Iron Chef Amanda Freitag’s Reinvented Empire Diner in Chelsea

Exterior view of the iconic Empire Diner now reopened in Chelsea

Every NYC neighborhood deserves a great diner. So, given the number of venerable cheap-eats spots closing of late, it was a relief that, shortly following last year's shuttering of Chelsea's iconic Empire Diner, it was announced that the spot would reopen, with a full menu reboot, and with none other than Iron Chef Amanda Freitag in the kitchen.  

I had the opportunity to stop by Empire Diner 2.0 (3.0?) shortly after its reopening about a month ago, and though some of the dishes still need a little more love, their menu of tweaked, re-imagined, and updated diner classics is absolutely appealing. Plus, the space feels so familiar and welcoming, that you have to believe that Freitag has a hit on her hands. (Fingers crossed, anyway.) Here's the run down of the menu items I tried:

Buffalo Skate Wings

The best dish I had was the clever Buffalo Skate Wings, the fried pieces of fish drenched in vinegary hot sauce and placed over broad, thin slices of carrots and celery (a cole slaw of sorts), with a core of cooling creme fraiche functioning as the blue cheese. This was terrific. 

Image of the Amanda Freitag's Buffalo Wing dish at the Empire Diner in NYC

Empire Diner's PLT

Next up was the PLT: a thick slice of fatty pork belly, lettuce, roasted tomato, piled onto what is essentially an avocado smash. It sounds like a winner, but still needs some work. Somehow it delivered both "bland" and "sour" (I think the tomato was the main culprit).

Image of the PLT (Pork, Lettuce, and tomato) sandwich off the Empire Diner's menu

The Patty Melt

Instead of my diner usual, a burger, I went with the Patty Melt: a beef patty, caramelized onions, swiss, on rye, which came unconvincingly with Terra Chips (or equivalent) instead of fries. Sadly, it seemed to have spent too long on the grill to be at all enjoyable. Both of the miscues can be easily fixed, if Freitag is willing to give her full attention to the cooking. I definitely plan to go back soon to give the food another try. 

Image of the Empire Diner's Patty Melt, beef, with swiss cheese, caramelized onions on rye bread

More Information: The Empire Diner

The Empire Diner is located on 10th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets. The plan is go 24 hours at some point, but right now it's open daily at 5:00pm for dinner. Currently, their site is under construction, but they do have their full menus available for viewing.

Empire Diner on Urbanspoon

Posted in Downtown, NYC Dining, Other Neighborhoods | Tagged