The Pump Room

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The Pump Room
Restaurant information
EstablishedOctober 1, 1938 (1938-10-01)
Previous owner(s)Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (1976-1998)
Ernie Byfield
Street address1301 N State Pkwy
Postal/ZIP Code60610
CountryUnited States
Coordinates41°54′21″N 87°37′43″W / 41.9059°N 87.6285°W / 41.9059; -87.6285

The Pump Room was a restaurant established on October 1, 1938 by Ernie Byfield. It closed in 2017, then reopened under different names.[1] It is located in the Ambassador Chicago hotel, formerly known as the Ambassador East, on the northeast corner of State Parkway and Goethe Street in Chicago's Gold Coast area.


The restaurant originally opened on October 1, 1938.[2] It was the brainchild of hotelier Ernie Byfield[3] and its interior was originally designed by Samuel Abraham Marx.[4]

The restaurant's heyday was in the 1950s and 1960s.[5] The restaurant served a number of celebrities who were regular customers and has been written about in books and articles. Lucius Beebe, gourmand, author and journalist, included references to The Pump Room in some of his books and articles. Arturo Petterino (1920–2010) was its maitre d' for many years, steering celebrity patrons to the coveted Booth One.[6] Famous guests included Frank Sinatra,[7] John Barrymore,[3] Marilyn Monroe, Oprah Winfrey, Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Beverly Sills, David Bowie,[citation needed] Natalie Wood,[7] Robert Wagner,[citation needed] Paul Newman,[7] Joanne Woodward,[citation needed] Humphrey Bogart,[7] Lauren Bacall,[7] Margaret O'Brien, Salvador Dalí, Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman, Elizabeth Taylor,[3] Vincent Price, John Steinbeck, Paul Harvey, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Lena Horne, Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Audrey Hepburn, Robert Conrad,Liza Minnelli, Robert Redford, Bill Murray, Josephine Baker, Phil Collins, Gertrude Lawrence, Eddie Fisher, Michael J. Fox, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner, Mel Brooks, Olivia Newton-John, Peggy Lee, Mick Jagger, Vivien Leigh, Dolly Parton, Morris the Cat, and many others.[citation needed]

The restaurant was owned by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises from 1976 through 1998.[8]

In April 2010, the Ambassador East Hotel was sold to Ian Schrager Co.[9] The hotel and restaurant closed in 2011, were remodeled, and the hotel was reopened as the "Public Chicago". The Pump Room reopened on October 11, 2011, with food concepts by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.[2]

Entrance to the restaurant space photographed in 2018, when the venue was named "Booth One"

The hotel was sold again in July 2017 to Journal Hotels. They renamed the hotel the Ambassador Chicago and closed The Pump Room. A reconfigured restaurant, named Booth One,[10] opened November 16, 2017, run by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, which operated The Pump Room from 1976 to 1998.[11] On May 30, 2019, it was announced that the hotel and Lettuce Entertain You had severed their agreement, and Booth One would close on June 29, 2019.[12] The restaurant then was reopened as the Food Gallery. As of 2022, the restaurant is operating as the Ambassador Room.

In popular culture[edit]

The lobby of the hotel, including the entrance to The Pump Room, is seen in Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 North by Northwest.

Special lyrics were written for Judy Garland's 1961 version of the 1922 Fred Fischer song, "Chicago (That Toddlin' Town)": "We'll meet at The Pump Room/Ambassador East/To say the least/on shish kebab/and breast of squab we will feast/And get fleeced".

One variation of the song "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)", popularized by Frank Sinatra in 1964, has the line "Chicago is... the jumpin' Pump Room".

In the spoken word introduction to the Monkees song "Don't Call on Me" (from their 1967 album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.), Micky Dolenz makes reference to "the elegant Pump Room...high over Chicago" against a background of drunken patter, clinking glasses and lounge piano. Dolenz, however, mistakenly places it in the Palmer House; moreover, the few steps from the street to the hotel lobby, and from the lobby to The Pump Room, make it hardly "high over" the city.

The Pump Room appeared on film when the Ambassador East was a primary location for the 1980 film, My Bodyguard, starring Chris Makepeace, Matt Dillon, Ruth Gordon and Martin Mull. In the film, Mull plays the hotel manager who lives on-site with his son (Makepeace) and mother (Gordon). The family eat breakfast in The Pump Room.

Near the end of the title sequence of 1983's Doctor Detroit, Fran Drescher's character, prostitute Karen Blittstein, arrives for an outcall at the Ambassador East, the limousine pulling up in front of The Pump Room's false windows.

An incident at the restaurant inspired Phil Collins to name his multi-platinum 1985 album, No Jacket Required.[13]

Also in 1985, the T. J. Hooker episode, "The Chicago Connection", depicted Sergeant Hooker (William Shatner) staying undercover at the Ambassador East with a Chicago Police Department detective, during which they ordered room service from The Pump Room. The nighttime exterior establishing shot (filmed on a studio back lot) mistakenly depicted westbound traffic on one-way eastbound Goethe Street.

Upon learning of his inheritance in the 1986 film, Running Scared, Detective Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal) tells his partner Ray Hughes (Gregory Hines) that he's going to dine at The Pump Room.

The Millennium Biltmore Hotel's distinctive lobby doubled as The Pump Room in episode four (1988) of War and Remembrance when Rhoda ends her adulterous relationship with Palmer Kirby.

The Friendly Indians have dedicated a song to The Pump Room called "Pump Room" on their second album, 1996's Greetings...From Lake Dolores.

Jazz singer Erin McDougald was the youngest headliner in the history of The Pump Room; she was introduced on live radio, to new general manager Bill Borden in 2002, by WGN talk show host Rick Kogan. Borden offered McDougald a contract on the spot and her two-year residency as the weekend headline entertainment garnered national press; the young McDougald was cited in USA Today (December 2003), the Chicago Sun-Times (April 2004), and various food publications as part of the renewed success and elevated Zagat rating, moving the restaurant from 3 stars to 4.[14] While McDougald was in residency, her performances attracted famous guests in the audience, including poet Maya Angelou, Dennis Farina, Bob Dylan, and John Malkovich.


  1. ^ "Ten of Chicago's Most Iconic Restaurants, Past and Present". 21 June 2022.
  2. ^ a b "The Chicago Pump Room is Back!". Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  3. ^ a b c Kogan, Rick (8 November 2022). "The long, star-studded history of the Ambassador East Hotel". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 12 September 2023.
  4. ^ Burns, Greg (July 28, 2002). "AMBASSADOR WEST". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  5. ^ "Schrager Acquires Chicago's Ambassador East". Hotel Business. 5 April 2010. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  6. ^ Zeldes, Leah A. (2010-04-29). "The last Chicago maitre d'". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  7. ^ a b c d e Todd, Anthony. "Own a Piece of a Chicago Icon - Everything Must Go at the Pump Room". The Chicagoist. Retrieved 29 December 2021.
  8. ^ Selvam, Ashok (7 September 2017). "Reborn Pump Room From Lettuce Entertain You Brings Back Rick Tramonto". Eater Chicago. Retrieved 27 December 2021.
  9. ^ Baeb, Eddie (April 2, 2010). "Ian Schrager to prime the Pump Room".
  10. ^ "Booth One, the reimagined Pump Room, opens". Chicago Tribune.
  11. ^ "Chicago's Legendary Pump Room Closes as Lettuce Entertain You Takes over". 27 July 2017.
  12. ^ "Chicago's Booth One, in the legendary Pump Room space, closing as Lettuce exits and hotel reconcepts". Chicago Tribune.
  13. ^ Sheff, David (October 1986). "Phil Collins interview". Playboy. Archived from the original on 1 September 2002. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  14. ^ The Chicago Sun Times music and culture section also reported on the success (January 2004).

Further reading[edit]

  • "The Fabulous Pump Room: I, II, III, IV", Lucius Beebe, Gourmet, October, 1963.
  • Kogan, Rick (1983). Sabers & Suites: The Story of Chicago's Ambassador East. Chicago: R. R. Donnelley & Sons.
  • "10 Great Places to Drink in a Historic Bar's Ambiance", Tim Dillon, USA Today, December 26, 2003.
  • "Pump Room Wins Back Coveted Fourth Diamond", Chicago Sun Times, April 27, 2004.