I figured since our theme was all about The Immigrant Experience, and since we were in Madison, home to a population with strong German roots, that it would be fun to find a German restaurant with live polka music (and who doesn't love polka music?). According to all our guidebooks, the Essen Haus was the place to go for a dining and dancing experience not to be missed and so we headed right over. Walking in the doors we could tell right away, this is about as Oompah as you can get—all the locals have their own personal beer steins hanging throughout the restaurant. I can only imagine how insane this place must get during Oktoberfest!
The best part is the homemade pretzels that are served on the table instead of bread-Soft pretzels are my weakness and these were warm and chewy with just the right amount of salt-no frozen Super Pretzels here. Every time I eat one, it takes me back to my childhood when I got my first taste at Kiddie Land, a small amusement park my parents took me to when I was a kid. Pretzels and riding the Merry Go Round-it doesn't get any better when you're 6 . Looking at the menu, there wasn’t a whole lot for us to eat since we were vegetarian, but if you don’t have dietary restrictions, do try their wienershnitzel—it’s supposedly very good and looked delicious as we saw several folks eating it. We tried the spaetzle casserole and the poached salmon which were both wonderful. Both the apple strudel and the Black Forrest Cake for dessert were pretty fabulous. There is a live polka band, and although it wasn’t too lively on a Monday when we were there, I bet you dollars to doughnuts that the place really cooks on a Friday or Saturday night. To really experience Madison's German roots, don't miss the Essen Haus, and if you're up to it, try a polka or two. It's great fun!