Ratings: 34 | Reviews: 27 | Display Reviews Only:
3.98/5 rDev -0.5%
Very fun place. Kinda divey, but very large. Great German food and beer selection. It's about the whole experience. The music, the beer, the food, the boot. It's definitely a big draw.
That all being said, I still can't put my finger on exactly how I feel about the place. Almost like they found a formula that works and now it's just on cruise control. That might be part of what makes it so appealing as well. Who knows? Oh well, I am still going to frequent it every time I am in Madison, but there are a dozen other bars that I would rank well above it.
10-13-2010 20:30:04 | More by Czap
2/5 rDev -50%
I ate here on 21 March of 2010 with some friends. First of all the beer was flat. Strike 1. Next the food was dry and tasteless and my wife's spaetzle was cold. We've had good German food before so I know this is not normal. Strike 2. After looking at the high prices again and noticing that the restaurant has not been cleaned in say 10 years we decided never to return. Strike 3. Done.
The only reason this place gets business is due to the fact that it's in the same building as Hotel Ruby Marie, and for the locals there is the boot. Still, I've had more than a couple less than memorable experiences at the Essen Haus and in March it was definitely the last. It's too bad because with a little hard work, cleaning, and a new kitchen staff it would be a great place to go. I expect to see this restaurant on Kitchen Nightmares in the near future.
05-25-2010 18:16:05 | More by Yojimbo1941
4.13/5 rDev +3.3%
The Essen Haus is really quite a place. Quite authentic looking, but the polka band really puts this place over the top. Additionally, there are boots to be had, with steins and other german beer paraphernalia all of the place.
While the vibe is incredible, the quality just doesn't quite match it. Going exclusively for the beer, I'd say yes 100%, but the whole ensemble doesn't come together as well as it looks.
Service was fairly good considering how absurdly busy they were when I last went. We were a little disappointed because about 160 frat guys were there and had privilege to all the boots for the night.
Selection was good. I had a delicious kostritzer schwarzbier, but there were plenty of other delicious German offerings there on the list.
I haven't actually gone and sat at the bar area, which is unfortunate, but hopefully soon to be rectified.
I would not attend this place for the food alone. Go with some friends and kick back some bräus!
04-12-2010 18:14:48 | More by AmberMan22
3.93/5 rDev -1.8%
Stopped in here with the girlfriend to get a couple liters of Dinkelacker Dark on tap, as I was told a few years ago that it was one of the few places in the state that has it. Unfortunately they didn't at this time. Atmosphere was great, staff dressed in lederhosen and what not. Didn't try too hard to be a German Beer Hall like some places, was just rough enough to be realistic. Beer menu was solid, but had hoped they had more Schneider or Ayinger varieties there then what they did. Nice place overall.
12-14-2009 16:35:20 | More by bonk0076
4.33/5 rDev +8.3%
Friday night preparty prior to Madison's Great Taste of the Midwest and Bell's had their Bell's ON (tap) found some amazing beers seldom released outside of Kalamazoo, MI
Easy to locate downtown location. Good value. Did not eat but what I saw looked OK
Place was full with beer fest folks but they were handling the load nicely. We were concentraiting of the special release Bell's and ignored bottles and other stuff on tap.
Essen Haus is connected to Come Right In, I enjoyed my last Bells a Bretty Rye beer on the sidewalk and eventually next door at the Come Right INN.
08-11-2009 17:08:01 | More by karst
4.28/5 rDev +7%
Wonderful downtown location. Beer garden open until dusk. Prices are are as reasonable as they are everywhere else downtown.
This was our first stop on our quasi-beertour of Madison. The inside is dark and bricky. I've only been to facimile German bars--including those in Amana which I've been told are *quite* authentic. That having been said, this place seemed nice and authentic to me. Only, it wasn't the kind of authenticity that takes itself too seriously. The guys were wearing Lederhosen but jokingly, over T-shirts. The girls were wearing German dress, too, but they looked cute, not gimmicky. I didn't even realize the bartender was dressed up, actually, since the outfit looked so nice. And the waitstaff was the tops.
Very wide tap selection, no so much for bottles. There were a couple of fairly rare beers on tap, but as things were just getting started I decided to keep it easy and go with a Bitburger.
Wisconsin's laxity with liquor laws is really refreshing. No, it's not like they don't ID you or anything like that. But little stuff--stuff that authorities in other states are senselessly strict about--they let go. Essen Haus is connected to Come Right In, and they let you take beer from one place into another. On top of that, there was no one out patroling the beer garden to make sure that you didn't stray more than X amount of yards from the premises. Little stuff like that makes for a greatly relaxed atmosphere.
04-06-2008 15:32:24 | More by mynie
3.38/5 rDev -15.5%
I am going to rate my overall experience at Essenhaus, which is less than flattering, although beer-wise, it's an excellent find.
My first time here, we sat and sat and were never even approached by the waitstaff. 15 minutes later, we left.
My second time, we were treated warmly. The atmosphere was decent, and the oompah music kicked off halfway through the meal. The waitstaff this time did a stellar job. The beer selection is excellent, and it is enjoyable to drink from a boot, but be prepared to sign a waiver--those things aren't cheap if you break one, and they are tippy! The glassware goes beyond the boots, and you can catch a nice glimpse of window displays if you are walking the sidewalk on the Lake Monona side. It really lures you in. The decor is also charming, and a welcome respite for the thirsty.
I thought my first impressions of the place were unfounded, and based on a unique, atypical, and unfortunate experience...and then they brought out the food. I know what traditional German food tastes like, and although it's not a culture known for its haute cuisine, it's infinitely better than what the cooks tried to push over on us. The sausage barely rivaled those of my high school cafeteria, and the spatzle was already starting to get cold when it arrived. The highlights of the meal were the delicious beers, which washed the food down and made it taste better as I drank my way toward the insole, and the mustard, which spiced up the bland flavor between sips. Why didn't I put it aside? I was famished.
The food was quite pricey for its quality. I ate it anyway; I'll eat almost anything, but I still know what constitutes good food. If all meat tasted this way, I would turn vegetarian tomorrow with no regrets. In all fairness, I will return here because it is unique and charming, and the beer selection is good, which is supposed to be the primary focus of this review.
It pains me to bash what is actually a beerlover's gem, but we got started off on the wrong foot. I went in expecting a decent restaurant with a modest beer selection, but found a great bar with a poor dinner menu. It is one of four local bars I like to bring my visiting friends to, and it should remain just that...a bar, and not a restaurant. It's also a decent place to catch Badger games on the telly if you can't make it to Camp Randall.
01-25-2008 22:31:08 | More by BoitSansSoif
3.9/5 rDev -2.5%
Great atmosphere and beer. There is a polka band playing most nights. Many good German beers on tap, including Franziskaner Hefe and Dunkel, Spaten Optimator, and Paulaner Salvator. Warm pretzels with mustard and horseradish for 50 cents a piece. Service can be a little slow, but not really a big deal. Go next door to the Comeback Inn for a pretty good selection on tap and a huge selection of bottles. Food is good, but can be a bit expensive. I usually go for the Friday all you can eat fish fry. Be sure to go with a and try a boot.
01-05-2008 22:44:41 | More by lowbrau
4.18/5 rDev +4.5%
Beers: A nice selection of German beers, somewhere around 12 beers on tap, give or take a few. A nice range in German styles, including a few less common styles, including Alts and Munich Helles.
Food: I've sampled 4 different German dishes on different occasions. Every time the food was delicious, portions are quite generous. I really enjoy the red cabbage as a side. I would recommend going for a German dish instead of an American item if you visit.
Service: Service is typically prompt. Especially for meals. Later in the evenings when the place gets packed, it can be a bit spotty, but nothing over the line.
Atmosphere: Very good atmosphere. Often have live German music from one guy to a full polka band. During weekend evenings lots of people drinking a lot of boots and dancing to the polka band. During weekday evenings, a bit more subdued, no problem getting a table, but not too subdued.
Overall a great place to get impossible to find German drafts and German food. Definately recommend. If you prefer more quiet go during the week, less rowdy, for a crazy busy atmosphere, with lots of drinking go on the weekend. If you're there past 11pm on the weekend, the only draw back is the typical student who has too many boots and litters the bathroom with his weinerschientzel.
EDIT: I see a lot of people definately not recommending the food and that was recommended by people who worked there. I've eaten there 4 times and plan on going back. I felt it was good food, maybe some people don't care for German food. I'm still breathing so I guess I'll take my chances again with the cleanliness issue some talk about.
03-30-2007 21:31:10 | More by uwmgdman
4.06/5 rDev +1.5%
Nice place, sits right across from the lake. Inside is about as German as you're going to find in America. There are similar places, and they may be more German, but this is pretty damn good, I'd say. Quality of the beer was fresh. It was nice to have a fresh Helles again, they're hard to come by in America. Service was pretty good, they did their best despite being so busy. The effort is what counts. Selection wasn't huge for on-tap selections, but there was enough to keep the palate happy, and with limited offerings they're able to keep fresher things available. I didn't try any food, but it appeared to be authentic German cuisine, perhaps I'll give it a try next time. Prices were a little on the high side for the area, but it's a place I enjoy visiting when I'm in town.
03-29-2007 22:10:35 | More by badbeer
Essen Haus in Madison, WI
90 out of 100 based on 34 ratings.