This week, Empire Diner reopened at the helm of Cafeteria Group and Chef/Proprietor John DeLucie. The freestanding building in West Chelsea with its iconic silver, art deco façade has remained a New York staple since first opening in 1976. The establishment in its original state closed in 2010 before going through various new owners and rebirths, and most recently remaining vacant since 2015.
“Partnering with John for this project was a natural fit with his expertise in classic, elevated comfort food and eye for perfection,” says Stacy Pisone, partner of Cafeteria Group and co- owner of Empire Diner. “We’ve been an integral part of Chelsea for two decades since the opening of Cafeteria in 1998, and could not be more excited to expand our portfolio in this dynamic neighborhood.”
The updated design of the space maintains the traditional New York décor with a slightly more contemporary touch. Working with interior design and architecture firm Nemaworkshop, they managed to restore and accentuate the authentic stainless steel panels. They’ve also included wood paneling in the ceiling to contribute to a more refined appeal while complementing the unique structure.
Chef de Cuisine Justin Neubeck brings his passion for quality seasonal ingredients and his classically refined influences to the table (pun intended). The menu features “Small Plates” as an upscale take on traditional diner favorites. Entrees like the Braised Beef Short Rib with horseradish gremolata and the Sourdough Pretzel Fried Chicken with chili mustard sauce give the menu an irresistibly hearty appeal. Not one to stray from the diner basics, the Empire Double Patty Burger with American cheese served with herbed french fries is sure to be a crowd favorite for locals and visiting food enthusiasts.
Don’t forget dessert. Pastry Chef George McKirdy puts his personal touch on the American diner favorites with a three-layer Coconut Cake with butter cream and pineapple ribbons and the Strawberry Chiffon Cake served with vanilla cream strawberry compote and a toasted almond crumb. Sure to inspire a sweet tooth is the Empire S’mores Torte with toasted marshmallow, semi-sweet chocolate mousse, house made graham crackers, and vanilla ice cream.
The popular locale is also sure to become a favorite nightlife destination for a low-key cocktail. Cafeteria Group’s Head Mixologist Jenny Castillo uses clean and simple ingredients to put a current twist on classic drinks. One tasty libation is the Salty Dog, made with pressed fennel and grape juices.
Although only time will tell if this new iteration of a classic New York fixture will last, it seems to fit the niche for Chelsea locals who fear change. With the leadership of a Chelsea favorite of two decades in Cafeteria Group, the iconic establishment seems to be in trusted hands for a proper revival. And with a dining atmosphere and menu curated by some talented names in hospitality, it’s worth holding out hope that it will adapt to a new New York.
Empire Diner is now open at 210 10th Avenue in New York City. For reservations or more information, visit the website or call (212) 335-2277.