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The Early Buzz on SafeHouse Chicago: Secret Tourist Trap Or Spy Utopia?

How does the River North location measure up to the Milwaukee original?

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SafeHouse Chicago
Marc Much
Ashok Selvam is the editor of Eater Chicago and a native Chicagoan armed with more than two decades of award-winning journalism. Now covering the world of restaurants and food, his nut graphs are super nutty.

Agents from across the city have infiltrated SafeHouse Chicago, the River North restaurant/bar filled with spy-related memorabilia, including vintage trinkets from the James Bond movies and the old “Get Smart” television show. It opened on March 1 and the formula is a modernized version of SafeHouse’s original location that opened 50 years ago in Milwaukee. Is SafeHouse something special in Chicago or a tourist trap? Read on.

Comparisons to Milwaukee: SafeHouse took its time in opening a second location. But ownership isn’t going for a carbon copy experience. The prices are higher, thanks to Chicago’s higher cost of living, as “the Chicago craft cocktail menu leans toward sweet bourbon drinks, with their ‘covert concoctions’ a full $2 and $3 more than the same drinks served back in Wisconsin,” writes Yelp user Jamie M.

DeAnna Palade-Duval writes via Facebook that the Chicago location has “more of an adult vibe.”

Yelp user Lord Winston C. writes that the Chicago location breaks the mold from Milwaukee: “First, and most notably, the food is EXCELLENT (unlike the MKE location). The cod was unbelievably good by any standard and both apps were also excellent. Second, the place is pleasantly kitschy, but not in a local joint manner, more in a tourist trap kind of way. I'd go back for the food, but even though I'm glad I looked around at the memorabilia, I wouldn't go back for that (unlike the MKE location).”

The food: As mentioned earlier, the food has been garnering positive reviews. Folks have been impressed with the burgers. Yelper Abdul-Aziz A. writes that he “had the Double Agent & I have to say, it's probably the best burger I ever had.”

The cheese curds have gotten mixed results, which is a shame given SafeHouse’s Wisconsin roots. Yelper Jamie M. wrote that they were “perfectly browned Wisconsin mild white cheddar nuggets, hand dipped and fried to order.” Catherine C. writes that were average.

The shtick: It’s a themed restaurant, so servers show off their acting skills by getting into their characters. For fanboys and fangirls of spy culture, they’re in Nirvana. Instagrammer sayahillman writes “Ha, we're dorks. This place is ridiculous.”

The decor and details were also appreciated.

- .... .. ... / .-- .- ... / .- -- .- --.. .. -. --. (This was amazing) The new Chicago location is absolutely...

Posted by Johnathan Koller on Thursday, March 2, 2017

The bathroom is even part of the theme.

Now that's a cool toilet.

A post shared by Kyle Fouchey (@kylefouchey) on

Being downtown, SafeHouse needs to also be a place for families and their kids, and it appears it excels at that. “This bar is a must see and is great for all ages. Also, for the husband/wife looking for something fun to treat their significant with, they offer something special for you,” wrote Marcell P. on TripAdvisor.

But some felt SafeHouse was just a tourist trap. Catherine C. was really unhappy that the magician wasn’t present, but a recording of actor Mike Myers on repeat was: “Maybe the magician wasn't feeling it while we were there. What we did witness (and heard) over and over was Austin Powers' voice saying ‘YEAH BABY!’ Apparently, something was broken in the women's bathroom that connected to that voice, so it would play over and over rather loudly next to the ‘magic’ bar.”

The secret location: Part of the schtick is a secret password to enter an unmarked storefront. But some folks, like Mihir S., didn’t get the joke. And he’s mad. “There was no sign outside and we walked in and there was no indication of a restaurant or bar. We looked at the directory but again it did not show any hint so we left. When we were outside we looked up the address again on the Yelp app to confirm the location. There was a couple outside and they confirmed that we were at the correct place.”

SafeHouse Chicago

60 East Ontario Street, , IL 60611 (312) 313-1007 Visit Website