Sadly, West Chelsea's iconic Empire Diner closed its doors after 34 years.
Am I surprised?
Not so much.
Restaurants in Manhattan come and go and while the charming Empire stuck it out far longer than most, the food was mediocre at best and the service was appalling, to put it mildly. They didn't even serve french fries!
What establishment calling itself a "diner" doesn't serve fries? Instead they offered "Chelsea fries," better known to layfolk as potato chips. How it survived 30+ years without the french variety is beyond me (can you tell I like fries?)
To be fair, they never claimed to serve good food with a smile. Their slogan is/was, "The Hippest Diner on Earth."
Hippest? I don't know about that either but okay, maybe. My heart did sink when I turned the corner and saw the empty sidewalk where the tables full of the most colorful mix of New Yorkers sizing up passersby used to sit. Outdoor cafes are good for the neighborhood and besides, we already have one creepy vacancy on Tenth, the doomed southeast corner of 23rd Street.
Not to worry though. Word on the street is that the space has already been taken over by the owners of The Coffee Shop (and I'm confident whatever they open will serve fries). Empire fans need not fret either. According to the diner's blog, "the plan is to bring the Empire Diner Experience to neighborhoods around the world." It's good to read they haven't lost their arrogance.
Chelsea fries for everyone!