The venerable Pump Room Restaurant in Chicago is once again a beacon of civilized living. Famously memorialized in the Frank Sinatra song ‘Chicago’, the ‘jumping Pump Room’ was one of the first true fine dining establishments to open in the Windy City at the end of Prohibition. Almost immediately, it became a favorite of celebrities including the biggest stars in entertainment history–Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr, Jackie Gleason, Dean Martin, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, Ronald Reagan and Marilyn Monroe is just a very small list of the icons that made it a regular hangout. In the later part of the 20th century, however, it sort of fell off the map as a new wave of gourmet restaurants in the Windy City led by Charlie Trotter reduced it to a historical footnote.
The Pump Room opened in’38 under the ownership and management of Ernie Blyfield. He took the name from an 18th century London pub favored by celebrities and nobility, including Queen Anne. The original pub got its name from the hot drinks pumped into the cocktails of its stylish clientele.
The Chicago Pump Room was a smashing success from the time it opened. It’s most desired table reserved for ‘A list’ celebrities was Booth #1, which for a time may have been the most sought after table at any dining establishment in the country. Booth #1 at various times hosted Frank Sinatra and his associates, Bogart and Bacall, Judy Garland and daughter Liza Minnelli, John Barrymore and countless others.
Blyfield died in’50, but the Pump Room remained a Chicago hot spot and hosted a new era of superstars including Mel Brooks, Beverly Sills, Paul Newman, Robert Redford. More recently, Michael J. Fox, Eddie Murphy and Mick Jagger have made appearances. A funny story involves former Genesis drummer Phil Collins, who was refused entry for not wearing a jacket. The incident was commemorated in the title of his next solo album No Jacket Required which has since sold over– million copies worldwide and launched Collins into solo superstardom. Following its release, the Pump Room sent Collins an apology”and an appropriate jacket so that the incident wouldnt be repeated.
Since being purchased by the Dallas Restaurant Group in the late’90s, things are hopping again, however. With the extremely talented chef Martial Noguier at the helm (who has worked in the kitchen of a number of Frances most renown chefs), and a $ 2 million dollar restoration of the facilities, the Pump Room is back among the rarefied heights of Chicagos best restaurants. Though the flaming food served on a sword that was the Pump Room trademark during its golden era is sadly absent (due to city fire codes), the menu is now up to snuff serving Noguiers sophisticated interpretation of classic American cuisine. In addition to the revamped cuisine, the Pump Room upgraded its wine offering and expanded the bar area.
Today, current Executive Chef Nick Sutton continues the restaurant’s tradition of culinary excellence. The most amazing thing about the restaurant, however, remains the almost palpable sense of history that the dining room affords. Sitting in the same room where icons of American culture from Sinatra to Bogart held court is an intoxicating experience in itself. Chef Sutton has maintained the quality of the Pump Room’s food and service to the high level worthy of the legends that have dined there.
Ross Everett is a widely published freelance sports writer and respected authority on sports betting odds comparison. He writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sportsbooks and sportsbook directory sites. He lives in Northern Nevada with three Jack Russell Terriers and a kangaroo. He is currently working on an autobiography of former energy secretary Donald Hodell.