The Empire Diner, Chelsea stalwart and one of our 10 most overrated restaurants, will serve its last meal on May 15.
Last fall, word surfaced that the restaurant, which has stood on Tenth Avenue for more than 30 years, would be taken over by the owners of Coffee Shop after its lease expired on Dec. 31.
According to a message on the restaurant’s website, the place will be closing up shop on May 15, and its owners, Renate Gonzalez and Mitchell Woo, are “actively looking for sites to open a new Empire Diner.” Or Empire Diners — apparently Gonzalez and Woo are looking to expand to numerous locations, and planning to bring “the Empire Diner Experience to neighborhoods around the world.”
Presumably those neighborhoods won’t be ones already colonized by Johnny Rockets. Or, for that matter, Huddle House. In any case, here’s the message that appears on the diner’s website:
“After more than thirty years of serving Chelsea residents, actors, police commissioners, athletes, gangsters, such luminaries as Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Steven Spielberg, and anyone carrying a New York City Guide Book, the Empire Diner has lost its lease and is closing its doors May 15th, 2010.
Renate Gonzalez and Mitchell Woo are facing the bittersweet task of closing this iconic New York institution on 22nd and 10th while actively looking for sites to open a new Empire Diner.
The search is on for appropriate real estate in and around New York City, as well as abroad, on which to develop both new Empire Diners and Burger Rebels eateries.
Inasmuch as the Empire Diner will no longer be in its original location, the plan is to bring the Empire Diner Experience to neighborhoods around the world.
The Empire Diner was closed and nearly abandoned in 1976 when three young New Yorkers-Jack Doenias, Carl Laanes, and Richard Ruskay, renovated the former greasy spoon on then-grungy 10th Ave. and turned it into the landmark restaurant it has become. With its Chrome and Black interior, traveling marquee lights, outdoor café, flashing “EAT” sign, and stainless steel Empire State building silhouette, the Empire Diner became a major force in the Chelsea Renaissance that allowed art galleries, hotels, and other restaurants to replace the machine shops, gas stations and auto parts stores that then dominated the landscape.
After the passing of Doenias and Ruskay, surviving partner Carl Laanes sold the operation to Executive Chef Mitchell Woo and General Manager Renate Gonzalez. Renate had come to the Diner in 1986, Mitchell in 1980. Both have been hands-on owners and are deeply saddened to have to leave their professional homes of over three decades.
Mitchell and Renate hope that friends, customers, and anyone with a lead on a suitable site will leave word here for them. Interested people will be kept informed of progress in the News section of our web address.”