Essen Haus


29 Reviews
Essen HausEssen Haus

Type: Bar, Eatery

514 E Wilson St
Madison, Wisconsin, 53703-3431
United States

(608) 255-4674 | map

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Added by brakspear

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Reviews: 29 | Ratings: 48
Photo of circuitmonkey
3.78/5  rDev -6.9%
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).

 656 characters

Photo of Sixpoint
3.88/5  rDev -4.4%
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.

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Photo of longarm
4.55/5  rDev +12.1%
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.

 1,089 characters

4/5  rDev -1.5%
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.

 565 characters

Photo of GCBrewingCo
3.73/5  rDev -8.1%
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.

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Photo of daledeee
4.63/5  rDev +14%
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.

 370 characters

Photo of Winter
4.58/5  rDev +12.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Great German bar atmosphere. We stopped primarily to enjoy several rounds of glass boots of Dab. Great selection of beers on tap and imports. Our servers were friendly and prompt. The waitstaff dons uniforms that are similar to "authentic" German clothing-- something right out of the Old World or what I might expect to see at an Oktoberfest celebration. Didn't eat dinner there, but we did snack on the soft pretzerls and those hit the spot perfectly. Would love to stop back again sometime and try the food.

 510 characters

Photo of cokes
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

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.

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Photo of psugrad98
4.58/5  rDev +12.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 5

Visited this place when on a trip for Penn State. Forgot all about it untill I saw it on the Food Network last night. This place is really cool. An incredible selection of German beers, both on draught, and in bottles. Service is great, and the patrons and decor add to make a stellar atmosphere. Didn't try the food, but a friend did, and what he had looked awesome! Can't wait to get back to Madison. (Believe me, it aint for the good lookin women)

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Essen Haus in Madison, WI
4.06 out of 5 based on 48 ratings.
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