True Diner210 10th Ave
Phone: (212) 335-2277
Status: Open for business
Last Updated: April 25, 2017
Condition: Fair amount of change
One of New York’s most iconic, photographed, filmed, and talked-about diners, the Empire (which also operated briefly as the Highliner) has been a landmark in West Chelsea since 1976, when new owners refurbished, restyled, and reopened it as the world’s first upscale diner, sparking the Chelsea Renaissance a movement that continues in various forms today. The only surviving owner of that venture sold it to the executive chef and general manager in 1992, but failed lease negotiations in 2009 caused it to change hands and names for a few years. It reopened again briefly under its old name in Jan. 2014, but closed again by the end of 2015. Reopened 24 April 2017 by Chef John DeLucie with upscale (and up-budget) quasi-diner offerings.
Empire’s cultural influence would be difficult to overstate. It has appeared in at least six films and a number of TV shows, graced the covers of magazines and records, appeared in print and TV ads, a painting by John Baeder, and even the lyrics of a song. It’s even been imitated in the most literal way, as the stylistic inspiration behind the short-lived Osaka (Japan) firm Suntory, Ltd., which made miniatures as ‘Up Town Diners’ for temporary placement at empty lots.