A Big Apple Classic
From its airstream-style cabin to tempting cocktails and dreamy deserts, the Empire Diner offers those visiting New York a slice of classic Americana
Review by Catherine Ferguson
Nestled on the corner of 10th Avenue and West 22nd Street, just a stone’s throw from the iconic Meatpacking District and Chelsea Market, lies the Empire Diner. A quick online search reveals the promise of a ‘Classic Art Deco diner relaunched with upgraded spins on classic American dishes, coffee and cocktails.’
As the Empire Diner came into view, I couldn’t argue with the description. Still, if you’ve got your heart set on eating in a quintessentially American diner, you need to make sure you book in advance. The nostalgic airstream-style cabin only covers about two thirds of the restaurant. We were seated in the adjoining room – it’s very pleasant and the glitter portrait of Mohammed Ali on the wall is more than eye-catching, but there’s a tiny bit of that tourist itch that might still need to be scratched when you leave.
No matter where you find yourself seated, the seasonal menu is on point, as Executive Chef, John Delucie, has lined up an array of classics with a contemporary twist.
Dipping into the cocktail menu, I find plenty of old favourites, with a little nod to their surroundings. The High Line Honey (Barsol Pisco sage infused honey, lemon and bee pollen) pays homage to the High Line Park just around the corner, built on a former New York Central Railroad spur and now home to trees, plants, art installations, unrivalled views of the Hudson river and a chase scene from zombie apocalypse film, I am Legend. The Empire Bloody is another classic, but I’m ashamed to admit, I was too scared to try my hand at the Smoked Tamarind Michelada, promising pilsner chipotle, tamarind and chilli citrus salt. Yowch….
The food was good – relatively simple, but done well. The blistered shishitos with citrus sea salt (padron peppers to this Irish girl lost in New York) were a tasty little appetiser and the roasted sea scallops served with cauliflower purée, romanesco, puffed quinoa and meyer lemon were a treat: they were enormous and cooked to perfection.
While every bone in my body told me I couldn’t possibly manage another bite, a little voice in my head said that I simply had to order a dessert. That voice is welcome anytime – it really was the highlight of the meal. S’mores Torte – toasted marshmallow, dark chocolate mousse and Honey Graham ice cream. I’m reliably informed that s’mores are traditionally a campfire treat made of toasted marshmallows, melted chocolate and Graham crackers, hailing from a recipe published in a 1927 edition of Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts. I suspect the Girl Scout version was a little different, but the Torte was simply delicious.
Enquires: The Empire Diner, 210 10th Avenue, New York, NY / 212.335.2277 / http://empire-diner.com