What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of spies? I bet for most of you it would be James Bond, guns, cars, etc. What about brunch? Yep, brunch. A delicious and hearty combination of breakfast and lunch served late morning to early afternoon. It’s one of my favorite meals! James Bond and brunch are now a thing, they have merged territories at the SafeHouse restaurant in Chicago, Illinois and I’m pretty sure Mr. James Bond would be impressed. If you are as adventurous as I am you will be curious about this newer Chicagoland establishment, which is exactly why you need to read on!
SafeHouse is located at 60 E. Ontario Street in downtown Chicago right off of the Magnificant Mile. The Chicago location opened in early 2017, however, their original location is located a few hours north of Milwaukee, Wisconsin where it has been doing business since 1966. The speakeasy restaurant has a 1920s feel and offers a dimly-lit, secretive, casual, spy theme. Throughout the restaurant you can find authentic espionage artifacts and spy paraphernalia, the atmosphere itself is worth a visit! The hunt for a unique restaurant over Veteran’s Day weekend is what lead me the SafeHouse. It just so happens this very weekend they were featuring a newly introduced James Bond brunch.
Arrival: SafeHouse wants you to have a true “spy” experience from arrival to finish. You will need to make reservations in advance, especially on a weekend, this can be done online or over the phone. I suggest calling, there were no spots available for the time I wanted online, however, there was availability when I called over the phone.
The location might be difficult to find and easy to miss since there aren’t any flashy signs and is literally just one red door for an entrance. Address and red door spotting are key to finding this location, even our cab driver wasn’t familiar with the spot or address. Upon entering the red door you will gather (possibly with other customers who are arriving) in a small room where a friendly (and humorous) host will ask you for the secret code. Unless someone has revealed this code to you, most customers will be clueless to what this is and will be asked to perform a series of spy actions in order to gain entrance to the restaurant. We were asked to perform three sets of our best ninja moves. Be prepared to come with a willingness to have fun and let loose a little!
Atmosphere: After gaining entrance you depart through a secret door and down a set of stairs to the basement where the SafeHouse restaurant and bar is located. Upon entering the restaurant there is a host stand where “agents” are waiting to greet you. The restaurant is dimly lit, television screens cover the walls to display secret cameras throughout the building, the bar area is lit up with a worldwide digital map, and gadgets galore and various spy memorabilia cover the walls. I also want to mention the Memorial Wall featured in honor of service men and women. SafeHouse adds humor throughout its restaurant, specifically featured in the bathrooms. I won’t spoil this for anyone, you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!
Service: The service was outstanding, more than what I would have expected. However, we arrived at 11 am when they first opened and were the first group to be served. I will say we did have to wait an unusual amount of time for having reservations and being one of the first to arrive. They initially asked who had reservations out of the first group of arrivals, we were the only ones with reservations but were the last ones to be sat at a table. Our server, Agent Zero, was prompt in greeting us, getting our drinks, and taking our order. He was welcoming and friendly and did a great job explaining the menu and answering questions. The manager also came around and gave us a history lesson on the SafeHouse and its start in Milwaukee. Sumed up, it was a personal, informative and pleasant service experience!
Food: A classic American mix. To be honest you go here mostly for the atmosphere but I hear the burgers are amazing. They advertise that they were voted the Best Burger in Chicago, I wish I would have tried one! But we were specifically here to seek out the Bond Brunch, which is only served on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-2pm, it was only their second weekend featuring this menu.
I decided to pass on the Fubar Griddle (a breakfast burger nestled on a donut bun) and go straight for the Classified Breakfast. The Classified is a combination of scrambled eggs, bacon, layered funnel cake, and a side of their special diced potatoes. My boyfriend had the B-1 Bomber which was a unique brunch item that included buttermilk fried chicken, layered funnel cake, and side of diced potatoes and sliced pickles. The food was good but not mind-blowing. The Cheese Curds we also ordered were a different story. These were the best cheese curds I’ve ever consumed and I even used to live in Wisconsin! They are an appetizer but the portion size is hearty, I could have ordered these as a meal and been one happy gal. Lunch and dinner items include everything from sandwiches and salads to prime rib and salmon.
Interaction: You are part of the entertainment from the entrance to exit. At the table we were given spyname tags to wear after we created our own personal spy name. While dining you can take part in the Spy Hunt, while I didn’t do this I had fun reading the scavenger hunt menu on the table and watching other kids and adults on spy missions throughout the restaurant. Upon leaving you have the option to exit through the elevator by the entrance or pay an additional $1 to leave the “fun way”. The fun way takes you through a series of rooms and then has you dodge through room lasers, at the end you come to a stairway full of “agent” stickers where you can leave yours behind. I suggest exiting this way!
Price: $10-25. You are getting some huge portions with these prices. The brunch runs between $10-$17 an entree and also features a Bottomless Mimosas special for $15. Their lunch and dinner menu average around $15 an entree. They do feature a Children’s Menu with all items at a hefty $12.25 each, you might find it more affordable to split a regular entree between kids. Their happy hour runs Monday-Thursday from 4-6pm with specific drinks and bites on special between $4-6. As a super cool bonus they honor veterans, service personnel, and active military on a regular basis (not just Veterans Day) – with a 25% discount!
Conclusion: There are almost 500 reviews on Yelp and Facebook for a reason: it’s a must-see location and they have fantastic burgers. It’s affordable for Chicago (downtown, at that) and flexible on being family friendly yet also a great place for adults to gather or go on a date. In fact, I think it’s a great date-night location that won’t break the bank and will also cover entertainment. It will make a fun night, or brunch, out!
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Photo credits: SafeHouse Chicago