‘Pump’ and Circumstance in Chicago

With recommendations from the folks at Jetsetter, the always in-the-know Mrs. O, and my hipster-Chicago friend, Amy, I knew the Pump Room in the Public Hotel was a must-do while in the Windy City.

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Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. Judy Garland, and Humphrey Bogart used to dine and throw back cocktails in the Pump Room. Even though the restaurant has been completely redesigned, I felt as though the fabled stars were still a part of the space.

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The Pump Room’s name is legendary in Chicago’s lore. Located in the hotel formerly known as Ambassador East, it was the hottest thing going. Dating back to 1926, the now boutique hotel has been refurbished and rebranded as Public Chicago.

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In a town that still refers to their tallest building as the Sears Tower, despite its recent name change, Ian Schrager, the owner of Public thought it best to leave the naming of the legendary restaurant to Chicago. The people were given the choice of keeping the original name, “The Pump Room,” or changing it to “Gold Coast Kitchen.” With 28,000+ votes, the overwhelming choice was to keep the historical name.

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Today, the Pump Room is just as popular as it was in its heyday. Tables in the bar and the restaurant were filled with those from Generation X and Y to Baby Boomers. Despite being over an hour late for our reservation (we did call and let them know), Lola, Raul, Pola, and I were greeted with smiles and escorted to our large, round booth.

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A soft, warm glow was emitted from the giant, glowing orbs that hung from steel rods over our heads. There was a hum in the air, but nothing overly noisy. The only thing that kept the four of us from visiting with one another was our constant photo taking. Such is the life of hanging out with travel bloggers.

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Delicious-sounding cocktails filled the drink menu. With names like Pump Room Pisco, Pump and Circumstance,  and Passion Whiskey Fizz, it was hard to decide. I went with the Lavender Daiquiri and was not disappointed.

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We scanned through our clip board menus, but since we just had appetizers at Le Bar, none of us were up for a full meal. Instead of an entree from the reasonably-priced menu, we elected to order something smaller. Whole-wheat flatbreads and a spinach salad with warm bacon dressing were promptly delivered to our table. We devoured the food, atmosphere, and conversation, and if it weren’t for my yawning and our big Saturday ahead, we would have stayed longer.

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The more things change, the more they are the same. When it comes to the Pump Room, it’s still Chicago’s place to see-and-be-seen. And for my first ever night in Chicago, it was a delight.

Thanks to Pola at Jetting Around for the last two photos.

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22 Comments
  • Raul (ilivetotravel in Twitter)
    May 21, 2012

    As usual, well done! You took me back to our visit and made me hungry too! The Pump Room DID have a great atmosphere for dining or hanging out for drinks.

    I had not seen our group picture yet – an awesome pic.

    • Leah Travels
      May 21, 2012

      I wish I had one of their flatbreads right now! I’m starving. 🙂 I wish I hadn’t been so tired. I would have loved to spend some time in the library, too.

  • Francesca
    May 21, 2012

    Love love love! Now I really wish I could have met you guys at Pump Room as I have never been there. Outstanding write-up and wonderful pictures!

    • Leah Travels
      May 21, 2012

      Yep, Francesca, you really missed out on a grand time. Thank you for the kind words, too.

  • @mrsoaroundworld
    May 21, 2012

    I was really impressed with the Public Hotels concept – and hope it does last! Glad you guys had a great time, I hope I can join you one day!

    • Leah Travels
      May 21, 2012

      You certainly didn’t steer us wrong, Mrs. O. Kudos!

  • lola dimarco
    May 21, 2012

    yes!!! i do want to return to the Pump Room again, myself. Francesca, we can go back together 🙂 i have a feeling it won’t be too long before i return to Chicago!! lovely pictures, Leah!! xo

    • Leah Travels
      May 21, 2012

      Many thanks, friend. I know we looked like total cheese balls taking pictures, but I don’t care. I’m game for a return trip.

    • Francesca
      May 23, 2012

      Chicago return trip and Pump Room – let’s do it!

      • Leah Travels
        May 24, 2012

        Yeah, 2013, baby!

  • Pola
    May 21, 2012

    Very nice recap of a lovely night. Even though I live in Chicago, it was my first time at the Public House (thanks, gang!). The space is pretty sleek and modern, but it does have a bit of an old-school, glamorous feel. I loved their light fixtures – the spheres and chandeliers in the lobby.

    Glad you used the phone pic! 🙂

    • Leah Travels
      May 21, 2012

      Thank you! Now that you mention it, I loved the lobby as well. Very, very cool all around.

  • Yet another reason I need to visit Chicago…Love places like this with so much history. Great stuff Leah!

    • Leah Travels
      May 21, 2012

      Thanks, D.J. I’d love to see their rooms. The original Pump Room was described to us as dark woods and white table cloths. It seemed like it had a very dark, old-school vibe. It’s a complete contrast to the Pump Room of today. Supposedly there are historical photos near the outside entrance. I wish I’d seen them.

  • Aaron
    May 21, 2012

    Great pics. Wisd I could have made it that night, will have to check the place out and some of their cocktails.

    • Leah Travels
      May 21, 2012

      Yes, Aaron, you missed a great time. We certainly had room for you at our table. It was huge! Let me know when you go.

  • Jeremy Branham
    May 21, 2012

    Great photos! The food looks delicious but I don’t think I fit with this elite crowd! 🙂

    • Leah Travels
      May 21, 2012

      Oh come now, Jeremy. I bet you clean up really well.

  • Traveling Ted
    May 21, 2012

    You ladies look almost naked without your boas. Look at all those bare necks 🙂

    • Leah Travels
      May 22, 2012

      We were saving our boas for you. Come on, don’t act like you didn’t know that. 😉

  • Ayngelina
    May 22, 2012

    What a gorgeous place, adding it to my Chicago planning list!

    • Leah Travels
      May 23, 2012

      Oh you must, Ayngelina. It’s such a beautiful space filled with charm. The lobby and the library are very cool as well.

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