Cafeteria Group, John DeLucie Revive NYC's Empire Diner
Empire Diner, the iconic freestanding diner in the West Chelsea neighborhood of New York City, officially opened its doors April 24. In partnership with Cafeteria Group and Chef/Proprietor John DeLucie, the full-service restaurant will offer daily menus of Classic American fare.
Since opening in 1976, Empire Diner has been a neighborhood and industry staple as the area has become home to a number of art galleries, hotels and residences. Under the partnership of Chef DeLucie and the Cafeteria team, the restaurant will quickly become a culinary destination once again for New York City locals and travelers alike.
“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.”
“I’ve always been drawn to nostalgia. I love historic spaces that can be revitalized,” adds DeLucie, formerly of The Lion, Waverly Inn, and most recently, the successful Bedford & Co. restaurant located within the historic Renwick Hotel. “I’m thrilled to be working with Cafeteria Group to bring such an iconic New York establishment back to life.”
The new Empire Diner celebrates the ever-changing neighborhood of Chelsea, while respecting its roots to the art community since the late 1970’s. The restaurant’s recognizable art- moderne exterior remains untouched, yet upon entry, the inside space transforms into a more contemporary diner experience. The goal with the design was to respect the traditional New York decor while modernizing the feel of space.
In collaboration with interior design and architecture firm Nemaworkshop, many of the building’s original facets remain. The authentic stainless steel panels have been restored and accentuated. Wood panels are lined along the ceiling to complement the unique structure of the restaurant to create a more refined atmosphere. The bi-level restaurant seats approximately 100 guests, in addition to a seasonal outdoor area that seats 85 guests. The first floor of the space is split between two dining rooms—a more casual, booth-lined space with a bar to the right, and a more traditional area to the left. An open kitchen serves as a separation between the two spaces, along with a staircase to the upstairs level. The upstairs dining room, featuring a large marquee lit arrow, comfortably seats 25 guests and can be utilized for private events.
At the kitchen's helm is Chef de Cuisine Justin Neubeck. With a passion for quality and seasonal ingredients, Neubeck utilizes a clever blend of classic, yet refined influences in his cuisine.
“Small Plates” are upscale renditions of classic diner favorites. Offerings include Celery Root Soup served with brown butter and crab, the Frisée salad with poached egg and sherry vinaigrette and the Arctic Char Crudo with pomelo, chili and mint.
For lighter fare, the menu features Crispy Artichokes with house aioli, Roasted Heirloom Carrots with ricotta, coriander and puffed lentils, Beef Carpaccio with horseradish cream, shaved shallots and capers, and Sweet Pea and Onion Toast with goat cheese and roasted garlic. Other shareable “Sides” include Crispy Vidalia Onion Rings, Herbed French Fries, and Buttermilk Potato Salad with fresh dill.
Heartier selections are offered in the “Main” section, incorporating various classic flavors like the Braised Beef Short Rib with horseradish gremolata, Empire Double Patty Burger with American cheese served with herbed french fries, and finally a Sourdough Pretzel Fried Chicken with chili mustard sauce.
“Sweets” are Pastry Chef George McKirdy’s twists on American diner favorites. Desserts include a traditional three-layer Coconut Cake with coconut butter cream and pineapple ribbons, the Empire S’mores Torte with toasted marshmallow, semi-sweet chocolate mousse, house made graham crackers and vanilla ice cream, and a Strawberry Chiffon Cake served with vanilla cream strawberry compote and a toasted almond crumb.
Spearheading Empire Diner’s bar program is Cafeteria Group’s Head Mixologist Jenny Castillo. With a passion for simple and clean ingredients, Castillo’s menu is a current, seasonal take on classic cocktails. Empire’s “Salty Dog” is made with pressed fennel and grapefruit juices, a variation of a “Bee’s Knee’s” called “The High Line” which is infused with sage honey, lemon and bee pollen, and her “Mule” which combines matcha with notes of mint, lime and ginger.
Empire Diner is located at 210 10th Avenue, New York, New York, 10011 in Chelsea. The restaurant will be open starting April 10th for dinner Monday to Sunday, from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Brunch and lunch expected to follow with the launch of the outdoor seating in May.