Chelsea icon Empire Diner will reopen as a restaurant under chef John DeLucie in the next few months — with “classic American fare” — from early morning to late night.
DeLucie teamed up with clubby diner, Cafeteria, for the revival of the beleaguered space. “It’s straight-ahead, New-York, American,” says DeLucie, who has been in talks to open a restaurant with Cafeteria co-owner, Stacy Pisone, for some time. “It’s frankly the kind of thing I’ve always done. It was a very, very, easy decision.” He plans to offer “a great hamburger,” steaks, short rib, and pastas.
The chef is known for establishing projects in buildings with historical significance. Empire fits the bill, as one of Manhattan’s few freestanding diners and as an originator of upscale diner fare. “I remember New York from the ‘80s and how much fun it was as a young person in New York,” DeLucie says. “I guess it has a lot to do with that,” he says of his decision to revive the space.
The location hasn’t been hospitable to new owners once the original Empire Diner shuttered in May 2010 at the end of a 35-year run. Most recently, Chopped star Amanda Frietag ran the restaurant for a couple years before it shut down in December 2015. Before that, Coffee Shop team opened The Highliner, which lasted for just over a year.
DeLucie and the Cafeteria team hope that they’ll be the ones to give Empire Diner another long run. Pisone and Co. have helmed the 24-hour spot, Cafeteria, since 1998. For the Empire revival, the team will be revamping the interior into something, “a little more cheery,” DeLucie says. Empire Diner won’t be open 24-hours, but it will be open from early morning to 2 a.m.
What’s the chance the new Empire Diner will become a scene? “I mean, I don’t know,” DeLucie says. “These ‘scene’ situations seem to follow me around It’s not something I set up to do. When you have a cool place and a cool location in New York City, certain people are going to be drawn to it.”
Empire Diner, at 210 10th Ave., is under construction and is expected to reopen before the spring.