I wrote last year about the Chicago outpost of the SafeHouse, the Milwaukee institution that has been in existence since 1966. Overall I greatly enjoyed it.
Recently I had the opportunity for a return visit to the Milwaukee original, this time bringing my family along for the ride. We visited in the midst of a big snowstorm that left the streets rather deserted and made the walk to the restaurant exciting by telling the kids about “clues” we’d been give to find the location of a secret spy SafeHouse.
You enter off an alley through a nondescript door labeled International Exports and are confronted with a well dressed man asking for a password. Those with the password get speedy entry to the restaurant, those without will need to prove themselves first.
Once you’re inside the bar decor has a very rough hewn and hand made feel. You can tell that the various spy posters, pictures and paraphernalia were added over time and care went into the choices. Most of the major fictional spies are represented with an emphasis on the 60’s – various Bonds, The Man from UNCLE, Maxwell Smart, even Quiller makes an appearance. Honestly there is so much stuff and so many little rooms and nooks and crannies that it can at times be overwhelming.
The food is your average bar fare with spy names added for fun, Chicken fingers become “Goldfingers”, a chicken sandwich is called the “Day Smart turned Chicken” (a deep cut for Get Smart fans), etc and it all tasted fine. Let’s be honest though, you’re not coming here for the food, it’s the atmosphere and on that point the SafeHouse comes up a winner.
Compared to the sleek and shiny new Chicago location, the SafeHouse in Milwaukee definitely celebrates the Cold War era spies a bit more and is a little less polished but also a bit more fun. If you are in the area and a spy fan you need to make it a point to stop in. Just don’t forget to use the secret exit.