Safehouse Chicago, A Unique and Fun Spy Themed Restaurant…
Every year, on this weekend before Thanksgiving, my husband’s job brings him to Chicago for an annual conference. We have found this weekend to be a fantastic opportunity to bring our kids into the city. One year I brought all five, but most years I bring one or two of them for a little adventure of their own. It was Luke’s turn to join us this year.
I asked for suggestions, on Facebook, for what to do in the city with a 12 year old boy. A friend from high school told me about Safehouse, a spy themed restaurant in the River North area. I ran the idea by Luke and made the three of us a reservation for Friday night.
I cannot believe I forgot to take a picture of the “Red Door.” There is a banner above the entrance, which identifies the dining experience, but other than that, the entrance is literally a red door with a black silhouette of a female spy. When we opened the door, it appeared that we had walked into a personal office. The man sitting at the desk looked at us, paused and asked if we had a password. We did not.
Do You Have the Password?
The man lined us up along the wall opposite the desk and told us that without a password, we would have to be scanned and pass a test to prove we were friendly. Our task was to strike a different spy pose each time he clapped his hands. Three poses later, he handed us a card with a QR code and a hidden door opened to reveal a descending staircase. At the bottom of the staircase, we had to figure out which door option opened up into the restaurant.
The staff applauded us as we walked in. TV screens on the walls broadcast a live stream of guests’ tests to gain clearance to the bunker below. It is all in good fun and the many reviews I read ahead of time, agree that gaining entry with a password is much less entertaining.
As our waiter greeted us, he asked our names. After providing them, he told us we had failed the test. He gave us each a name tag and told us to come up with a spy name for the evening. He also explained that the QR code on the card we were given would direct us to a video of our test for entrance. That is a fun touch. We were given our menus and a Recon List with missions that we could work on while waiting for our food.
The Food Options
The offerings were typical for American family dining, burgers, sandwiches, tacos, salads, etc. I had not anticipated the pricing structure. Most of the reading I did ahead of time, identified prices between $15-30. In reality, the menu has two options with add-ons. For adults, the only listed way to order is a $30 package. For this package, you get unlimited soft drinks, an appetizer, entree and a side. Side options include fries, onion rings, broccoli, or a fruit cup. You can have unlimited refills of sides. For an additional $7, you can choose from a few additional menu offerings such as ribs, meatloaf, fish, or loaded mac n cheese. Children under 12 can order a similar package for $20. You can choose to split a package with another person for an additional $10 fee.
This list was fun to investigate. Some of the clues were more fun than others. There is an opportunity to find the password for future visits. We were told that it is written in multiple places, but the only place I found it was in the ladies room. Patrons are encouraged to push every button and flip every switch, of which, there are many. The computer screen that was supposed to show drone recon of other cities was not functioning properly. There is a photo booth available that sends themed photos of you to your cell phone number. There is a very nice digital tribute to American military members who have lost their lives in service to our country. It is constantly rotating through the faces of many many heroes. Information is available at the bottom of the screen with instructions of how to submit additional names and photos of fallen servicemen/women.
Our Food Experience
Luke and I were not super hungry after a busy day at a museum, so we chose to split a package. We ordered chicken nachos as our appetizer and a fried chicken sandwich with french fries. Jason ordered the cheese curds as his appetizer and a burger with broccoli. The cheese curds were amazing! The nachos were just okay. While the appetizer was large enough to share, the most generous topping was jalapenos. And, the nachos were overcooked to the point of browned chips and dry chicken. Jason enjoyed his burger. When I cut into Luke and my fried chicken sandwich, it was undercooked to the point of still being very pink in the center. I almost never complain at a restaurant, but I pointed it out to the waiter, who said, “yeah, that is still raw.” He took it back immediately with profuse apologies. We were given a fresh chicken sandwich several minutes later and it was cooked well. It had a good flavor and I enjoyed it. The fries were okay, but not note able. The manager stopped by the table and apologized for the undercooked chicken. I was satisfied with the replacement sandwich, but she also took $15 off our bill, which speaks well of the management for customer satisfaction.
Forgive my rough photo. This is where the lasers are located and, armed only with my iphone, this was a picture fail, but still shows a bit of our escape.
Of course, the exit to a safe house can’t be the in the same place as the entrance. You have to be let out of the bunker by buttons that open another hidden door. As you exit, there is a phone outside of that door that is ringing. Luke got to answer and listen to the code that was needed to open the next door. Then there was a hallway with lasers to navigate and more doors that either opened or didn’t. Lining the exit walls are thousands of name tags with spy names from patrons. We, of course, added ours. The final door, at the top of another set of stairs, opens into a bright beautiful lobby that is for a hotel, I think. Which made me giggle after exiting a dark bunker.
All in all, we had a fun evening. We had a reservation and we were seated promptly. We were at Safehouse for about an hour. By far the best part was getting into and out of the Safehouse. I was relieved that we only had one of the five kids with us, as it would’ve cost us over $200 for all seven of us. If the food would’ve been better, then I would consider the cost to be more reasonable, attached to a fun activity like it is. But honestly, the mediocre food, combined with the price will probably prevent us from splurging with the whole family in the future. For our purposes this weekend, we were pleased with the overall experience and I still recommend the Safehouse on the whole.
Be sure to visit the Safehouse website to see a promo video and more photos of the fun.
*I did not receive any compensation for this review.