Wednesday July 26th 2017

EscapeHouse/SafeHouse- Chicago Style

What a night! We had heard about the “EscapeRoom” adventures, several times, and decided it was time to test our skills. The Original Safe House from Milwaukee (circa 1966) has made the trek to Chicago for more adventure, adding the EscapeRoom as well. They could not have picked a better spot for this experience- They are in a building that houses a Marriott Hotel on Ontario, just steps from Michigan Avenue’s exciting lights and action. There are separate doors /entrances to the two different parts of the business- one is the “Escapehouse” , 54 East Ontario, the other just a door further East, the SafeHouse ( AKA International Exports)where a password is needed to get in. If you do not have or know the password, not to worry, they will give you a “spy test” and once you pass, you will go down the stairs, through the sliding electronic door and enter a lively “jumping” dining area with lots of seating areas and filled with “James Bond” and Maxwell Smart” STUFF!

Let’s get back to the dining experience. I truly was amazed at the fun we had doing the Escape. There are two types offered. One is being in the Oval Office of the White House and being able to find the way to stave off an attack. I am anxious to try that one at another time, as it is only one place to escape from. We did the basic “EscapeRoom”. It was Jane, our friends Alan and Vickie and myself. We were advised that larger groups can work, but that four to six are comfortable in the space. We checked in, signing wavers and coming up with a TEAM Name. Each of us also selected a “spy name” and word name badges that labeled us Agent in Training. I selected the name Maxwell ( “Get Smart” from the old TV series).

We were greeted by Agent Mask, a very funny young man who took notes on us and asked us questions about ourselves. He advised us of the rules and regulations and that we would have a timer running and that his “people” would be watching every move we made. We were allowed THREE clues and could ask for help when in trouble. Since he “liked us” and we answered some of his interview questions, he would toss us some “gimmees” if he saw us in trouble. There was no question, we needed help. One hour seems like a long time when watching a boring play or television show, but when the “clock is ticking “on an adventure, not so!

We went into the first room and were able to decipher the clue that was planted, find the key to opening the door and entered the next room. seemed pretty easy. The second room was just a bit  more complicated and took us a lot longer than anticipated. Some of the locks that we had to open were harder to decipher from the clues left for us, but as the clock ticked off we seemed to start working as a Team and got through the door. The next room was the “toughie”. Alan found a sheet that was designed to help us, and the first box opened easily. We needed to find three pieces of the puzzle and at least did, but we did not think about reversing our steps and going back to the last room we had escaped. There was a hint to do this, but despite all of our education, looking back is not something that was on our minds, and so we ended our 60 minutes a few locks short of completion and our fearless leader “Agent Mask” came in to show us where we had slipped up. He also told us the good things he saw in us and thus we all felt that we still could be secret agents (again). We then moved on to the “other” part of this new entertainment/dining center, Safehouse a hangout, dining hall for agents, certified and would be.

Recommended *** The dining experience. We were seated in a large round booth, called the code of silence booth, where at any time a sound proof glass cylinder could be lowered to make our words unbearable to the others in the room. Very cool! Here we were greeted by Agent Valkyrie, who was well-versed on the available “vittles”. The escape was tiring and we all were ready for dinner, but first we all needed a drink. They have catchy names, of course, but they offer great mixes , beers and of note, they serve a nice martini (called a “Spytini”).

We could tell that this operation began in Milwaukee by the number of genuine Wisconsin items that the menu held- just the number of cheese dishes blew their cover. It is easy to be a spy when you have the right clues. We enjoyed the Thunderballs (meatballs served with parmesan cheese, marinara and provolone cheese on a garlic and ciabatta crostini) and the Bird Watchers ( all-American wings- but we selected the Korean glaze topped with sesame seeds and cilantro and served with sweet Thai chili sauce ( I am not a wing lover, but I adored these),

We opted one salad, the Wai Lin Ahi salad- pepper crusted ahi tuna with romaine, napa cabbage, toasted ramen noodles, sunflower seeds, snap peas ,green onions and toasted almonds all tossed in a sweet and sour dressing. I am not a salad eater (unless it is prepared by my favorite salad maker, Casey) but this one was pretty darn tasty! Since we were doing the “share thing” we skipped the sandwiches (of which they have a great selection and as I watched them come out, I know that I would enjoy one or two on my next visit) and instead ordered their “licensed to Kill Cheese Macaroni”, creamy cheese sauce tossed in pasta with tender chicken, pepper bacon, broccoli and chipotle peppers, Loaded with garlic crumbs. By the way, this can be ordered vegetarian style- code name NOMEAT! We also dined on  the RYBAT , a top-secret entrée; slow roasted short rib braised for five hours in Guiness and then sautéed with a stout gravy and served with some of the best mashed potatoes I have ever eaten and the final item was Mata Hari’s Meatloaf; smothered in Portobello mushroom gravy, topped with crusty/tasty onion straws and served on some more of those yummy mashed potatoes. Imagine eating like this on a stake-out!

The menu is very extensive with dishes for everyone, including a special kids menu with everything they love! Trust me. With 8 grandkids, I know! For dessert, to go along with our coffee, we selected three; Bourne’s Blackout Cake (rich moist chocolate cake with a rich chocolate cream cheese icing and chocolate chips), The Italian Job (moist vanilla cake filled with Italian mascarpone mousse with a hint of lemon, topped with a buttery streusel topping) and a brand new choice, a chocolate cookie served in a pan topped with chocolate chips, ice cream and hot fudge (forget about calories, for this night, anyway). There was one dessert MIA (missing in action) London is Falling (for next time-special bread pudding) and for a group, the FB (FAT Ba—rd brownie bites, chocolate cake with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and a sparkler- difuse before eating!

This was a true pleasure- escaping and dining with friends in an atmosphere that was warm and friendly. Every person on the staff of both of these experiences a delight to meet and greet. In fact, it almost seemed as if they were not working, but just there for our experience and to make sure it was as smooth as silk. It was! I am hopeful that the next time we will do better in the escape portion. I know we did great in the eating side. There are lots of fun things- games and spy stuff. There are doors that will astound you. One bathroom door leads to? Another is a glass door where we can see inside, until the light is turned on- then we cannot! This is an experience, not just a dinner out, and yet the food is tasty and well presented.

 

Again, the Safehouse Chicago can be checked out at www.safehousechicago.com. The phone number is 312-3131-007. You might want to take a ride up to Milwaukee and experience the original as well. I plan on doing that soon! Vickie and Alan- thanks for sharing this experience with Jane and I- looking forward to the next one!

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