Ratings: 34 | Reviews: 27 | Display Reviews Only:
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
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
3.56/5 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.
08-13-2012 23:22:11 | More by crossovert
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.
10-15-2006 01:36:55 | More by 4thoseabout2bock
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.
11-28-2003 17:59:54 | More by GCBrewingCo
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).
07-17-2005 22:04:04 | More by circuitmonkey
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.
11-18-2004 03:57:28 | More by Sixpoint
Essen Haus in Madison, WI
90 out of 100 based on 34 ratings.