Mader’s was founded in 1902; before the Wright brothers first flight and before Henry Ford’s Model T. In 1902, A porterhouse steak or 1/2 roast duckling dinner, were priced at twenty cents, or six for $1.00. Lunch was four cents, but if you drank two steins of beer at three cents for one stein, or a nickel for two steins, your lunch was free.
The tables and chairs were wooden and rickety, the walls and bar eneven. The ceiling was tin, a fan provided the air circulation. Often the rugged men who frequently Mader’s became inebriated, and stumbled out. There were no automobiles, so there were no laws regarding “blood alcohol levels”.. Suburbs hadn’t been invented yet so men lived near their work place and walked, or rode a horse to work.
The majority of Milwaukee’s population in 1902 were German immigrants and their beverage of choice was beer. This was the era when “Bucket Boys” toting a board dangling a half dozen pails of frothy beer, made the rounds through office buildings. Their refreshing goods were passed around to all – the early beer capitals natural answer to today’s coffee break.
In 1920, after 18 years, a crushing blow struck the establishment: Prohibition! Charles Mader hung a large sign in his window: “Prohibition is near at hand. Prepare for the worst. Stock up now! Today and tomorrow there’s beer. Soon there’ll be only the lake.”
When Prohibition struck in 1920 Mader’s wife Celia, saved Mader’s. She turned her full attention to creating the rustic, famous, German dishes from her homeland. The sauerbraten, wiener schnitzel and pork shank were called on to meet the challenge and hold the trade without the compliment of the traditional stein of beer. They held up well, all the way to that jubilant, cheering night of April 7, 1933, marking the end of Prohibition. Mader’s was there to serve that first legal stein of beer in Milwaukee and it was announced from Mader’s on the city’s only radio station on that historic midnight.
Times changed when the depressed early thirties passed. Mr. Mader’s two sons, George and Gustave, began helping the aging Charles. The famous restaurateur passed away in 1938.
World War II came and Mader’s de-emphasized its German theme but fared well. People often lined up hungrily awaiting their chance to indulge in a crispy pork shank, tender wiener schnitzel or tangy platter of sauerbraten. Gus and George celebrated Mader’s 50th anniversary by adding a new dining room, the”Jaeger Stube” In 1958, George Mader died, leaving brother Gus had to shoulder the entire burden.
In 1961, Gus enrolled his son, Victor, In Michigan State University’s Hotel and Restaurant Management College. After graduation, Victor spent five months working in Europe. In 1964, Victor joined Gus in the running of the family’s Milwaukee restaurant.
The 1970’s, were years of great change at Mader’s:
Many menu changes and additions, including Mader’s now famous Sunday Viennese Brunch, which debuted to turn away crowds in November 1977.
In the early seventies Mader’s foyer became, for a few short years, a miniature art gallery. In 1977, the operations were moved to the second floor of the Milwaukee restaurant, and in 1980, into the present Tower Galleries. By 2002, Mader’s became the world’s largest Hummel store.
In 1977, Mader’s second floor private dining room, the Baron’s Rhine Stube, was added. Large panels of original art in stained glass depicting the famous legends of the Rhine were installed throughout Mader’s. Suits of armor dating to the 1300’s, dozens of superb original European woodcarvings and antiques were acquired.
In 1988, Mader’s Milwaukee restaurant was completely remodeled and a new dining room, named Burg Halle opened.
In 1996, Mader’s Catering was formed. Today we cater events which serve parties, weddings, celebrations and corporate events serving from twenty guests to ten thousand.
COMMENT + AWARDS
During the 1980’s and 90’s Mader’s received continued accolades. The readers of every publication in our state that ranks restaurants chose Mader’s as Wisconsin’s best ethnic restaurant: The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wisconsin Trails, Shepherd Express, Milwaukee Magazine and Exclusively Yours. It was a clean sweep.
Milwaukee Magazine ranked it as the Best Brunch value in town, readers of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ranked Mader’s as “Best Desserts” in the city.
The arrival of the Internet has brought the dawn of accurate restaurant ratings for they gather opinions from thousands of guests, not just a single critic. The biggest is Trip Advisor. TripAdvisor’s hundreds of millions of users currently rank Mader’s the fifth best of 1,270 Milwaukee restaurants, and Milwaukees’ best ethnic restaurant. Trip Advisor also awarded Mader’s it’s Award of Excellence. Well respected Open Table currently ranks Mader’s 4.6 of 5 stars.
AOL ranked Mader’s as among the best brunches and best selection of fine beers in the city; AOL city Guide members and diners rank Mader’s five stars, the highest rating. OnMilwaukee.com and CitySearch.com rank Mader’s Milwaukee’s best ethnic restaurant.
TV, MAGAZINE & NEWSPAPER MENTIONS
Delicious Destinations TV Chef Andrew Zimmer named Mader’s a ”not to be missed destination”
The Washington Post
“Not to be missed”
Voted our Knights Bar among the ‘Best Bars in America’
Best German restaurant in Milwaukee
TV’s Food Network,
Rachael Rey. “Milwaukee’s Best”