February 15, 2012 in Food

Knight’s fever

Diner’s owners celebrate 30 years with short stack deal
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

At Knight’s Diner, a converted Pullman car, owner Vicki Green, left, has restored and added woodwork inside.
(Full-size photo)

A visit to Knight’s Diner always feels like a trip back in time – and this week some of the prices will match.

Owners Vicki and Deral Green celebrate 30 years of ownership of the diner in a converted Barney and Smith rail car this week. The couple took over the restaurant on this day three decades ago. They still make many things the way they were made by original owner Jack Knight when he opened the diner in 1949, including silver dollar buttermilk pancakes and from-scratch hashbrowns.

“We still steam Russet potatoes every night and peel them for our hashbrowns,” Green said. “It’s time consuming, but it’s so different from a frozen product.”

Knight was the former headwaiter at the Davenport Hotel and said to be the only person allowed to serve Louis Davenport his evening meal. He purchased the railroad passenger car, built in 1906 by the Pullman Car Company, and renovated it. It sat at the corner of Division and Jackson streets and he operated it for five years before selling.

Green said Knight was known for being able to fill the rapid-fire orders from the counter without ever writing a ticket. He may have also sold moonshine out the back door of the rail car in those early days, she said.

The diner changed hands several times before it was purchased by the Greens who have operated it since. Vicki Green is the constant presence behind the long wooden counter, but Deral has also been an important key to the business, she said. “If I didn’t have my own built-in repair man in those early days, I might not have made it,” she said.

The rail car was moved to its current home at 2909 N. Market St. in the early 1990s. Until then, it stood on land owned by the General Store next door and had to be moved when the store expanded.

Green attributes some of the longevity to their flexibility with the menu. She said customers can share meals and make substitution. She doesn’t want people to pay for something they don’t like or a meal that is too big. “I want them to make it so that they can eat here and feel good about it,” she said.

They’ve taken care of the beautiful woodwork and stained glass in the rail car, which is on Spokane’s Register of Historic Places.

Green said what she loves most about the diner is the people it has brought to them over the years: The college students who came with their sweethearts on a first date, who later married and then brought their own children with them. She doesn’t always remember the names, but those faces bring her such joy.

“That’s the fun part of a small business, that you get to know all of the customers,” Green said.

They’ll celebrate those customers starting today by rolling back the price of coffee to $.30 per cup and the price of a short stack of pancakes to $2.30 (to honor the month they took over Knight’s and the number of years they’ve been in business). They’ll have the special pricing on those items today through Sunday.

Knight’s Diner is open for breakfast and lunch. The hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 6:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Sunday 7:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. The diner is closed Mondays.

Beignets construction to begin

Ryan Sowards and his mother Judie Sowards want to bring another taste of Europe to downtown Spokane.

They’ve leased space next door to Madeleine’s Café and Patisserie and plan to open Beignets restaurant and creperie.

“I want people to come in and really get a taste of European culture,” says Ryan Sowards.

He said he hopes to combine old-world flair with a contemporary feel in a restaurant that will complement what the neighbors are already doing. They’re planning a family-oriented experience, with a viewing showcase so children can watch as crepes are made.

The menu will also have an array of European dishes that Sowards has enjoyed during travel to Rome, Venice, Monte Carlo, Paris and beyond. Freshly made beignets will be served instead of the traditional basket of bread.

Sowards is a videographer and filmed café scenes while he traveled in Europe last summer. He has footage of cafes across Europe. He edited the videos and plans to bring those sights and sounds to the new restaurant as the video montage is shown on a 6- or 7-foot television screen at Beignets.

“They’ll be able to hear the sounds of the street and the little kids walking by speaking Italian. It will give it a real international feel,” he said.

They have 3,800 square feet of space as well as 1,000 feet for dining outdoors.

Construction is expected to begin in about a month, Sowards said. They hope to open at the end of May or in early June. Sowards will be updating the Beignets page on Facebook with updates on construction and menus.

Italia Trattoria serving lunch

Italia Trattoria is putting lunch back on the menu.

Starting Tuesday, owners Bethe Bowman and Anna Vogel will serve lunch Tuesday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“We just want to make it very quick and very delicious,” Vogel said.

It features panini served with soup, salad or fries. Diners can choose from seven different sandwiches, including the Miss Piggy, which is topped with Italian pulled pork, ham, caramelized onions and melted mozzarella ($11). They’ll also serve muffaletta with salami, mortadella, green olives and provolone ($8.95) and a burger with cheddar, gorgonzola, pepperonata, lettuce and tomato ($10.50).

Soups, salads and cookies will round out the lunchtime offerings.

Italia Trattoria, 144 S. Cannon St., features the culinary skill of Vogel, who previously worked for Tom Douglas restaurants in Seattle and Luna in Spokane. Bowman runs the front of the house and also previously worked for Douglas in Seattle. They focus on house-made pastas influenced by both northern and southern Italy, sustainable fish and naturally raised meats.

Bowman said they want lunch to be more relaxed than dinner service there. Dinner is served 5 p.m. to close Tuesday through Saturday and brunch is served Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

They’ve also recently started offering cooking classes at the restaurant. They’re sold out for the next few months, but plan to keep people informed about upcoming opportunities and wine dinners through email.

Send a note to italiatrattoria@ qwestoffice.net or go to the restaurant’s website to get on the mailing list, www.italiatrattoria spokane.com.

Small bite

• Sawyer’s Artisan Bakery has closed.

A last-minute surge in customers who wanted to help keep the doors of the Davenport, Wash. bakery open wasn’t enough. Jennifer and Matt Sawyer closed before reaching their one-year anniversary. They’re looking for someone who would like to take it over. For more information send an email to sawyer587@centurytel.net


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