Your Mission: Chicago’s New Spy-Themed Restaurant, SafeHouse!

IMG_3727Do you ever wonder where James Bond went for a bite to eat?

Oh sure, there were the glamorous casinos, beautiful cocktail bars, feasts at palatial palaces and even on the moon, but the man had to just want a burger from time to time. And if you’re the world’s greatest spy, you can’t just walk into a Wendy’s, right? You need a spy meal for a spy lifestyle.

If he was in Chicago, I imagine he’d come to SafeHouse.

Now, this is actually the second Safehouse. The first is an epic and well-loved establishment in Milwaukee, which has been open since 1966! But this newest, latest Chicago edition? It is awesome. If you ever wanted to pretend to be a spy, even for a meal, this is where you need to go. It’s fun, it’s kitschy, it’s an excellent night out.

THE ATMOSPHERE

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It’s hard to describe SafeHouse without ruining the surprises and fun inside, so only LIGHT SPOILERS from here on out. It won’t give you the full experience, but (if you choose to accept it), you’ll at least get a sense of what your mission will entail.

To begin with, you may have already walked by SafeHouse and not realized it, especially because from the outside it looks like this:

You walk into the International Exports and find… a man at a desk. No bar, no staff, just a basic office. And he greets you warmly and wants to know what he can do for you.

I’m not going to ruin the fun of the entrance from here, but you have to sweet talk your way into the secret entrance, which leads you down into…

I LOVE this bar. I love the Dr. Strangelove-esq map above one bar and the gadgets and gizmos above the other. I love that it switches from 70’s bachelor pad to underground submarine bunker just by turning the corner. I love there are lights flashing, sirens ringing and so many buttons to press.

There’s also a piece of the Berlin Wall on the wall, because of course there is.

I even love the weird sense of humor this spot has, like the buttons on the panels, the lady’s shoes underneath a glass stall in the men’s restroom or the battle cat on the shelf.

When you arrive you make your spy names and sit at your table. But even then, they encourage you to walk around, take it all in. We ordered starters, then walked through the spot, came back for food, and then walked through again. And you see people doing the same the entire time. It’s all damn fun.

THE SPY HUNT

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When you arrive, you’re given a list of missions to accomplish around the restaurant. It’s a spy-filled scavenger hunt!

Now it was… OK. There’s actually so much to see, touch and experience here, you do need something like this to point you in the right direction and make sure you don’t miss anything. But what could have been a fantastic portion of the SafeHouse experience was lacking.

Currently, many of these clues are either vague or misleading. For instance, the first one tells you to crawl into a hole, but it’s actually a space in a wall 15 feet up that doesn’t actually contain anything (and apparently, people are still trying to climb the shelves and crawl in there and staff have to stop them.)

However, we were told that they’re still revamping it and it will evolve over time. I’m sure when they figure it out and polish it up, it will be a mission worth taking.

THE FOOD + DRINKS

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Ah, what you actually came for.

The food here is your classic mix of American eats: burgers, sandwiches, steaks, etc., all with rather amusing spy names (I loved the Sterling Archer drink and the side of Albert Broccoli’s Broccoli, which I’m sure was added to the menu just to make that joke.)

I got the Sr-71 Blackbird, which was a chicken sandwich that was bigger than my head!

It was indeed damn delicious chicken, perfectly fried, although it was light on the sauce in the middle, especially for such a giant piece of chicken and probably could have used a little extra lettuce and tomatoes. Still, every bite was devoured, which was not easy because it really was a giant undertaking onto itself. I also upgraded from fries to onion rings, and dammit, they were perfectly fried with whole onions inside and so very good.

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We also got the Fried C4 Cheese Curds, which is a staple from the Milwaukee spot that they brought over. And I will tell you this, if you do one thing in your life: get the damn cheese curds! They were incredible and devoured before you could blink.

There’s also a pretty delicious drink menu, because what’s a great spy without a great drink in hand?

Around the table, we tried The Spy-See, a tequila cocktail kicked up a notch with heat, the previously mentioned Sterling Archer, which was, “A cocky concoction featuring Ketel One Vodka”, the Spy’s Demise, a too-easy to drink take on the Long Island ice tea and The Cold War, a really, really, really sweet after-dinner drink Stoli Raspberry Vodka, espresso and white chocolate.

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We ended with the London is Falling bread pudding, which was sweet, hot and served in a tiny adorable frying pan. Although I will say, if we were going to come back, we would have done the Fat Bastard, which was a gigantic ice cream sundae complete with an epic sparkler. We saw it done for someone’s birthday and it was a sight to be seen.

I will also say at the back on the menu, there’s a secret menu item in morse code. And if you’re a spicy fan, it might be worth translating it to figure it out…

SafeHouse Chicago Menu on Scribd

THE SERVICE

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I can’t finish this article without at least mentioning the service, which is phenomenal. All the servers have agent names and they stick too them. We were served by the fantastic Agent T-Funk and he was funny, charming, and full of great suggestions and things not to miss when in SafeHouse.

Really though, anyone we talked to was helpful and didn’t mind showing you around the place. Top notch all around.

THE PASSWORD

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There’s a password to get into SafeHouse without going through initiation. If you don’t know it, you have to find it in the space. It’s hidden in four locations around the rooms and that’s all I’m saying about that.

Never! Go ahead, torture me, you villain, I’ll never tell! Do your worst.

LEAVING SAFEHOUSE

Do not go out the way you came. Ask a server for the secret entrance, pay the dollar, make your exit like the damn spy you are. That’s all I’m going to say.

OVERALL

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Ready for a slew of Bond puns? Because they’re firing right at you right now:

This is for your eyes only. Those who have been to the Milwaukee branch and aren’t sure about this new one, never say never again. You’ll be over the moonraker when you accept your mission here. The space is at the goldfinger standard of fun, kitchy bars and it’s hard to say Dr. No to anything on the menu. Yes, the world is not enough, but SafeHouse certainly is for a fantastic night out.

After all, you only live twice. Make the most of it, agent.

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2 Comments

  • Paul Grossman

    My ultimate challenge is to open the safe.
    Not the big one by the exit.
    The little one by the “Chick Magnet”
    The directions are in the book.
    But I had no compass.

    “I’ll be back.”

    • Alex

      Ugh, we couldn’t get it either. If you can figure it out, please let us know!

      Good luck, agent. 😀

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