Hessen Haus

Hessen HausHessen Haus
Hessen HausHessen Haus
Bar, Eatery

101 4th St
Des Moines, Iowa, 50309-4741
United States

(515) 288-2520 | map

Notes: Open for lunch on Friday & Saturday at 11am.
Dinner served everyday from 3pm - 1am.
Bar closes at 2am.
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Rated: 4.13 by Djon1rpt from Pennsylvania

Feb 28, 2019
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Reviewed by Redrover from Wisconsin

4.06/5  rDev -4%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 3.75
I was back in Des Moines recently for work. I was very impressed by the growth and vitality of the downtown compared to how it used to be. Kudos to the city planners as are doing a great job.

I had not had German food for a while so decided to head to the Hessen Haus, which was just a short walk from my hotel.

I entered from the side through the nice beer garten. I chose to sit inside at the long bar.

Inside there is a lots of dark wood, some exposed rafters that were hung with German beer flags and some other German decorations. The room is kind of divided into two spaces. There are plenty of tables and room for larger groups. I saw plenty of these groups with the boot on the table.

I counted roughly 36 tap beers and about 30 are German. I had one of their rotating HB beers. It was described by the batenderess as a marzen and that was pretty much spot on. It was fresh, malty and had some nice spice type bite from the hops. I also had a Dunkel and an Alt and all the beers were in great condition.

My Jager Schnitel was good, not great but it did hit the spot.

My bartender was good about checking back and she was quick with recommendations.

I really enjoyed my 2+ hour visit and would have no problem returning for another.
Jul 27, 2018
Rated: 4.23 by Rubezahl from Pennsylvania

Jul 08, 2018
Rated: 4.58 by craigbelly from Iowa

Nov 06, 2017
Rated: 4.09 by Kramerbarthomer from Colorado

Jul 17, 2015
Rated: 4.35 by YodersBeerEmporium from Iowa

Jun 10, 2015
Rated: 4.28 by 22Blue from Kansas

Jun 07, 2015
Rated: 4.48 by ALC82 from Iowa

Feb 24, 2015
Rated: 4.18 by Boomer4ES from North Carolina

Jan 31, 2015
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Reviewed by UrbanCaveman from Ohio

4.64/5  rDev +9.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 5 | service: 3.75 | selection: 5 | food: 5
An unassuming, yet outstanding, little German bier hall tucked right into the downtown Des Moines area, this place gets it right. The menu is a delightful mix of American and German cuisine, and downright tasty to boot. The serving staff seem to know their bier, and their German pronunciations, though service can be a little on the slow side during busy times (such as lunchtime on a Saturday). Any place that can make a good kassler rippchen and schweinshaxe is good by me, and even better when they offer muenster cheese in multiple dishes!

As far as bier selection goes, I have not seen a wider nor better curated selection of tap and bottled German imports anywhere else in the US (or what few parts of Canada I've seen). Various standbys from Weihenstephaner, Ayinger, and Schneider have permanent taps, with a decent rotating mix of other German imports, local German-style brews, and the occasional Belgian thrown in. Beer sizes available for order include the expected half-liter, liter, and, of course, boot. This may not be a hop addict's dream bar, but as far as my dream bar is concerned, it's a reasonable facsimile thereof!
Jan 29, 2015
Rated: 5 by cyclonece09 from Wisconsin

Dec 04, 2014
Rated: 4.5 by afinepilsner from Iowa

Oct 03, 2014
Rated: 3 by bufante from Iowa

Aug 26, 2014
Rated: 4.5 by Liverocks from Delaware

Aug 09, 2014
Rated: 4.5 by boogs from Iowa

Jun 27, 2014
Rated: 4.25 by BuzzG from Iowa

Jun 17, 2014
Rated: 4.25 by wshell1 from Tennessee

Nov 13, 2013
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Reviewed by Herky21 from Iowa

3.44/5  rDev -18.7%
vibe: 2.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4.25 | food: 1.75
Atmosphere - it looks nice, big long German bar with Paulaner Mugs all over. A nice railing lines the back tables. The patio is huge with long benches. The bar is too narrow though and difficult to navigate at times.

Quality - German everything. You can get everything from half-liters to Boots. It's great. The atmosphere could probably use a little updating, even by German standards.

Service - sometimes oyu will stand for 5-10 minutes, other times its fast. I guess that's average.

Selection - great selection of German and European beers. Nothing with hop presence here, but a lot of malty beasts.

Food - It's edible. However, I would not recommend it.

Value- you can get some sizable German beers for great prices. During the week, or maybe Sunday, there's even a $10 boot deal.
Apr 17, 2013
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Reviewed by OregonGrown7 from Oregon

4.95/5  rDev +17%
vibe: 4.75 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 4.75
Great rustic atmosphere, feels very traditional German. Huge beer selection of very high quality beers. Awesome beer boots. Great bottled selection as well. I got two boots of Ayinger Oktoberfest and Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen, a bottle of Samichlaus Helles and a Stiegl Pils, plus kraut balls and a wild game queasadilla for $56!! Amazing food and prices are not that bad at all but it varies when you go( early as opposed to late). Staff is actually incredibly knowledgeable as well, our waitress lived in Germany and knew how to properly pronounce everything. Best place in Des Moines for sure.
Feb 11, 2013
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Reviewed by Goode from Georgia

5/5  rDev +18.2%
vibe: 5 | quality: 5 | service: 5 | selection: 5 | food: 5
Hands down one of the best places to drink and eat in Des Moines. Perfect combination of great atmosphere chill and laid back with great food at reasonable prices and a beer selection that will educate you as a beer drinker as well as broaden you horizons to great beer. The waiting staff is more knowledgeable than any other place I've been. No matter what your taste you can find a beer to your liking. Not enough could be said about the awesomeness of this bar!!

Additionally the location is great to easily visit neighboring places just an easy walk away.
Feb 13, 2011
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Reviewed by birchstick from Colorado

4.4/5  rDev +4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 5 | food: 4
A - Having never been to Germany, I am guessing this is what a German restaurant would be like. A nice bar that is backed by a lot of long picnic tables.

Q - I couldn't believe the tap selection. Tons quality German brews on tap: Celebrator, Aventinus, Korbinian, plus a ton of others. I wish this place existed in St. Louis - I would be here at least once a month.

S - being that it was 2 degrees with a windchill of -9, there were not many people venturing out that night so the place was pretty quiet. Therefore it is hard the gauge the quality of the service, however the bartender was very helpful and knew his beer.

S - This is a 5 only in terms of German brews. I couldn't believer the amount of quality German brews that they had on tap and in the cooler behind the bar.

F - I had sauerkraut balls and a Wild Boar sausage - both of which were delicious. There were a couple of other menu items that I want to try.

This is a really good beer stop in Des Moines. I am not too familiar with the city, however I was really impressed. I would definitely recommend this as a place to stop and grab a meal and some pints.
Dec 31, 2009
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Reviewed by Mud from Nebraska

4.43/5  rDev +4.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 5
The Hessen Haus has had many names over the years each est. was great in their own right. I frequented the many incarnations of the Old Depot Station. Today the Old Depot as reach a zenith in the Hessen Haus.

The atmosphere is what you would expect a American Bier Haus. The selection is the best you are going to find in Iowa. I found on my visits there a leaning towards Wiese beers. Occasionally you will find German seasonals because it is Iowa the selections is goin' to be like that in Bavaria. When compare to where you would find German Beers on tap with well over 14+ beer/styles to choose from in Iowa you are gonna have to do some major traveling!!! The lines are well maintained and the beer is always good.

The food is awesome. I have since moved from DSM but the times I visit always requires a stop for food at the Hessen Haus. Only 5 mins from the Interstate why wouldn't ya? The Wild Boar Sausage/wild schwienewurst is the Bomb. At $17 USD it may seem pricey for a couple of links of sausage but it is worth every penny!!!. I didn't really appreciate that my server asked if I really wanted kraut? She wasn't impressed by it but I don't thinks she likes it in the first place. The kraut was fresh and very good as well.

The staff was somewhat knowledgeable about the beeir and food. So if you know your way around German beer and food you are not going to be impressed. If you don't well.... ignorance is bliss. None the less discover things for yourself anyway.
Jul 26, 2009
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Reviewed by BretSikkink from Mexico

4.2/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4
Most of the time, Hessen Haus is a large, quiet room with interesting and unusual decor. Plenty to look at while you're downing liter mugs (also available in half liters and boots). At times it is irredeemably busy and loud, but for the most part it's an awesome, relaxed atmosphere.

The quality and breadth of the beer selection is good, not great. About 20 taps that are decent if somewhat predictable beers, mostly German (Paulaner, Hacker Pschorr, Beck's, Spaten products), while the bottles are somewhat more numerous but also varying in quality (Bud Light to Ayinger, e.g.). A good number of seasonals; the rest favor the lighter side, including hefeweizens, pilsners, and wits.

The service is impeccable at the bar when it's quiet; obviously you take your chances on a busy night. I've never found it impossible to get a beer, although pouring those giant mugs and boots does take a while.

The food looks and smells authentic, but very vegetarian-unfriendly. Since I don't love pretzels, I've never hit up the kitchen at the Haus.

I like it a lot. It's a more pleasant experience than the Royal Mile building and the Bait Shop building for me. If you want more of a partying atmosphere I'd try those instead - or wait for Oktoberfest!
Oct 16, 2008
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Reviewed by DesMoinesMike from Iowa

4.03/5  rDev -4.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5 | food: 3.5
If you're looking afr a diffreent kind of restaruant in the Des Moines area this is the place to check out. Located in an antiquated railroad depot the interior definately spells old world. It ahs a lodge-type decor bustling with stuffed animals, German enscriptions, and pictures from a regional polka tournament.

The food has flavors I'm not use to, mostly stuff that hasn't been Americanized. They like to throw in a lot of vegitables that throw off my carnovorous taste buds.

The beer selection is good. About a dozen or so German beers on tap. I tried Spaten Oktoberfest for the first time and loved it. Were it not the height of cold/flu season we would have done a boot of it, but shots of schnops were welcome. No Goldschlager, to my slight dissapointment.

AVOID on drinking holidays because it gets so crowded they almost run out of standing room.

Check for coupons in the phone book. Seriously.
Jul 10, 2008
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Reviewed by woodychandler from Pennsylvania

4.47/5  rDev +5.7%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4 | food: 5
As I entered through a short vestibule, I experienced a twinge of nostalgia for A Little Taste of Germany, formerly on PA Route 72 North, just above the Lancaster/Lebanon turnpike entrance, now defunct. R.I.P. This was a bier hall, absolutement!

It began with a “U”-shaped, blonde wood bar to the immediate right and continued aft to the washrooms on the left and the kitchen beyond the lavatories. They featured four (4) ceramic beer towers, each with four (4) different beers, plus a fifth tower as part of the back bar. I drank both Hacker-Pschorr Alt and Ayinger Jahrhudert-Helles, both of which were delicious. I was told that boots were available, but I was not up to the task.

The roof was arched, raw pine with triangular supports and upright beams at irregular intervals. The back bar was a huge, wooden affair with a small cooler on either side. Above the back bar were three boars heads, a stuffed pheasant, several half barrelheads, and a jackalope. There were also a lot of ceramic steins, for the Breweriana fan. Along the left wall were picnic-style benches, an entryway onto their outdoor patio, and more half barrelheads and steins with these last two behind Plexiglas.

Now, as to lunch: I had the Bismarck – chopped roast pork, mushrooms, and onions, sautéed with sour cream and au jus served over swiss cheese on a hoagie bun with sauerkraut. Oh my! It put me in mind of something that my Pops said in a more politically incorrect time: “You amaze me, you young punk. You look like a Jew, you have Scottish/Irish red hair, an English nose, bright Nordic blue eyes, and a German appetite. I have never met someone as true to his roots as you. Bon appetit, kid!” That sammich was fabuloso!
Dec 03, 2006
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Reviewed by hero27 from Minnesota

3.84/5  rDev -9.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 3.5
Located right in downtown Des Moines..easily within walking distance of both The Red Monk & El Bait Shop. Sort of hard to find if you're not looking for it..as it's located right next to what appears to be an abandoned railway station.

Service was great. Bartenders seemed to have a great sense of humor and didn't mind shooting the shit with my friends and I at the bar. Had a Spaten Optimator pint and I was in heaven. Good German tap selection..around 20 I counted, and many more in bottles.

Didn't try the food on this visit, but I plan to on my next trip to Des Moines. An authentic German bierhall that's certainly worth a stop.
Aug 10, 2006
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Reviewed by WeisGuy from New York

3.98/5  rDev -5.9%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4
Really good source for German beers in Des Moines. Went there tonight and got a liter of Weihenstephaner Hefeweizen. They have most of the big Germans on tap. My beer was good, if not a little flat. Prices were reasonable to a little pricey, with my liter costing over $9. I gave it the benefit of the doubt on the ratings. Good atmosphere with lots of wood tables. Waitresses were very nice and seemed to be knowledgable of the beer. Food looked like quality German fare, but I didn't try anything. For my money, I might hit the Hessen for a good Hefe, but then go over to El Bait shop a block or two away to finish off the night. Good place, especially for Des Moines. Highly recommended.
Jun 15, 2006
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Reviewed by bditty187 from Nebraska

3.73/5  rDev -11.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.5
It took me four trips to the Hessen Haus before I actually penned a review.

Located in the heart of downtown Des Moines; the standalone building is long and narrow but smaller inside then it seems. The bar, stage, and stairs to the outdoor patio eats a lot of room. The high ceilings help give the appearance of an open German bier garden/hall, which is cool. Like I said, there is outside patio seating but I’ve never been here during the summer. While there is smoking here the ceilings do move the smoke around a bit.

The décor is well-done, German bier signs, steins, stuffed animal heads, etc, lots of wood. Wood tables, “bier hall tables,” and the like. The bar if fairly large, it is located on the right hand wall. I counted 18 taps. There were some duds but everything was basically German. The beer menu had a little over 30 bottles; I didn’t see much great beer listed. I was surprised they carried things like Red Stripe, Bud Light, Heineken, Newcastle, and Beck’s (not “real” German bier, IMO). The “gem” German beers on-tap/bottle included offerings from Spaten-Franziskaner, Ayinger, Weihenstephan, HB, Paulaner, and the like. Overall, there were plenty of good German biers to drink. IMO, the selection leaned towards quantity over quality.

I’ve never eat here but the food sure smells good!

The service has always been solid, every visit they have been busy and the waitress handled it well.

Overall impression… if I was to rank the beer bars in downtown Des Moines they would fall like such: Red Monk, Royal Mile, High Life Lounge, and Hessen Haus. Maybe I am spoiled but the Huber-Haus in Omaha is a much better German bar. It just is. Sure, this place is bigger and they serve food but the beer selection was lacking. Still, the vibe is pleasant too. I guess I really don’t have any complaints I just think other bars in Des Moines merit a visit first but by no means should a visitor not checkout the Hessen.
Feb 20, 2006
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Reviewed by isubsmith from Minnesota

3.98/5  rDev -5.9%
vibe: 3 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5
Hessen Haus is located in down town Des Moines, just north of the new Science Center and south of Court Avenue. It is in an old train depot... The interior is pretty nice. A few large picnic-table-like tables and lots of smaller 4-person sorts of tables. Also a large bar area and a large outdoor patio area that would be nice if it were not the middle of winter....

Unfortunately, the restaurant is not smoke-free and smoke usually drifts over from the bar area to all of the food areas. I haven't been there on a busy night (normally just during lunch on the weekends) but I would be concerned about smoke during busy times....

The beer selection is one of the best in Des Moines, at least for German beers. The Royal Mile/Red Monk might have a better selection overall, but the German selection at Hessen Haus is very good with many of them on tap.

The food selection is pretty good - standard German fair such as sauerbraten and wienerschnitzel. It is generally pretty decent, but I think the German restaurants in the Amana colonies are much better.

Wait staff is pretty decent. They can usually recommend a beer based on your style suggestions if you don't know what to try.

Prices are quite reasonable for the food and beer both.

Definately worth a stop if you are bored of the Court Avenue places or you want some decent German food.
Dec 27, 2005
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Reviewed by Quaffer from Nevada

3.9/5  rDev -7.8%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 4
I hit the Hessen Haus while in Des Moines for the BA gathering in fall of 2004. It is one long building, complete with wooden tables and chairs and quite a few long tables with benches, which help to give it that authentic feel. This, combined with the decor, the music, and the waitstaff's attire, added to the whole German feel. It was not perfect (I assume. Like I've been to Germany), but they sure did try. While I didn't go outside, it looked like there was a large outdoor area as well.

Though these two things were not an issue for me, they might be for others. First, the seating on a Saturday night was "seat yourself." This became an issue for those that entered after us. Secondly, there didn't seem to be any non-smoking section, so the air could get a little think at times.

The selection of German beers was very good, in my opinion, especially so if you consider the fact that we were in Des Moines. I would say that it was very comparable to Zum Schneider in NYC.

The food was terrific. I had the Hunter's Pizza (complete with pheasant, duck, and wild boar sausages and cheeses that I can't pronounce) and beerlovergirl had the brat plate. Both were enjoyed to the point of miserable over-fullness.

The wait staff that we encountered were friendly enough, but they didn't show much knowledge of the beer that was being served. Plus, they just didn't seem to be present a lot of the time.

I would definitely recommend the Hessen Haus to anyone visiting Des Moines.
Nov 10, 2004
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Reviewed by BuckeyeNation from Iowa

3.63/5  rDev -14.2%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 3
Hessen Haus is located in a long, narrow, red-brick building along the railroad tracks at the south edge of Des Moines' Court Avenue entertainment district. The inside is much nicer than the outside, but it still wasn't what I expected. I had in mind a big, airy beer hall with a 'beer garden' look. The actual restaurant/bar is nice enough though, 'clean and warm' is how my wife described it. The long, well-worn wooden bar is along the right side with tables on the left and in the rear. The walls are adorned with German beer steins, several boar's heads and a stag's head.

When we entered (at high noon) the place was absolutely empty, but within 10 minutes at least 12-15 others, mostly construction workers from a nearby site, began filing in. The menu was different and interesting and I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I got a Bratwurst sandwich and some German potato salad. Neither was bad, but I've had much better. Along with standards such as wienerschnitzel, jaegerschnitzel and sauerbraten, was a Hunter's pizza which had slices of pheasant, duck and wild boar sausage. The really unadventurous can order a reuben, a grilled cheese or that Iowa staple, a pork tenderloin sandwich.

On-tap were about a dozen beers such as Spaten Lager, DAB pils, Kostrizer Schwarzbier, Frankenheim Ale, Weihenstephaner Hefe, Hacker Pschorr Weisse, etc. The bottled beers numbered 57 and included Celebrator Dopplebock, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, Ayinger (several), Weihenstephaner (several), and many others.

Not what I was expecting, but not a bad place to grab an interesting meal and have some good beer. One last thing. In my mind's eye (and mind's ear), I had pictured myself eating some good German food and drinking some tasty German beer while polkas and their ilk played in the background. Our lunch today was accompanied by Blues coming through the sound system. I happen to love Blues, but it just didn't seem appropriate and didn't put me in the proper frame of mind. I still recommend Hessen Haus though.
Sep 07, 2004
Hessen Haus in Des Moines, IA
Place rating: 4.23 out of 5 with 32 ratings