The Public Hotel, once known as the Ambassador, was completely renovated and reopened in late 2011 thanks to the vision of Ian Schrager. As with Mr. Schrager’s many previous projects, and in line with the current trend of boutique hotels in Chicago, New York City, and San Francisco, this hotel is designed for the young and young at heart that appreciates a midcentury modern atmosphere. The lobby and attached Library & Coffee Bar as well as The Pump Room Bar offer a comfortable and atheistically pleasing public area. With original artwork, ample seating, and all the necessities one would need while traveling (espresso bar, free WiFi throughout the hotel, printed newspapers), this hotel seems to hit the high notes in stride. The rooms extend that feeling with more art, spacious bathrooms, and the most impressive as well interestingly stocked mini bar I have seen to date.
The hotels location in the Old Town neighborhood of downtown Chicago might be its best asset as you are within a short walking distance to shopping, dining, and the Lake Michigan beach and Lakefront Trail area. Heading north a few blocks you will find Lincoln Park, home to the Chicago History Museum, Lincoln Park Zoo, The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and more. The location also affords guest room views of the Willis Tower (Sears Tower to some of us) and the Near North Side area.
While it all sounds fabulous, I will make one suggestion; this is not what I would consider a hotel for families with younger children in tow. The Public offers perks for the youngest of guests from Saturday morning cartoons (in their screening room) catered with doughnuts and coco puffs and an equally satisfying kid’s breakfast menu, however, it’s generally an adult scene. In the evening the lobby, Library and Pump Room Bar extend to one large “gathering” area for adult enjoyment. Late night evenings the party continues with some nights including DJ performances.
On to dinner. The Pump Room, originally owned by hotelier and restaurateur Ernie Byfield, was for many years the place to be seen in Chicago. It was the subject of numerous books, songs, as well as the location for film appearances. After years of declining service, the restaurant was like the hotel, overhauled in 2011. The project was overseen by world renowned and James Beard Award winning French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Reservations are hard to come by at the Pump Room. With less than two weeks until my arrival (and I wanted to treat my kids to a fine dining experience) I was able to acquire an early evening reservation. I will note that our table was literally the worst table in the house (I assume because I had children in my party?). Dinner included several items off the “Market” and “Appetizer” menus then continued with selections from the pasta, entrée and dessert menus. The by the glass selection was small however I was able to find a satisfactory selection.
The Pump Room has a lovely décor, and if not seated in the “overflow” area you will be treated to the dining room design, artwork, and twinkling outdoor views. Prices were as expected and menus were pleasing and cover almost anyone’s request.
Overall our experience at the Public Hotel and Pump Room were enjoyable. The staff of the hotel was fantastic and took care of any requests we had during our stay. The hotel on occasion offers a promotional $1 one night stay if you are lucky enough to catch it (they sell out in minutes). Follow their Facebook and Twitter pages for these and other event announcements. It seems after a brief hiatus in its history books, this hotel and restaurant team is back on the A List of places to be and be seen in Chicago.