If you're a fan of Food Network, you may have come across the television show Chopped. In this popular competition mainstay, chefs get mystery baskets of ingredients and have to create dishes that incorporate all of the ingredients. Typically they have 20-30 minutes to combine items like lamp chops. peanuts, celery soda and marshmallows. The judges are a rotating lineup of some of country's most well-respected chefs. One of those chefs is Amanda Freitag, who, in 2014, (re)opened the Empire Diner in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York City.
Empire Diner originally opened in 1946, went through a few iterations and owners and then closed in 2010. Chef Freitag reopened the eatery to serve upscale American comfort food with a twist. I decided to try it out for a special dining occasion with my husband, sister-in-law and one of our friends from college.
We started off with the feta sticks. This might be one of the best appetizers I've had in a while. It was a unique and delicious take on a mozzarella stick. They dredge and fry feta cheese and then serve it with honey and figs. It's like a combination of a cheese stick and a cheese plate. It was absolutely fantastic.
For my entree I decided to go with the roast chicken. I did so because this was the exact dish that Chef Freitag cooked in the first part of the finale on the fifth season of The Next Iron Chef competition. The chicken was beautifully cooked, moist and juicy. The ricotta added some nice fat and the lemon gave it some zing and complexity. And the piece of crisp skin just sent it over the top.
For dessert, we split the brownie flan. While it was rich and decadent, it didn't really remind me of flan. It was more like a cheesecake (and, I love cheesecake, so I'm not complaining). The cocktail list is inventive and their is an excellent variety of wine and beer. No reservations here, so if you come during prime dining time, make sure to plan accordingly.
210 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Breakfast: Monday-Friday 7:30-11:00am
Lunch: Monday-Friday 11:00am-4:30pm
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 11:00am-4:00pm
Dinner: Monday-Wednesday 5:00-11:00pm, Friday and Saturday 5:00pm-12:00am, Sunday 5:00-10:00pm