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 St 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, 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]

In popular culture[edit]

One variation of the song "My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)", popularized by Frank Sinatra, has the line "Chicago is... the jumpin' Pump Room". Special lyrics were written for Judy Garland's version of the 1922 Fred Fischer song "Chicago (That Toddling 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".

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

In the spoken word introduction to the Monkees song "Don't Call on Me" (from their 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.

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

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.[6] While McDougald was in residency, her performances attracted famous guests in the audience, including poet Maya Angelou, Dennis Farina, Bob Dylan, and John Malkovich.

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


  1. ^ Zeldes, Leah A. (2010-04-29). "The last Chicago maitre d'". Dining Chicago. Chicago's Restaurant & Entertainment Guide, Inc. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  2. ^ Baeb, Eddie (April 2, 2010). "Ian Schrager to prime the Pump Room".
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  6. ^ 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.