Hidden behind an unmarked red door in Chicago is International Exports, Inc. But if you prove you are spy-worthy, you’ll gain access to SafeHouse Chicago, a spy-themed restaurant that will keep you and your kids busy before, during and after dinner, using clues to search for the password hidden among the Bond-themed covert décor. Did we find the password? Yes, yes we did. Can we tell you what it is? No, no we can’t. Because every good spy keeps the password a secret just in case they run into a double agent.
The entrance to The SafeHouse is guarded by a door that looks like a wall. And to gain passage beyond that door, you have to go through “Miss M”, who is in charge of making sure you’re actually a spy, and not a double agent. If you don’t know the password, then there are hoops you have to jump through before Miss M will allow your entrance to SafeHouse.
Once you prove that you’re not a double agent, you can walk down the stairs where your table is waiting. During your meal you’ll have an opportunity to search for the clues that will lead you to the password, and dine on spy-themed meals fit for a secret agent.
We were lucky enough to get the best seat in the house, the round booth with a cone of silence that could be raised for easy entrance and exit, or lowered for covert talks about meal selections and possible passwords. After ordering, we set out and about the restaurant, using the clues given to us to try to figure out the password. We checked out a bathroom with a clear door (but who would use such a bathroom?! Don’t worry, locking the door changes the glass to opaque so no one can see in), a big touchscreen television with a camera-view of each city you touch, a tunnel to another room, a peeking window from the bathroom into the dining room, and a control panel with all sorts of knobs and switches you and your kids can touch and move around.
We participated in the Feed Your Family of Four for Fifty Dollars, which is a great, economical way to experience SafeHouse Chicago with a family budget in mind. As a suburban family driving into the city, we can end up spending at least double what we spent on this trip, and sometimes we even leave hungry. Not this time though! The portions for the kids as well as adults were large enough to fill even my son’s hollow legs. My husband even commented about how he could see us coming back to SafeHouse as a weeknight treat or celebration because of the deal. Included in the Feed Your Family of Four for Fifty Dollars was: an appetizer, our meals (from a select menu) and non-alcoholic beverages (we bought our dessert separate)
We started our meal with the award-winning Wisconsin cheese curds (hand battered and topped with additional cheese shavings). Since SafeHouse was voted Best Burger in Chicago by Chicago magazine, we took the hint and ordered burgers. My husband chose the Provocateur burger, which is the best seller on the burger menu, featuring a spreadable brie and bacon jam (I tried it and know I’ll be getting that next time!). I tried the MOAB: Mother Of All Burgers. Not only did it come with an egg on top (served over easy), but it came topped with the best bacon I have ever experienced on a burger. Seasoned well and cut thick, the bacon stole the show in my book and with a healthy portion on the burger, there was a good-sized piece with every bite. We both opted for fries with our burgers, but you can also choose onion rings, fruit or a veggie, if that’s more your style.
The kids ordered off of the kids’ menu, which came on a fun spy-themed activity page. My son chose the Golden Gun Grilled Cheese (my son would have ordered anything with the word gun in it!) and my daughter opted for the Undercover Mac and Cheese (surprise, surprise, I think I can count on one hand how many times she’s ordered something else!) Both kids chose applesauce with their meal, and they shared an order of fries. Both meals came in super secret spy boxes, which was fun for the kids. The grilled cheese was served on white bread and was cooked exactly the way my son likes it, and the macaroni and cheese had thick elbow macaroni with a homemade cheese sauce which reminded me of my homemade macaroni that we all love. It’s always nice when you order macaroni and cheese at a restaurant and it’s home made; I can’t tell you how many times I realized that my daughter got the store bought, boxed version.
Burgers aren’t the only thing on the menu. The salads first caught my eye with names like All Hail Caesar, The Columbia, and fan favorite Wai Lin’s Ahi Salad. With a good selection of sandwiches, our waitress told us that the SR 71 Blackbird was a good choice, and after reading that it’s made with homemade marinated buttermilk fried chicken and served with chipotle mayo on a freshly baked brioche bun, I could see why she’d suggest it. If you’re in the mood for something a little higher-end, she recommended The Station Chief’s Salmon, which is always in high-demand with its Korean BBQ glaze, served alongside Yukon mashed potatoes.
After the twelfth time of raising and lowering the Cone of Silence, we decided that we couldn’t leave without dessert. We ordered the Pavlo, a warm skillet cookie with vanilla ice cream on top and a fudge drizzle. After the ten seconds had passed in which we inhaled the dessert, our waitress came by to check on us and we were proud to tell her that we had figured out the password. After the kids whispered it in her ear, she proclaimed us spies in good standing and welcome us back anytime.
As we drove home, my husband and I were talking about the awesome experience and we decided that we’d have to visit the original SafeHouse in Milwaukee, opened in 1966, by David and Eliza Baldwin, AKA Agent oh-oh-7 and Agent Eliza. It’s a Cold War-themed restaurant with the same fun spy theme. You’ll find it close to a river, but I won’t tell you where, You’ll have to use your spy skills to figure it out…
SafeHouse is celebrating National Family Month every Tuesday in August from 11:00 a.m – 8:00 p.m. with a special meal deal. Feed your family of spies for $50! Choose from your choice of appetizer (Fried C4 Cheese Curds, Stasi Twists or Nachos Camp Stanley); one entree for each spy (includes any burger, Day Smart Turned Chicken, SR-71 Blackbird (Chicago-only), or a kids’ meal), and your choice of non-alcoholic beverages.
SafeHouse understands that the best agents also need to be book smart in addition to street smart, so they are offering a free kids meal, with purchase of an adult meal, for any children who bring in a straight A’s report card now through Labor Day!
Have you been to SafeHouse Chicago? What was your Secret Agent name?
Disclosure: The writer and her family received a complimentary meal deal (Feed Your Family of Four for Fifty Dollars) to experience SafeHouse Chicago in order to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received, and all thoughts and opinions are the writer’s own.