Joey Grihalva
Weekly Happy Hour

Safe House Does Do Deals

Even if you’re not a spy, you get cut-rate wine and beer on week nights, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

By - Dec 30th, 2015 01:16 pm
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Safe House. Photo by Audrey Jean Posten.

Safe House. Photo by Audrey Jean Posten.

When it comes to iconic Milwaukee taverns, the Safe House is in a league of its own. The secret alleyway entrance, the required password, and the elaborate spy-themed interior have made it one of the coolest places to drink in the city. It’s the kind of establishment where you could find members of The Rolling Stones hanging out back in the day. Over the years it’s lost a bit of its luster and some of the gadgets have stopped working. Since it’s come under Marcus Corporation ownership this summer, there’s been change afoot. In fact, there’s a million dollar renovation scheduled for February, when the Safe House will be closed for the entire month.

Safe House (779 N. Front St.), just a ways across the street from the Pabst Theater, will join the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Public Museum’s “Streets of Old Milwaukee” as the latest city institution to receive a facelift. The upcoming renovation leaves prospective spies another month to explore the Safe House of old. One of the best times to visit is on New Year’s Eve when Safe House celebrates multiple ball drops around the world. From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. they’ll have a complimentary champagne toast for adults and sparkling grape juice for children on the hour, plus different international music to accompany each New Year and a magician. Their full food menu will be available from open (11:30 a.m.) until 10 p.m. Starting at 8 p.m. there will be a $10 cover and a “shagadelic dance party” all night long.

The first time I visited Safe House a few years back it felt like the kind of place where international businessmen smoked cigars and were regaled by salacious stories from notorious locals. It used to have a blackjack table in one of its side rooms. But since Marcus Corp. took over they’ve made an effort to create a more family-friendly environment. As it stands, children are allowed in the Safe House with adults before 8 p.m., and only after if they’re eating dinner. Starting at 8 p.m. there is a $5 cover. Before the cover charge Safe House features one of the best happy hours in downtown, the perfect stop before a show at the Pabst Theater.

Monday through Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Safe House offers $2.50 domestics, $3 rails and $3 wines at the bar only, a heck of a deal considering glasses of wine are regularly $7. They have cabernet, merlot, chardonnay and pinot grigio. Currently on tap are Blue Moon, Crispin, Leinie’s IPL, Lakefront Riverwest Stein, Miller Lite, MKE Hop Happy, Founders Porter and Spotted Cow. They also have their signature Code Beer, a top-secret amber ale that may or may not have a MillerCoors alias. Code Beer is $8 with a complimentary mug and $3 for refills. They have another dozen or so bottles, including Lakefront’s gluten-free New Grist. Their menu of “Crafty Concoctions for Cover Capers” are considerably pricier than the happy hour deals, though five of them come with a complimentary glass.

Safe House’s happy hour also involves $5 bites, which include Bridgeburner BBQ smoked chicken sliders, cheese fondue with butter croutons, corned beef hash with egg and dill pickled hollandaise, crafty dips and chips, Newsroom sliders, and wasabi deviled eggs with cayenne toasted panko. If you’ve searched for the Safe House before you’ve surely seen The Newsroom Pub, which has its own entrance at 137 E. Wells Street and has been around since 1885. It serves as the Safe House’s front and is the hangout of the Milwaukee Press Club. Newsroom Pub has the same happy hour drink deals and its own late-night happy hour special, a $5 PBR or High Life plus a shot of whiskey. But there’s no happy hour food at the Newsroom Pub and their menu is limited.

The Safe House is a popular place for dinner and their menu currently features pub grub like freshly fried Wisconsin cheese curds and speciality burgers. The Sean Connery Steak Sandwich is another favorite. The renovation will expand the size of their kitchen as well as their menu offerings. Other weekly specials include spy-themed Movie Mondays with free popcorn, “Rendezvous Tuesdays” where spies are handed James Bond character cards at the door and encouraged to find their counterpart, Service Industry Sunday with $7 bloody’s, $5 mimosas and happy hour all day anywhere in the restaurant. In the Newsroom Pub they have karaoke Wednesdays and live music Thursdays. Also in the Safe House they have a DJ on Saturday nights and Sunday through Thursday they have a magician.

One of the most fun features at the Safe House is the “Hail to the Chief/Her Majesty’s Secret Service” experience, common for birthdays, bachelor/bachelorette parties, meetings and other special occasions. For $30 (includes a souvenir 32 oz cup and drink) you are taken to the basement, interrogated and then emerge through the floor sitting in an oversized chair. I was told it is “definitely not kid-friendly” at the moment, but Marcus Corp. is working on a less X-rated version. Currently kids can enjoy the Safe House scavenger hunt, which I saw being done while wandering around their intricately decorated, maze-like confines. Stop in during the next month to do your own investigation before the remodel, which promises the “same theme with updated toys.”

Safe House

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