Monday, July 18, 2011

Ella's Deli in Madison, Wisconsin

On the east end of Madison, not far from Interstate 90, is Ella's Deli. Since 1976, it's been serving kosher-style foods (and ice cream) in an atmosphere that's over-the-top enough to get it listed on Roadside America.

Ella's Deli exterior, circus-like lettering, with a carousel in the background
The outdoor carousel is nice, but the thing I wanted to see was the animatronic characters inside the building.

Papiere mache figure of Batman flying on wires near the ceiling
I was seated under Batman's flight path, with the Simpsons as spectators, rotating inside half a golf ball.

Papiere mache figure of Harry Potter on a broom, flying on wires near the ceiling
Harry Potter flies past the cashiering station.

Nicely made bright Yellow Submarine in papiere mache
The Yellow Submarine made its way past Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.

Table transparent top and human and animal cartoons beneath, with dark metal shavings clumped like hair
Every table had a different collection of toys or an interactive game. Our table was a a giant "wooly willy" toy. The white thing that looks like a tampon is the magnetic wand used to move the metal shavings around under the surface.

Many of the characters in the restaurant are familiar from popular culture, but the ones I liked best were just oddities that came out of the sculptor's head:

Papiere mache hot dog and Heinz ketchup bottle
Animatronic, anthropomorphized food...

Bandbox structure with dolls inside it with instruments
...big bands, with all their instruments...

Family of feet, each with a face on the sole
...and best of all, this family of feet with faces. (Shudder.)

Ella's is a bit like the overwhelming House on the Rock -- only on a scale that feels human and fun, instead of nauseating. Plus there's matzo ball soup.


Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I was there years ago, before all this characters, I think. Had to laugh... I'm so glad you find House on the Rock nauseating. I kept finding people who thought it was wonderful. Finally I stopped admitting I'd ever been there.

Ms Sparrow said...

I visit Ella's whenever I'm in Madison. I've taken grandkids there but they don't seem nearly as delighted as I am with the place.
I detested--loathed even--House on the Rock! It was like being in a nightmare. I would never go there again!