Bob and Ellie Smela are celebrating 25 years
at Ellie’s 50’s Diner on North Federal Highway in Delray Beach.
Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Scott Simmons
You’d think Ellie Smela would be exhausted after 25 years of rocking around the clock at her ’50s diner in Delray Beach, but she and husband, Bob, show no sign of slowing down.
And why should they?
As Ellie’s 50’s Diner celebrates its first quarter-century, the place is packed with patrons who are only too happy to savor a bit of their youth — even if they were born long after the decade ended.
You can sense the feeling as you stroll past the pink 1957 Chevy that’s parked outside.
“It’s the happy feeling you get when you walk in the door,” Ellie Smela said.
She and Bob were headed to New England as she spoke. They were looking forward to seeing the leaves change.
But the reds, golds and oranges of autumn are not her first love.
“Pink is my favorite color,” she said.
It shows in the diner, with its rosy theme, that pink Chevy and the shell-tinged Volkswagen Beetle that ferries Ellie Smela around town.
Inside, Ellie’s boasts retro booths and chairs. Strips of pink and turquoise neon lights wrap the walls. Black and white tiles cover the floor like a giant checkerboard.
Walk in the door and you feel like a kid again.
The ’50s diner was not their first foray into food.
They started in 1982, with Ellie’s Deli on George Bush Boulevard in Delray Beach. There, they had a booming takeout business selling sandwiches and salads. Business was good enough they added three lunch trucks to sell meals at car dealerships, construction sites and warehouses across the city.
After eight years, the Smelas expanded into their current space on North Federal Highway, creating Ellie’s 50’s Diner.
They later bought the building next door, demolished it and expanded the parking lot.
In 1997, they bought land behind the restaurant and added a room to accommodate 40 additional people. The restaurant now seats 140. Later still, they added a banquet room that can accommodate 180 people for gatherings of all sorts.
“We do a beautiful New Year’s party,” Ellie Smela said. “And we’re busy with weddings. We even do ’50s-themed weddings once in a while.”
Ellie’s has moved beyond the basics of the deli to offer breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The most popular dish? The turkey dinner.
“It’s fresh off the bone, with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes,” Smela said.
It’s comfort food, just like the meatloaf, also served with those Yukon Gold potatoes.
“The patty melt also is a favorite. We grind our beef fresh every day,” she said.
It’s comfort food, or at least fare with a heart.
“Ellie’s has always been about family. We get all choked up thinking about the number of people, both guests and team members, the restaurant has touched over the years,” Ellie Smela wrote in an essay about the restaurant. “Bob and I are so thankful for our loyal guests and continued support from the community.”
That’s something that never grows old.
Ellie’s 50’s Diner is at 2410 N. Federal Highway, Delray Beach; 276-1570 or www.elliescatering.com. It’s open 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.