Password unlocks door to good food

Safe House offers unique meal experience


Talia Gottlieb

A wall mural sets the scene at the Safe House.

“Turn right, then make a left down the alley, and you’ll see it.” Yeah, okay. Sure, I will voluntarily walk down an ill-lit alley in the heart of Milwaukee. That sounds safe and smart. The concierge at the hotel a block away didn’t seem as concerned after giving my friends and I some rather sketchy and concerning directions regarding how to get to the Safe House, a top-secret Soviet spy-themed restaurant in “Disclosed Location,” Milwaukee. He was being completely serious with his instructions, so we reluctantly walked outside toward possibly the end of our lives.

Recalling the phone call I made to the hostess earlier that day, and her questionable response, “Hi, thank you for calling the Safe House in Unknown, Milwaukee. You are speaking with Secret Agent Margaux, how may I help you,” I had very mixed feelings about wanting to eat there for fear of my livelihood. Having to walk down a dark, “kind-of” road to actually get there didn’t make my reasoning for choosing this place any clearer. As we walked further and further down, we found the door to the restaurant. Finally. My friend Katya tried to open it, and, of course, it’s locked. Good. As it turns out, you have to walk further down the dingy abyss to get to the real front door, which, as it turns out, is a slab of rusting metal painted with scary Russian letters; very promising.

We opened the heavy door only to be greeted by a theatrical woman in a scary costume sitting under a giant black and white picture of JFK, only his eyes were lit-up and moving. It’s not everyday you get to see America’s most attractive president looking more like an extraterrestrial than a nice looking man. After we all piled in the cramped room, we were asked, “What is the secret password?” What is the secret password? How are we supposed to know the secret password? After guessing “Pineapple,” “Watermelon,” and “Safe House,” we were politely asked to stop, as we clearly did not know the secret password. Because of our inability to read the hostess’ mind, we were asked to perform a challenge. Our challenge: show off your three most perfected Karate moves. As the obviously pristine Karate masters we are, we didn’t hesitate to start kicking and air-chopping. Watching your friends make “Hi-ya!” noises and pretend they actually know what they’re doing is hilarious; making eye contact with them while they’re doing it is priceless.

After our skillful moves we’re accepted by the seemingly pleased employee, we were buzzed into our first secret passageway of the night; there were lots. We entered a skinny, blacklight-lit tunnel with fingernail scrapes and more Russian on the walls- kind of like the ones you see in P.O.W. movies and television shows. In other words, a very uncomfortable situation. After a few moments of confusion and a couple of “We’re stuck, oh my god where do we go?”’s, we finally found the door into the restaurant.

“Welcome agents,” our waitress said, Agent Bombshell. By all standards, the night was off to a very weird start.

This place is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It’s decked out in Russian spy gear and gadgets and ornately decorated with booby traps and pictures of political figures and famous people-with something slightly off about them. Everyone addresses you as “Agent,” which is interesting. I wonder how much the employees get paid to stay in character the whole night; I could not imagine having an awful day and then coming to work and have to refer to all of my customers as “Agent.” Not all heroes wear capes.

She showed us to our table (in a 4’ by 4’ enclosed room made to look like a prison cell for spies; awesome), gave us our “Spy books”, menus, and a quest for the evening. Dinner and a scavenger hunt? Yes, please! We got up and started looking around for the various clues on our guide. We didn’t stay on task very long; we were so distracted by the decorations. This place is filled with trap doors and TV monitors displaying pretend top-secret information; it looks like what I would guess the inside of the CIA headquarters looks like, minus the lethal weapons and answers to conspiracy theories.

The one thing I had heard about the Safe House before actually going is that inside the women’s bathroom, there is censored picture of a man in the nude with a big pink heart covering a specific area. It hangs right next to the sink, in plain sight, literally asking for you to look directly at it. For some, it’s as easy to walk away as incurious as they had been when they walked in. However, for some, the big pink heart just urges them to inspect a little further. However, sneaky as this restaurant is, when said woman attempts to take a sneak-peak, a ridiculously loud alarm goes off not just in the bathroom, but throughout the whole restaurant as a punishment. Well, of course, we had to make sure it actually worked. It works.

After meeting some very in-character employees, wondering if said employees are actually workers or just crazy people off of the street pretending they work there because they can pull it off, getting stuck in a secret exit, and forcing my Russian friend, Katya, to pose in front of the Communist flag just for jokes, we retreated to our table where we were greeted with our appetizer: the Compromised Chip and Dip (spinach and artichoke dip and tortilla chips). And compromising it was: to my dairy-free stomach.

Not too long after, Agent Bombshell brought out my wrap known as the “El Chapo.” Suffice it to say, my all powerful drug lord was indeed delicious. So good, it should have been locked up in solitary confinement after escaping multiple times for its illegal scrumptiousness. See what I did there?

After finishing off the last bites of my infamous convict, we picked up our things and headed to the door. Only, where was the door? We asked the waitress, who responded with “You’ll figure it out.” All right. We headed toward the back of the restaurant, past the piercing alarm sounding from the ladies room, to a hidden door which can only be unlocked by the Grade A fingerprint scanner. When the door opened, the four of us squished into a room smaller than our dinner cell, and waited there in confusion as the credit card swiper lit up in front of us. Did we really have to pay to leave this place? You betcha. Of course, Katya the Russian took charge and whipped out her credit card, spending her own money to exit the place where we had purchased a meal. Makes sense. As soon as she swiped, a mysterious phone rang instructing us to type in a three-digit code. We obliged, and a different door slowly opened behind us into a hallway straight out of the horror movies. The erie and dirty staircase is painted with “No return”’s and “Goodbye”’s; tell me you have not seen this exact scene in at least three Alfred Hitchcock movies.

As you can imagine, we tried to be brave at first, followed by shoving each other into a dead sprint toward the exit sign. We walked out onto, surprise, surprise, an alley. Taking a few seconds to get our wits about us, we finally got a sense of direction and walked stealthily back to our cars like the Agents we were.

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to check out the Safe House’s menu!