor, 2902 East Washington Avenue in Madison, Wisconsin