Empire Diner, the old 40’s iconic diner in Chelsea that was modeled after a black-and-white train car and closed in 2010, has reopened with Food Network’s Chef Amanda Freitag behind the kitchen scene. Her bright smile and jolly personality has welcomed the neighborhood with open arms serving creative diner food such as Buffalo Skate Wings, Octopus “Greek Salad,” Lox & Burrata while also paying tribute to the most crave-able diner style dishes such as Grilled Cheese, Patty Melt, Omelet, etc. When you walk in the tiny spot, you feel overwhelmed with warmth and comfort. The space is long and skinny and everyone feels right at home. This place is for regulars, neighbors or those just strolling by looking for a bite. Sneak back past the kitchen into the extra little nook and you can have a more private dinner. I love the booths back there and the street view of the edge of Chelsea is also sweet. I felt like I was in a New York movie that I had grown up watching like Home Alone 2 or something. All I needed were Christmas lights hanging down from the ceiling.
Lox & Burrata
We started with the dish I thought stood out the most- Lox & Burrata. Basically, it’s a carb free “Everything Bagel.” This is a perfect appetizer, and the everything bagel spices sure are spicy accompanied by a wasabi kick. The cold fish is incredibly fresh and something you’ll gobble up real fast. What’s a visit to a dinner without some pancakes or a grilled cheese? The Pancakes come with a warm Winter Compote (apples on my visit). When debating over pancakes, there are those that are as thin as a crepe, overfly fluffy like cake or bland unless you douse in syrup. Empire Diner’s pancakes are perfect. They aren’t too fancy and brought me nostalgia to my pancake phase when that was the only dish I’d order. They are fluffy enough but not too thick that you feel stuffed. These are the pancakes everyone is looking for – especially when you are eating them for dinner or right before hitting the sack.
I do in fact think that Grilled Cheeses are hard to come by. Most restaurants here try to glam this poor man’s sandwich up by putting it on fancy bread with fruits and truffles and fairy dust. At Empire Diner, you get just what you ask for. Fontina and Cheddar melted as hard as possible and smashed between two pieces of straight up normal white buttered bread. That’s what I look for in a grilled cheese at least. I loved the tomato thrown in the middle, too. It is completely necessary and a great extra. Our bread was a little over grilled, but hey, it worked for me and crunched and oozed cheese like a boss.
We skipped the Cream Orzo “Mac n Cheese” with broccoli and parmesan and black truffle butter because I in fact was not carbo loading for a race the next day as it may have seemed thus far. I would like to try this, the French Onion Soup and Trout Almondine next time. They also have nightly special entrees and sides which makes things exciting. The dessert menu throws your traditional diner options for a loop. Sure you have the Banana Split and Apple Pie, but there is also a Rice Pudding Parfait, Half Flan Half Chocolate Cake, Hot Donut Holes with a Salted Caramel Dip and our token choice, the Brooklyn Blackout Cake. It could easily be called one of those “100 layer cakes.” It’s surprisingly not heavy at all, or at least not for a chocoholic like me. We were able to plow through most of it without feeling sick or thinking it was too rich. I love the crumbly oreo like topping. The pudding layer is a bite to remember, just like the happiness you’ll feel as you exit that door. Empire Diner is beaming with appreciation from the guests that populate it each night. It’s easy. Nothing that will cause too much planning or chaos for a group and something that will please anyone at anytime. It’s way better than that corner diner that’s serving you cold fries and flat eggs.
Amanda, congrats to you my friend!