Classic NYC diners have notorious staying power, passed down through families for generations and generations. And Chelsea’s Art Deco Empire Diner has exhibited characteristic longevity (originally opened in 1946), yet has experienced considerably more fluctuation in ownership; changing hands multiple times in the ‘70’s, and folding (seemingly for good) in 2010, before being revived — if only for a few months — by the Coffee Shop team (which dubbed it The Highliner), and coming under the purview of Amanda Freitag in 2014, before it shuttered again last year.
Thankfully, you can’t keep a good greasy spoon down — or make that not so greasy, considering the current proprietor is John DeLucie, of famously posh institutions like The Waverly Inn, The Lion and The Crown. And though he’s not exactly a blue plate special type, his high-low aesthetic (exemplified by his famous truffled mac and cheese) well befits Empire’s “finer diner” philosophy; recently embodied by Amanda Freitag’s buffalo skate wings, bagel with burrata schmear, and bone marrow matzo ball soup at her previous iteration.
Which means there’s precedent for gussied-up options, like Sourdough Pretzel Fried Chicken, Sustainable Yellowfin Tuna with unfiltered olive oil, and Pigs in a Blanket with confit pork. Although when it comes to DeLucie’s former, signature dish, the Mac and Cheese seems comparatively staid (made with black diamond cheddar and parmesan breadcrumbs).
Empire isn’t your average diner, but it’s managed to maintain the endurance of one, buoyed by well above average chefs. Here’s hoping chef John DeLucie’s Empire Diner is here to stay.
210 10th Ave