The Pump Room, Chicago

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Coordinates: 41°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 and closed in 2017. It was located in the Ambassador Chicago hotel, formerly The Ambassador East, on the northeast corner of State Parkway and Goethe Street in Chicago's Gold Coast area.


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.[1] Famous guests included Frank Sinatra, John Barrymore, Marilyn Monroe, Oprah Winfrey, Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Beverly Sills, David Bowie, Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Vincent Price, John Steinbeck, Ronald Reagan, Paul Harvey, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, Sammy Davis Jr., Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Elizabeth Taylor, Lena Horne, Joan Crawford, Tallulah Bankhead, Audrey Hepburn, 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.

In April 2010, the Ambassador East Hotel was sold to Ian Schrager Co.[2] It closed in 2011 and was completely remodeled as the Public Chicago Hotel. The Pump Room reopened in fall 2011, with food concepts by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

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,[3] opened November 16, 2017, run by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, which operated The Pump Room from 1976 to 1998.[4] 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.[5] From that point until the hotel's pandemic-related closure the following spring, the former facility was known simply as "the Food Gallery".

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.[6]

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.[7] 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. ^ Zeldes, Leah A. (2010-04-29). "The last Chicago maitre d'". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc. Retrieved 2010-05-22. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Baeb, Eddie (April 2, 2010). "Ian Schrager to prime the Pump Room".
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Sheff, David (October 1986). "Phil Collins interview". Playboy. Archived from the original on 1 September 2002. Retrieved 4 April 2009.
  7. ^ 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.