Elvis most certainly has not left the building.
He is alive and well, his music and the era he represented radiating from The Lion’s Den Ice Cream Parlor, 508 Kidwell Ave., Centreville.
A replica of a 1950s-era New York City ice cream parlor, owner Joseph Candella and his daughters, Audrey Candella and Stephanie Glowacki, have set their sights on being the place families can frequent for wholesome fun. Open since May 2018, local memorabilia on the walls gives the place an at-home, nostalgic feel.
Joseph Candella, who grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., always wanted to own an ice cream parlor, he said. Although upgraded a bit, he said he tried to stay as close as possible to the style of the places he loved as a child.
“We thought he was going to get an ice cream truck,” Audrey Candella said. “He always said he was going to get an ice cream truck when he retired and, essentially, drive around and give away all the ice cream, because that’s how my dad is.”
This is so much more than an ice cream parlor. It’s a place to gather with friends after the big game; a great lunch spot, where you can pick up a reasonably priced meal during your short 30-minute break from the office; a neighborhood after-school hangout where students can finish their homework and parents can feel their children are safe; a place you can feel good about supporting because of its charitable giving; a comfortable spot to take the family for dinner or to celebrate a birthday; and yes, a mecca for your favorite ice cream cone.
“My dad had a vision of a place, a local hangout that was safe, where the people knew you and your parents … harking back to a simpler time,” Stephanie said. “He has fond memories of growing up in that kind of community.”
Shore Monthly magazine stopped by The Lion’s Den recently to have sock-hop-era staples: a milkshake and fries. Of course, these wholesome parlor essentials are best enjoyed with good friends, so grab yours and make your way to The Lion’s Den.
Glowacki makes us The Lion’s Den’s special vanilla and chocolate milkshake, and shoestring French fries – both perfect for sharing. The milkshakes are smooth and creamy, and the classic vanilla and rich chocolate flavors are perfect accompaniments to the warm, crispy taste of the French fries.
If there’s one thing you need to know about this family-owned and -operated business, the owners are 100 percent devoted to making your experience a memorable one. So, they want to make sure each aspect of the ambiance and the food is perfect. That’s why, Audrey Candella said, they hired a trained and experienced chef to run the kitchen: Felix Gonzalez. Gonzalez has more than 20 years of local professional cooking experience.
In addition to more than 15 flavors of ice cream, milkshakes, malted milkshakes, two to four Italian ice choices, sugar-free ice cream options, and more than 12 toppings and sauces, there is a full menu of appetizers, gourmet sandwiches, sides, and salads for lunch or dinner. Specials change weekly and seasonally, and The Lion’s Den serves beer and wine, as well.
The gourmet sandwich favorites include the spicy grilled Buffalo chicken wrap, the turkey bacon panini, the short rib sandwich, and a new special: a Cuban panini. They also serve classic staples like the grilled cheese, Nathan’s hot dog, fish and chips, tuna salad sandwich, and a classic BLT and even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, when only comfort will do. All sandwiches come with The Lion’s Den’s signature fries and all items are made to order and customizable.
“Our food is put together, it’s thoughtful,” Audrey Candella said.
The Lion’s Den isn’t just about sweet treats and food, either. The family agreed they take their roles as a neighborhood ice cream parlor seriously, and that means giving back to the community, its veterans and first responders, and its children.
The restaurant is veteran-friendly, with special veteran-designated parking spaces and flags for each branch of the military proudly displayed daily. There are bike racks (that spell out the name Will – more on that later) for local kids, an outside patio, ‘50s-era music, guided crafts on the weekends (call for details), a free meeting/party room located in the back of the restaurant, and a discount of 25 percent for all active and retired veterans, as well as first responders. Queen Anne’s County employees and students will receive a 10 percent discount.
One initiative close to the family’s heart is the donation of all gratuities to the Will-Power Foundation, in memory of family member Will Glowacki. Will Glowacki lost his 10-year battle with brain cancer in 2017. All gratuities are donated monthly to the foundation, which is set to support St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, with a mission to end pediatric cancer. Find more information or make your tax-deductible donation at Will-Power.org. The family also participates in local fundraisers, as well.
“We want the kids, the families to have a wholesome, fun place to come … a home away from home,” Stephanie Glowacki said. “To me, the best part of working here is the people and the stories. It’s the little baby who’s come in and had her first taste of ice cream; the little one who got a good report card; it’s the kids who come back from college … a place to meet and catch up. So, I hope that’s the vibe you get when you come in.”
“We’re a great deal more than an ice cream parlor,” Joseph Candella said.