It’s a tall order, reinventing a restaurant whose claim to fame is, in fact, its claim to the famous. The walls of Booth One are overflowing with grainy photos of countless stars who have graced its best booth over the decades, from Judy Garland to Mick Jagger. And while visiting celebrities nowadays may migrate elsewhere, Booth One—formerly the jumpin’ Pump Room—wants to make every guest feel like they’ve got the best seat in the house.
The display of celestial orbs hanging from the ceiling is offset by the rest of the dining room, refined but simple—which, incidentally, is an apt way to describe the food as well.
Ordering scrambled eggs for dinner at such a glitzy establishment might feel a bit odd at first blush. But the entree comes highly recommended, dusted with black truffle and heaped with poached crab and fines herbes ($25). One bite of the rich, velvety eggs scooped onto dainty rectangles of toast, and we were sold. Other recommendations from the polished servers are similarly reliable. To wit: the Japanese snapper ceviche ($18) pleasantly calls to mind a chilly late-spring beach day, with light passion-fruit sauce and briny sea urchin rounding out the delightfully fresh snapper. The nicely dressed Caesar salad ($14) is another smart pick for a starter, with grated Parmesan clinging to the lettuce as white anchovy adds a nice balance of flavor.
The dish christened with the restaurant’s own name, the Crispy Duck à la Booth One ($34), is crispy indeed, with a crackly skin encasing the rich, fall-off-the-bone meat. Served with root vegetables during winter months, the entree has been recently refreshed with new potatoes, frisée and a tangy gribiche, allowing the bright acidity to balance out the richness of the dish.
The restaurant, housed in the historic Ambassador hotel, underwent a reimagining of sorts late last year at the hands of hospitality heavyweight Lettuce Entertain You (RPM Steak, Beatrix and 120 other establishments largely based in Chicago). While the hotel’s previous owner began the interior’s modern reinvention, Booth One heavily tweaked the look with touches like raising the statment light fixture and adding more of the effervescent bulbs to emulate Champagne bubbles, lightening the space for an all-day look. A chic bar at the entrance is situated beneath a steep dome, giving it the feel of an underground rendezvous for secret agents and stars alike—the sort of spot where one can aptly appreciate cocktails like Her Majesty’s Holiday ($14), a grapefruit-hued, citrusy sipper of London dry gin, 12-year rum and Campari. For lunch, daytime cocktails are light and easy, like the Pimm’s Cup ($12), a fresh swish of cucumber and ginger. Zero-proof drinks like the Raspberry Beret ($8) or Amaretti ($7) offer sweet alternatives.
Some traces of the first iteration of Pump Room remain: Its 1950s-era cheesecake ($10), topped with sour cherry compote and centered on a crumbly crust, is a lovely way to end the night. Thankfully, some things never change.
1301 N. State Parkway, 312.649.0535
Breakfast and dinner daily; lunch weekdays
Salads, $13-$26; entrees, $14-$49; sides, $9-$10; desserts, $9-$10