Say it’s a Friday night, and you’ve suddenly realized 90% of your friends are busy, out-of-town, or watching reruns of The Office whilst waiting for their Ambien to kick in. Fortunately, this still leaves 10%, and within that 10% there’s bound to be someone that’s pretty alright. This person might not be your best friend, but they can hold a conversation, they don’t try take you to Le Bain at 2am, and they typically don’t make you feel like you’ve wasted several hours of your life. This person is the human equivalent of Empire Diner.
Empire Diner has been through a few different owners in the past couple of years, and now it’s a good-looking place where you can eat some brussels sprouts and a nice piece of fish. You probably won’t start planning your next visit as soon as you leave, but the food is, for the most part, better than what you’d make at home, and the space is impressive enough to make you feel like you’re having a somewhat-special night out.
From the outside, this place looks like a vintage diner, and the inside feels like the dining car of a train that was built to lure 20-somethings away from air travel. It’s clean and minimalist, with a bar, a few booths, a small dining room in the back, and an additional space upstairs. So if you’re looking for a restaurant that’s more attractive than the last Airbnb you stayed in, this place qualifies.
As for the food, there’s fried chicken, a few salads, yellowtail crudo, and a bunch of other things that you tend to find in “new American” restaurants that have worked with a graphic designer and occasionally serve things in cast iron. And if you stick to the less-complicated things, and you should leave happy. Try the stracciatella. Or get a burger. It isn’t the best in the city, but it might be the best in the neighborhood.
You should also be able to get a reservation last-minute, even on a weekend. Which means that, much like a friend who uses read receipts and always seems to be around, Empire Diner is a solid backup plan.
This is mostly just a plate of cheese, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Spread it on the warm focaccia, and enjoy.
The cucumber broth kind of makes this dish taste like a green juice (with fish). It isn’t terrible, but you can go ahead and skip it.
We like our brussels sprouts crispy, and these come a little undercooked. We also aren’t sure why there are mustard seeds on top.
A pretty solid plate of fried chicken. It isn’t especially pretzel-y, but we’re fine with that.
Little pillows of ricotta pasta in a light pesto sauce. Once again, not mind-blowing, but if you made this for yourself at home, you’d probably brag about it the next day.
There are certain things in life that you should unequivocally be grateful for. A good burger is one of them - and this is a good burger.