Empire Grill: A small place with a big feel

22 Jul

 

It took me a while, but I finally stopped by to check out the new Empire Bar & Grill which opened about a month ago on Empire Blvd.  I’d driven by it many times, and every time I saw that the parking lot was packed.  I wondered how such a small place could fit so many people. Any why was it always so busy?

So last week I stopped in to find out what was so great about the place. That’s when I discovered that “small place” really wasn’t so small inside.

The Empire Bar & Grill — just like its name implies — is really two establishments. On the left side of the building is a very well-stocked bar, which seems to stretch almost the length of the building. It features two dart boards and 12 large-screen TVs, each tuned into a different sports channel, talk show or newscast.

On the right side is the grill (i.e., restaurant), separated enough from the bar that you won’t feel like you’re in a pub when you’re dining. It holds a lot more people than you’d think when you’re looking from outside. There are a dozen or more small tables and a booth along one long wall, allowing for seating of about 40 people. Plus there’s a nice stamped-concrete outdoor patio which can accommodate another 30 or so.  The restaurant side also has four more large-screen TVs in case you tend to get bored while you’re eating.

I chatted for a few minutes with Kelly Fiorini, the day manager, to find out what’s so special about the place that makes it so popular, only a few weeks after opening.  At first she mentioned their wings, but they’re particularly proud of their meatballs and sauces, which are all homemade. And their seafood bisque, she says, is “phenomenal,” with big chunks of seafood including whole steamed clams.

Before I left, I asked her point blank why the parking lot is always so crowded. She looked at me matter-of-factly and said, “Our food is really good.”

So check it out for yourself. It’s a nice little neighborhood bar and grill where both families and the late-night drinking crowd would feel comfortable.

Empire Bar & Grill is located at 2014 Empire Blvd. at the corner of Seabury Blvd. (the former Phuket Thai Cuisine location). They’re open from 11 am to 2 am Monday through Saturday, noon to 2 on Sunday. They serve lunch and dinner, from a surprisingly diverse menu including appetizers, soups, salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, burgers, pasta and a huge fish fry. Click here to see their menu.

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