To get into Milwaukee‘s most fun, family-friendly restaurant, you first have to find the door.
The entrance to Safe House (which also goes by the name International Exports, Ltd.) is an indiscreet door in a downtown alley. It opens into a small, door-less room. There’s no hostess, just a small antique speaker.
A voice from the speaker asks each of us to guess the entry password. We take turns coming up with goofy words, none of which were correct. So our group of six was instructed to play Ring-Around-the-Rosie. After we did, a secret door suddenly slid open.
Wild way to enter a restaurant, right? It’s just part of the fun at this unique spy-themed restaurant, bar, and history museum. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and had lots of hands-on activities for kids and interesting displays for adults (moms, be sure to check out the famous poster in the women’s bathroom). The above-average bar food is just a side note to the cool atmosphere and experience.
Adults as well as children were wandering around, looking at the displays, and finding all sorts of surprises in every nook and cranny.
“Everything deserves a second look,” says Owner Shauna Baldwin, who goes by the title Chief of Disinformation. She never comes out of character and shows a deep passion and knowledge of spy history. Tours are available.
The restaurant consists of dozens of dark, tiny rooms and hallways, filled with an impressive collection of spy artifacts that Baldwin’s been collecting since 1966. There’s an actual piece of the Berlin Wall, a KGB prison door, the world’s largest mechanical puzzle (which no one has ever solved), a Libyan flag that was flown over Yasser Arafat’s Jeep, and in the bar, a massive autograph collection of everyone from Cary Grant to local Olympian Bonnie Blair.
When we received our menus, the kids were given a scavenger hunt-type game that had them roaming all over the restaurant in search of clues to uncover the password.
I don’t want to give away all the fun little things you find in this place, but I’ll say this: the coolest part is the exit!