On Sunday night, celebrities strutted their stuff down the red carpet as reporters and photographers yelled, "Who are you wearing?" We have a more important question for them, "Where are you eating?" Over the years, Chicago has been a hot spot for actors, artists, musicians, pro athletes and, of course, politicians, many of whom have wined and dined at now-legendary restaurants and bars. We scouted out the 10 most famous tables in the city — so whether you're celeb-spotting or just want to eat like Mike, here are the best seats in the house.
When the historic Pump Room reopened after its 2011 renovation, a lot of things looked different — from the glowing orb light fixture to the cream curtains — but one thing remained the same: Booth One. The iconic booth has been a popular pick for celebrities from the late 1930s to today, including Paul Newman, Humphrey Bogart, John Steinbeck, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn, Liza Minnelli, Robert Redford, Bill Murray, Michael J. Fox, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy, Mick Jagger and, most notably, Frank Sinatra.
Frank Sinatra certainly made the rounds during his heyday, and not only frequented this River North classic from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s, but befriended owner Gene Michelotti. Every time Sinatra would come to Chicago, he would call Michelotti to request that his booth be ready – the one in the back left corner of the main dining room – when he arrived after the restaurant closed.
Tucked next to the entrance of this secluded restaurant, and made even more clandestine by black curtains between exposed-brick walls, Ada Street’s private room seats 10 guests away from the rest of the main space. The table has hosted Deathcab for Cutie, The Walkmen, War on Drugs and the cast of NBC’s Chicago PD, among others.
In October 2014, one very important diner shut down the mezzanine level of this new River North steakhouse. Who could warrant such special treatment? None other than President Barack Obama, who visited RPM Steak just about a month after the restaurant's opening. The room was outfitted with one large table where the President dined with guests surrounded by a dozen Secret Service members.
Looking for campaign secrets? Some insider info on the goings-on of Illinois government officials? Get within an earshot of table 152. The six-top is located on the second floor of the Downtown Italian restaurant that's known to regularly host power players and politicians such as former governor Pat Quinn. The table is desirable because it offers a bit of privacy from the boisterous atmosphere of the main dining area.
At most restaurants the chef’s table is the most coveted seat in the house. At Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, that seat is occasionally occupied by the restaurant’s namesake celebrity. Table 23, the oversized round booth in the corner of the restaurant, is Michael Jordan’s preferred spot. When the man himself is not there, parties of two or four can reserve it for a special menu featuring his favorite dishes. The experience costs $150 per person, unless Jordan shows up. Then he'll pick up the check.
If you're looking for literary inspiration, perhaps one of the red-and-white checkered tables near the bar of the original Billy Goat Tavern is the place to start. Due to its proximity to both the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times newsrooms, the table became a regular hangout for journalists such as Dave Condon, Bill Granger, John Kass, Rick Kogan, Richard Roeper, Rick Telander and Irv Kupcinet. The burger joint and bar’s biggest fan was Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Mike Royko, who, upon hearing of the passing of William “Billy Goat” Sianis, wrote a tribute declaring Sianis the "Greatest Innkeeper in Chicago."
Barbra Streisand, or Babs as her friends like to call her, is one of several famous faces to be seen at Table #1. At the hot spot near the window, she ate #49 Banh Pho Xao, or rice noodles with tofu and garlic chile sauce. It was also the table chef Charlie Trotter always frequented, though he preferred eating oxtail or whole snapper.
The corner booth originally rose to fame as Harry Cary's table of choice, because it looked out over the main dining room. The famed baseball broadcaster could usually be found dining on chicken vesuvio. Since he vacated the seat, it's been filled with the trifecta of Illinois politicians — President Barack Obama, Governor Bruce Rauner and Mayor Rahm Emmanuel — according to CEO Grant DePorter. "Ernie Banks also enjoyed countless dry-aged rib-eyes while happily signing autographs and chatting with the starry eyed fans who couldn’t believe their luck running into 'Mr. Cub,'" he says.
The list of celebrities and historic figures who have walked the halls of The Drake Hotel reads like a Cliff Notes version of American history. Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Presidents Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Hugh Hefner, Walt Disney and Dean Martin are just part of the impressive list. But only Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe literally left their mark by carving their names into the bar of the Cape Cod room.