Visit to Essen Haus in Madison
After working for 14 years in German restaurants in Milwaukee, Mader’sand Karl Ratzsch’s, I was up to find out how Essen Haus in Madison compared. I was having dinner with my collage roommate, Dennis, who was in town for a meeting. He doesn’t like to make decisions so it was up to me to pick a place. I’ve known about the Essen Haus for years, but never went because I had worked in two of the best German restaurants in the USA.
I wasn’t disappointed. The atmosphere is very old world beer hallish. Great displays of steins and other old world memorabilia. The waitress was in a Durandal to add to the atmosphere.
But we went to eat, so the food was the important part. Started with a steins of Franziskaner Dunkel Weiss served with a lemon wheel. It was a great choose. Refreshing wheat beer and served chilled not ice cold. The beer went well with the Soft Pretzel they serve when you sit down. The mustard and horseradish for dipping were a great starter. The appetizer menu was a little new world for us, with Buffalo Wings, Chicken Fingers and Pot Stickers as three choices, so we went right for entrees. They have some Pasta’s, sandwiches, steaks and seafood entrees but we came for German food so I ordered Rinder Rouladen described as “Tender strips of beef wrapped around smoked bacon, mustard, onion, ground veal and pork and a pickle, braised with mustard gravy. Served with red cabbage and a bread dumpling .” Dennis ordered the Schweine Haxen “Large pork shank served on a bed of sauerkraut with a bread dumpling.”
Dinner comes with soup or salad so I ordered the Split Pea Soup. Now my mom made great Split Pea Soup and this was just about as good. Rye bread and butter went well with the soup, but I would have liked some saltines. Dennis had a Bavarian staple, Living Dumpling Soup. Rich dark broth with a light liver dumpling. He said it was real good.
Dinners and another round of beers were next. We weren’t disappointed. My Rouladen was yummy. Made a little different than in Milwaukee, because of the ground veal and pork in the filling. This addition gave it a interesting texture, but flavorful and enjoyable. Red Cabbage was like it should be, sweet and tangy at the same time. Potato Dumpling was light but firm and very enjoyable. Mustard Gravy could have had a little more kick for me but I punched it up with some of the horseradish.
Dennis’ pork shank was roasted to perfection and he didn’t leave any behind. He enjoyed the potato dumpling as much as I did. The side of brown mustard was just the thing to go with the pork.
After this feast we decided to sit for awhile and finish our beers while catching up. Then went for dessert. I ordered Blackforest Torte and Dennis asked if they had any Vanilla Ice Cream. Waitress came back and said sorry we don’t have any ice cream. Now I find that hard to believe that a restaurant with a kids menu doesn’t have ice cream, oh well. The Blackforest Torte had a White Genache filling with Maraschino and Bing Cherries. It was ok but needed some more cherry flavor.
Will I go back? Yes! It was a good dinner at a reasonable price and the the atmosphere is wonderful. They have a good selection of both American and German entrees so you can find something to eat if you’re not into harty German faire. Take an ethnic break and enjoy Essen Hause in Madison.