Essen Haus

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Essen HausEssen Haus
48 Ratings
Essen HausEssen Haus

Type: Bar, Eatery

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

(608) 255-4674 | map

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Ratings: 48 |  Reviews: 29
Photo of daledeee
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.

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Photo of shbobdb
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.

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Photo of psugrad98
4.58/5  rDev +14.2%
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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Photo of Winter
4.58/5  rDev +14.2%
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.

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Photo of longarm
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.

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Photo of TX-Badger
4.5/5  rDev +12.2%

Photo of DaPeculierDane
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. It’s kitchy, dirty, and very Wisconsin. Their bottle selection is great too, plenty of good American crafts and the whole Lindeman’s 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 don’t care for German beer and can’t 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 don’t want to bring down this bar’s score. For me this is a beer bar and I just ignore the whole restaurant part. Now this is very important…don’t eat here. Don’t ask why. You do not want to know. Just, what ever you do, don’t eat here. Don’t even think about it. Avoid the Come Back’s food too. Seriously!

 1,325 characters

Photo of twb0392
4.5/5  rDev +12.2%

Photo of karst
4.33/5  rDev +8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

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.

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Photo of Duff27
4.3/5  rDev +7.2%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3.5

Photo of mynie
4.28/5  rDev +6.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4

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.

 1,448 characters

Photo of Jason
4.25/5  rDev +6%

Photo of jera1350
4.25/5  rDev +6%

Photo of Riff
4.24/5  rDev +5.7%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4.5

German themed bar and restaurant. Inside has a feeling of a college town bar. The decor is okay but the atmosphere was fun while we were there. Did not partake of the food while were there. The big draw is "Das Boot" or basically glass boots of craft beers. Good selection of craft beers, mostly local but a few national beers. They will make you sign a form and take your credit card in case you break one of the boots, they're a bit pricey. On the other hand you can buy boots from them, they have a number on hand.

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Photo of uwmgdman
4.18/5  rDev +4.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 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.

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Photo of AmberMan22
4.13/5  rDev +3%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

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!

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Photo of barrelman
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.

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Photo of Rilesmiles
4.09/5  rDev +2%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Photo of badbeer
4.06/5  rDev +1.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4

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.

 783 characters

Photo of redleg411
4.06/5  rDev +1.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4

Photo of cokes
4.05/5  rDev +1%
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.

 750 characters

Photo of CuriousMonk
4.05/5  rDev +1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

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.

 622 characters

Photo of scones
4.05/5  rDev +1%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

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.

 509 characters

Photo of Erdinger2003
4.03/5  rDev +0.5%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

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's a bit of fun using them.

 765 characters

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.

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Essen Haus in Madison, WI
Place rating: 4.01 out of 5 with 48 ratings
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