Taps: / Bottles:
Cask: N / Beer-to-Go: N
Ratings: 33 | Reviews: 27 | Display Reviews Only:
3.65/5 rDev -9%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 2 | $$
The festive atmosphere to the Essen Haus is infectious.
I was very happy at the Come Back Inn next door, with their excellent selection of beer. When I heard there were TWO dopplebocks (both Salvator and Optimator) on tap on the other side of that magical swinging door, where hootin and hollerin and cheering were coming from, I was lured in to the promise of dark sweet German beer and satisfying German food.
I got the beer. It was great.
So was the atmosphere. Very festive, reminiscent of the beer halls of Munich (when they are filled with drunken American tourists). But, more importantly, all ages were represented here and everyone was having a great time.
The food, however, was horrible. The roulades were supposed to be thin steak and bacon wrapped around sausage meat and pickle. Bacon around sausage. How can you do wrong? Well, they found a way. They came out looking like two little turds and someone forgot to cover them in sauce. The spaetzle was dry and flavorless. The French Onion soup was dirty dish water with onions.
On the bright side the Prime Rib was ok, and so was the liver dumpling soup. Even though the waitress did not bring the au jus with the prime rib (or maybe they don't serve it that way) we kept the livery broth to dip it in and that gave it some nice flavor (if you like liver, which I do).
So listen to DaPeculier Dane. Don't eat here. I was suckered in my the German ambience (under the influence of two doppelbocks :)
But of you love German beer and atmosphere, do DRINK here. And next store. A great stop in a Madison beer tour.
10-15-2006 01:36:55 | More by 4thoseabout2bock
4.5/5 rDev +12.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5 | $
The Essenhaus is a top beer bar and a must for anyone traveling to Madison. This place is second on my list (after the Memorial Union Terrace) of places to take friends from out of town. The Essenhaus features just about any German beer you could think of on tap! The specials are great. Half liters are only something like $2.50 during happy hour and boots (normally $16) are only ten bucks on Thursdays. Polka bands play there regularly. The waitstaff are great and wear traditional Bavarian garb. Its kitchy, dirty, and very Wisconsin. Their bottle selection is great too, plenty of good American crafts and the whole Lindemans line from Belgium. Better yet, the Essenhaus has a door to the Up North Bar on its SE wall and a door to the impressive Come Back Inn on its NW wall. If you dont care for German beer and cant find the craft you like at Essenhaus, just walk over to the Comeback, grab a pint, and carry it back over to the Essenhaus.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not rating the food because I dont want to bring down this bars score. For me this is a beer bar and I just ignore the whole restaurant part. Now this is very important dont eat here. Dont ask why. You do not want to know. Just, what ever you do, dont eat here. Dont even think about it. Avoid the Come Backs food too. Seriously!
04-03-2006 17:04:06 | More by DaPeculierDane
4.6/5 rDev +14.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 1 | $$
Wir gehen zum Essenhaus! Was a common battlecry for thursday nights, when a boot (2L) of beer was available for a mere $10, and 1/2L's were on sale for three (note: this has changed recently. Most likely after the looting that occured during the weekend graduation for the class of '05). The waitstaff is ever quick to please and the polka band blares away singing "I don't wan-her, you can have her, she's too fat for me, oh, she's to fat for me." Truly a pleasant germanic atmosphere. Kitchy as hell, but surprisingly authentic within that. Good beers, good times, good friends, what more could you want?
Oh, yeah, food. Avoid it at all costs. Overpriced and it tastes like poison.
Avoid the bathrooms too, if possible. Late in the night they get rather, uhhh, messy.
03-05-2006 20:38:33 | More by shbobdb
4.13/5 rDev +3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | $$
Live Polka, waitstaff in lederhosen, multiple German brews. Wisconsin's German tradition runs deep in this place. On any given night the clientele runs from 21 yrs. old to old german faces that are practically dead. Most tables are overflowing with patrons and at least one 2-liter glass boot going around (Hint: Two 1-liter boots go around much faster). As tradition goes, the person after the one who finishes the boot has to buy the next one. A good game to play if you are a broke college kid and have your drinking pants on.
If a 2-liter boot seems a little on the sissy side for you, they also offer a 5-liter ceramic stein (courtesy of Spaten) to test your arm strength. Only my friend Big Joe can lift this thing without two hands and physical/moral support. I have never been to a place that is more condusive to Polka-ing(?) and partying at the same time. The truth is, I can only remember leaving this place twice in six years.
A can't miss for anyone with a shirt and shoes.
07-22-2005 16:25:07 | More by barrelman
3.78/5 rDev -5.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3 | $$
Best selections of tap German beer in Madison (and no St Pauly girl). The ceiling is lined with over 2000 mugs from customers who joined their mug club (I gather that you get your own mug, but it stays there for display). The walls are lined with steins and other brewania I went there on a Friday night where there was a German band playing, which was neat, but a little loud and made it almost impossible to hold a conversation if you were on that end of the building. Fortunately this place is a bit of a walk from state street so I have never seen it become extremely crowded to a point that it is annoying (which is a common occurrence at other bars).
07-17-2005 22:04:04 | More by circuitmonkey
3.88/5 rDev -3.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 3 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5
Tourist bar? College bar? German beer bar? Yes, it's all here. There's no place quite like the Essen Haus... a gigantic beer-guzzling rathskellar in Madison. Because it's right off the highway and near the state capital, this place draws a lot of businesspersons for after-work conventions. Yet on any weeknight, expect to see a group of college revelers passing "pitchers," which are actually just glass boots. Also, you'll just see a lot of visitors to Madison go there because of its reputation.
Unfortunately, I've known a lot of friends who have worked here and told me horror stories. I don't believe in trashing someone's reputation, but virtually all of my friends who have worked here told me NOT TO EAT there. That's pretty disturbing... apparently they have some cleanliness and health inspection issues.
That being said, this place definitely has some redeeming qualities. Take, for instance, the beer selection. You'll have a superb selection of German imports here year-round, and in the spring, look for the dopplebocks. In the fall, look for the Oktoberfests.
The atmosphere is awesome. It's basically a gigantic beer hall. On any given night, look for live oompah music. It's pretty insane, they play classics like "roll out the barrel" while everyone guzzles down beer in glass boots.
Basically, just go there and don't eat the food.
11-18-2004 03:57:28 | More by Sixpoint
4.55/5 rDev +13.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 3.5
For a truly great selection of fine German beers on tap, there can't be too many places in the U.S. that can top the Essen Haus. Combine that with their attempts to replicate an old German beer hall through the selection of food and the staff's attire, and this is a must stop on any to-do list if you're in the area. When the polka band gets warmed-up and after the crowd has had a few boots of Spaten's Optimator, it's hard to imagine the tents of Munich being any more fun. The first year or so that I lived in Madison, I thought it was quaint and an interesting place, but I could take it or leave it. As time passes, however, each year I appreciate this place a little more and will miss it greatly when I have to move in the near future. From the Franziskaner wheat, to Dab, to the Spaten beers, it's always a delight to get a taste of great German brews.
Food is OK and occasionally excellent, but I wouldn't recommend it purely on the aspects of its German cuisine. The staff is friendly, but don't always seem to know as much as you would expect or hope about the beers on tap.
09-26-2004 00:25:40 | More by longarm
4/5 rDev -0.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4.5
You gotta love the ever changing selection of tap beers here. And the Comeback Inn (which you can go to from the side door in the Essen Haus) has still more options.
It is all served in very interesting glassware. Don't get any ideas...
The Boot Game is a good experience, but you may not be able to drive for days after playing. And if you're going to play, play it right.
note: If you are under 35, bring your ID, credit cards, social security card, birth certificate, library card, visa, passport, and a note from your mother. Otherwise, you may not get in.
03-30-2004 18:48:34 | More by GIVEMEBACKMYSON
3.73/5 rDev -7%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5
I am putting together a couple of trips to the Essen Haus for the review.
I was there once in the late afternoon/early evening for dinner and some beers and found the dopplebocks and food excellent. There was hardly anyone there and finding a table was quick and simple. I was dining with a person who knew German food and he said it was very good. The beer selection seemed good as well. Our server was a young girl in traditional garb and she was a little better than average.
Contrast that to my next visit. The place was smoky and getting in the door was difficult. We were only there for the beer so I selected a Maibock that was on the beer menu and a friend had just ordered and said was very good. His was crystal clear and tasty so I ordered one. Mine came across the bar cloudy and very sour yet had enough characteristics of his beer to let us know it was either another bad keg or another bad tap, or the dregs. The bad beer combined with the loud and smoky atmosphere did not make this visit pleasant at all.
The beer menu on my second visit was still very good, but I will not visit the Essen Haus again if it is crowded.
11-28-2003 17:59:54 | More by GCBrewingCo
4.63/5 rDev +15.5%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 5 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4.5
Worth the stop when in Madison. Located near the main drag. HWY 151 to the left. Authentic German all the way; atmosphere, uniforms, beer, food. The soft pretzels start it off just right. Alot of beer to choose from. This is a nice place to go. Not open for lunch. But you can go to the Come Back Inn which is so adjacent that I wonder if it is owned by the same people.
07-04-2003 21:49:41 | More by daledeee
Essen Haus in Madison, WI
90 out of 100 based on 33 ratings.