The Ambassador East Hotel

The loudest noise surrounding New Yorker Ian Schrager's purchase of a certain hotel-restaurant on Goethe Street in the Gold Coast neighborhood was about what alterations he might make to the Pump Room, that legendary celebrity watering hole. Barely a peep was heard about changes coming to the Ambassador East Hotel, in which the restaurant had been housed since 1938. The hotel, built as a companion to the Ambassador (now a condominium building across State Street) in 1926, may not have had as firm a hold on our memories as the Pump Room, but it also had a star-studded history: It played a big role in Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 film "North by Northwest"; Joseph Kennedy maintained a suite on the hotel's upper floors for his daughter Eunice when she was working in Chicago as a social worker (her younger brother Jack was often seen strolling through the lobby in his tennis whites); Doris Day, Lana Turner and Helen Hayes stayed at the AE so often that their names were engraved in gold on the door of their favorite suites (Clark Gable was also accorded this honor but was so publicity shy that he took an axe to his door). There was a public contest this year to rename the restaurant, which resulted in, as expected, an overwhelming vote to keep the Pump Room the Pump Room (the other name in contention was Gold Coast Kitchen). And so it is, dramatically and attractively redesigned and featuring a clever new menu from celebrated chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Old-timers and newcomers all seem to like it. No such public participation was involved in naming the hotel. It is now Public Chicago, the first in what Schrager plans as a nationwide chain of Public hotel properties. Rooms were redone, the lobby transformed, most memoires erased ... and life goes on. -- Rick Kogan
Copyright © 2018, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World