August 23 2014

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The Empire Strikes Back


Robert Farbers Empire Diner

You may not have eaten there, but you’ve definitely seen the Empire Diner—that lovely hunk of metal stationed on the corner of 22nd Street and 10th Avenue in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. The 1940s eatery made a cameo in Manhattan, and even appeared in a vintage Heinz Ketchup ad. Perhaps more impressive, though, is the fact that in its heyday, the retro diner, which served as the backdrop for Robert Farbers’ iconic 1970s Bloomingdale’s campaign (above), was a favorite grub hub for everyone from Madonna to Steven Spielberg to Barbra Streisand. After a tumultuous half decade (due to some complicated lease negotiations, it closed in 2010, briefly reopened as a horribly touristy joint dubbed the Highliner, and then closed again), Empire has risen once more under the direction of executive chef Amanda Freitag. According to WWD, the new menu offers old-school favorites (think pancakes and milkshakes) as well as more highbrow bites, like gravlax with caviar. Between the food and the history, it sounds like the new Empire has achieved the perfect balance of flash and nostalgia to attract the area’s lofty gallery set.

Photo: Robert Farber

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