The Early Word: The Highliner


It was a sad day when the Empire Diner closed its doors last year, but what’s gone certainly isn’t forgotten. Tenth Avenue once again shines in Art Deco glory. Occupying the former diner space is the Highliner (210 Tenth Avenue, 212-206-6206), offering up a menu of classic — but still slightly upscaled — comfort foods. We swung by late last week to check out the new digs.

The diner actually resembles its former incarnation, with a cozy interior and ample sidewalk seating. We grabbed a table outside to soak up the nice weather. However, it ended up getting so hot (the metal tables just amplify the heat) that we had to seek shade. Note to restaurant: Invest in a few more umbrellas and double your lunchtime crowd.

We began with a burrata and arugula salad ($11), which featured the creamy cheese and a bountiful portion of greens, plus sliced and cherry tomatoes. A simple dish, but all in all well-executed.

A fried chicken sandwich ($14) was appropriately moist, served on a soft potato roll with shredded lettuce. It wasn’t gastronomically wowing, but perfectly fine. And the french fries were at least tasty.

Unfortunately, the farro salad ($11) lacked pizazz. A few grains of farro hid beneath mesclun, a small scattering of cooked cauliflower cast off meekly to the side. A total dud, not worth eating at all.

The staff was having some issues with service and our order was accidentally deleted, causing us to wait an extra 20 minutes. So, to compensate (the thought was appreciated), dessert was sent over on the house. An apple crisp ($7) was pleasant, but it was served at room temperature, which seemed odd.

A fruit plate ($7), on the other hand, was under-ripe and tasteless. Alas, not quite prime berry season yet.

All in all, it was a rather hit-or-miss experience. It’s always pleasant to find a new spot for outdoor dining, and we’re lucky that the diner — a real vestige of old New York — was preserved (the team even left on the Empire Diner signage). We would maybe come back, more likely for drinks than for food, and while away the late afternoon outside — assuming we find a table shaded by an umbrella.