Three years after closing, Ella’s Deli owners release cookbook

MADISON, Wis.– It took just 36 hours for Ken and Judy Balkin’s first batch of cookbooks to sell out. Three years after closing their beloved Madison restaurant, the longtime owners of Ella’s Deli have found a way to keep its legacy alive.

“Let’s let Ella’s live on in the homes of everyone,” said Ken. “There’s no reason for our recipes to disappear just because we closed.”

In the 62-page book, the Balkins have compiled dozens of family recipes, old news articles, and pictures from Ella’s 43 years in Madison, from the deli’s first home on State Street to its final location on East Washington Ave.

Paring down the deli’s lengthy menu was difficult, but regular customers will find plenty of the classics: kugel, matzah ball soup, cheesecake, chocolate cake, pound cake, and even the Balkin’s secret crouton recipe.

Judy and Ken say the community’s response to their cookbook has already been overwhelming. Not only did their first round of 250 books sell out in less than two days, the Balkins received orders from former customers now living in several dozen states, including New York and California.

“The reaction’s been outstanding,” said Ken. “But we should’ve expected that. Our customers have been with us all along. So has our staff. Ella’s wouldn’t have been what it was without them.”

Ken and Judy have already placed an order for another 400 copies of their cookbook. Right now, they’re not sure how many additional copies they’ll print after that, but are currently accepting pre-orders online.

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Judy’s been using her Facebook page to market the book. According to her page, customers can Venmo ‘Ellas Cookbook’ or send a check to P.O. Box 5266 Madison, WI 53705-5266 to secure their copy. The books cost $35, plus $5 shipping, which covers the price of printing.

“This is not a moneymaking kind of thing,” explained Ken. “We just want anyone to be able to make our food, and now they can, if they just follow the recipe.”

WATCH: One last look inside Ella’s Deli

The legacy of Ella’s Deli continues in other ways, too. Epic bought the restaurant’s famous carousel in 2018, and the new housing development going up in the deli’s former East Washington location is fittingly named, ‘Ella’s.’