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Will The Legendary Pump Room Finally Catch A Break?

By Anthony Todd in Food on Jul 27, 2017 4:59PM

From "The Ford Treasury of Favorite Recipes from Famous Eating Places," published in 1950.

When the somewhat faded Pump Room closed in 2011 and the new owners of the Ambassador East Hotel disassembled it and sold it off piece by piece, we weren't terribly happy. Then, when we visited the updated, replacement Pump Room, now run by the renamed and renovated Public Hotel, we were even less happy, since the restaurant was mediocre and hardly worthy of the name. Now, the Pump Room is closed yet again, and it's about to be taken over by another Chicago icon.

Eater Chicago reports that the famous restaurant, which closed earlier this month as part of the sale of the hotel from Public to Journal Hotels, is coming back, and it's now going to be run by Lettuce Entertain You. In an interesting twist, LEYE ran the restaurant during a previous existence, from 1976-1998.

When Public (and it's owner Ian Schrager) took over the Pump Room in 2011, they destroyed all of its vintage charm and replaced it with generic River North boringness. The room was unrecognizable as the place where Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe hobnobbed, and the menu, designed by celebrity chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, was uninspired.

Lettuce Entertain You and Rich Melman might actually be a perfect choice to revive this once-iconic spot. Melman knows how to do luxury antique kitsch well (see: Shaw's) and has an obvious respect for the history of the space, given his time there. Lettuce should be able to design a not-too-complicated supper club menu, throw in some low lighting and live music, and turn the Pump Room back into a place Chicagoans want to be. We're rooting for him.