April 23, 2021

Pump Room Redux

I happened to be in the vicinity of the old Ambassador East Hotel now called Public since Ian Schrager took it over and was prepared to absolutely hate it.
Wow! Was I wrong. Having been a fan of Schrager’s Paramount Hotel in New York, I guess I should not have doubted his magic touch in re-imagining an institution.

Gone are my beloved experienced doormen, replaced with handsome callow young fellows in hip clothing.

The lobby is done in a light no-color palette that is restful to the eye while conducive to productivity with it’s computer area and seating arrangements inviting informal business meetings.

The former Byfield’s is a coffee bar by day with board games and light bites and a bar/entertainment nexus by night. The word that struck me was “inviting” with its plush furniture, fireplace and neutral color scheme.
Having been an entertainer there for six years, my real focus of curiosity was, of course, The Pump Room. (In fact, the public voted on keeping the name the same.) The entrance has been returned to a previous doorway to the left of the elevators where a big picture window used to reside.

Upon entering, I could readily see the bones of the old girl, but the decor has been modernized with all of the old wood colors being unified in a light neutral palette. The big square bar that provided  parking spots for so many regulars has been replaced with one long bar to the left and several seating arrangements throughout the cocktail area.

The restaurant host station is where the old bandstand used to be with the dining areas remaining pretty much spatially intact. The over-all effect is one of elegance and clean, restful design.

Having been a fan of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Prime in Las Vegas, I look forward to road-testing the food and service at a time in the very near future.
Bravo Mr. Schrager for bringing this grand dame of Chicago history into the current day without gussying her up beyond all recognition.

1301 N. State Parkway, Chicago, IL 60610

(312) 787-3700



  1. It’s a joy to read your descriptions – you’re our trustworthy and articulate guide to the arts and culture scene in Chicago, as well as a wonderful pianist and singer!

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