The Empire was created by the Fodero Dining Car Company in the 1940s and renovated into a haute-cuisine restaurant in 1979. A stainless steel model of the Empire State Building was installed on the corner that vanished after the Empire closed in May 2010. Customers have included Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, Barbra Streisand and Madonna. Miraculously, it’s survived intact despite the demise of similar diners in Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, such as the Cheyenne on 9th and West 33rd, the Market on 11th Avenue and West 43rd, the River Diner on 11th and West 37th, and the Munson on 11th and West 46th.
Nothing Could Be Finer: A Look at NYC Diners [FNY]
After numerous changes of ownership the Empire Diner reopened in 2014. Its menu still features more expensive fare than classic NYC diners.
Meanwhile in late 2018, the latest wall mural from Brazilian artist Eduardo Kobra appeared on the wall on West 22nd Street behind the diner, featuring a “Mount Rushmore” of 20th Century modern artists Andy Warhol, Frida Kahlo, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Another well-known Kobra work is Ziggy Stardust-era David Bowie, on a housing project in north Jersey City, and Michael Jackson at 1st Avenue and East 11th Street. Kobra depicted Bob Dylan in Minneapolis, MN and Salvador Dali in Murcia, Spain.