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Essen Haus

Not Rated.
Essen HausEssen Haus
BA SCORE
90
outstanding

38 Ratings
Ratings: 38
Reviews: 27
rAvg: 4
pDev: 11.75%
Taps: 0
Bottles: 0
Cask: N
Beer-to-Go: N
[ Bar, Eatery ]

514 E Wilson St
Madison, Wisconsin, 53703
United States
phone: (608) 255-4674

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @essenmadison

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: brakspear)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 38 | Reviews: 27 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Yojimbo1941
2/5  rDev -50%

Downright horrible.

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.

Yojimbo1941, May 25, 2010
Photo of ms333
3.25/5  rDev -18.8%

ms333, Oct 13, 2013
Photo of BoitSansSoif
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.

BoitSansSoif, Jan 25, 2008
Photo of crossovert
3.56/5  rDev -11%

Was at the biergarten here for a brief bit during a great taste pre-party. The beer was Revolution and it was only 2 bucks a half liter. In retrospect I should have stayed there all night and sucked the tap of Maerzen dry.

Didn't go in, or eat. Just slugged a beer listening to the German band they had. I liked the atmosphere, not as authentic as it should be but fun in a sense. Just wish it was always 2$ half liter night there. Saw the taplist for normal hours and it is just a decent mishmash of German beers.

crossovert, Aug 14, 2012
Photo of 4thoseabout2bock
3.65/5  rDev -8.8%

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.

4thoseabout2bock, Oct 15, 2006
Photo of GCBrewingCo
3.73/5  rDev -6.8%

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.

GCBrewingCo, Nov 28, 2003
Photo of Gotti311
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%

Gotti311, Jun 17, 2014
Photo of bigred89
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%

bigred89, Aug 23, 2014
Photo of Todd
3.75/5  rDev -6.3%

Todd, Friday at 08:45 PM
Photo of circuitmonkey
3.78/5  rDev -5.5%

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).

circuitmonkey, Jul 17, 2005
Photo of Sixpoint
3.88/5  rDev -3%

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.

Sixpoint, Nov 18, 2004
Photo of lowbrau
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.

lowbrau, Jan 05, 2008
Photo of bonk0076
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.

bonk0076, Dec 14, 2009
Photo of Czap
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.

Czap, Oct 13, 2010
Photo of GIVEMEBACKMYSON
4/5  rDev 0%

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.

GIVEMEBACKMYSON, Mar 30, 2004
Photo of BarrelAgedG
4/5  rDev 0%

BarrelAgedG, Jul 30, 2014
Photo of Ri0
4/5  rDev 0%

Ri0, Jun 06, 2014
Photo of Canada_Dan
4/5  rDev 0%

Canada_Dan, Oct 29, 2014
Photo of Fargrow
4/5  rDev 0%

Fargrow, Sep 10, 2014
Photo of Erdinger2003
4.03/5  rDev +0.8%

I walked in with the expecatations of a Munich beer hall and I saw a lot of heavy drinking and young college kids drink a lot of boots. The beer selection was a little small in my opinion, good, but kinda small. The atmosphere was good, not Germany good, but good. You could talk with friends, some you may have just met, some you've known. They have a small "Beer Garden". It's indoors, the ceiling seems a bit low, and it's next to the bathrooms. The giant ceiling they have is over the food/beer tables next to the tiny stage where not so bad music is played. It got crowded a bit after some time, so about 8:30pm we left for another bar. Overall I would go back just to try the fresher German beer and use the authentic glassware...it's a bit of fun using them.

Erdinger2003, Jan 14, 2007
Photo of cokes
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%

This place is a lot of fun.
Authentic German atmosphere. Care has obviously been taken down to the smallest details, even the uniforms of the servers and bartenders Be ready for polka and kraut.
It can get busy at times, but is roomy enough to accomodate. Never seems to get that smoky, which is worth a bit in my book.
Friendly servers.
Plenty of great German beers on tap. Boots are a must.
I have less experience in the food dept, but what I've had has been tasty and authentic.
Bonus points should be awarded for the 25 cent soft pretzels. That is usually all I need to go with a litre of Optimator.

In reference to psugrad's comment on the female situation...I agree that this is not the place to gaze at co-eds...Head to campus for that.

cokes, Nov 03, 2002
Photo of CuriousMonk
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%

A great place to visit, even though it’s sort of a chain. The ambiance is great - live polka music, German decorations and stuff all over the wall, and an overall great time to be had with the huge Das boots and everything else. The service was quick and friendly. The selection is pretty good for a restaurant - but hey, it’s German! The food was good, not the best German fare I’ve had, but still good especially the potatoes and sauerkrauts. Typical German beers on tap - nothing mind-blowing. The value was about average, and overall, I’ll definitely be hitting this place again whenever I visit Madison again.

CuriousMonk, Jun 20, 2011
Photo of scones
4.05/5  rDev +1.3%

I love this place, just like I love all German bars. Fun atmosphere, German beers on tap, large selection of German food. Service is pretty good (and all wearing German outfits), and the selection is pretty good too. Only thing I don't like about it is the price - 15+ for a sausage plate/schnitzel with sauerkraut and potatoes. Oh well, I'll still go whenever I can. Also it's attached to another bar next door, the Come Back Inn, which has a vastly different menu and beer selection but is also really good.

scones, Jul 12, 2011
Photo of badbeer
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.

badbeer, Mar 29, 2007
Photo of AmberMan22
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!

AmberMan22, Apr 12, 2010
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Essen Haus in Madison, WI
90 out of 100 based on 38 ratings.