The next iteration of Chelsea icon Empire Diner under chef John DeLucie will be taking its shot in the neighborhood starting today. DeLucie (Bedford & Co.) partnered up with the owners of clubby diner Cafeteria to revive the space, a historic building that’s had a share of troubles and different owners since 2010. After several months of revamping the interior, the restaurant opens for dinner on Monday, with breakfast and brunch to come.
Expect a pretty traditional diner menu of with lots of takes on American classics, which will come in the form of entrees and small plates. Dishes like wedge salad, mac and cheese, a burger with American cheese, onion rings, and deviled eggs will be available. A “pigs in a blanket” bar snack will come with confit pork and pickled cabbage instead of a hot dog, and a selection of raw dishes include yellowtail crudo with crispy quinoa and beef carpaccio with horseradish cream. Desserts, too, will be versions of familiar American classics, including a peanut butter caramel sundae and s’mores with honey graham ice cream.
The art deco exterior of the restaurant — which is one of the last freestanding diners in NYC — hasn’t changed, but DeLucie and co. have made the inside lighter, he says. The floor has white tile and a mosaic, and the tables are a pale-colored wood, accompanied by schoolhouse-style chairs. It also has “modern industrial touches” and plenty of vintage stainless steel touches, DeLucie says. “We tried to give a nod to the old school,” he says. “But it’s certainly Empire Diner 2.0.”
Empire Diner has had a slew of owners ever since the original ones closed it after a 35-year run. Chef Amanda Frietag of “Chopped” fame ran it for a couple years before closing it in December 2015. The owners of Union Square diner Coffee Shop also tried their hands at running the restaurant as The Highliner, but the attempt only lasted a little more than a year.
DeLucie has tackled several restaurants with historical significance previously. Despite Empire’s rotating door, the chef has said that he is attracted to what the space represents to him — the fun of New York in the ‘80s.
Empire Diner, located at 210 10th Avenue, opens tonight at 5 p.m.