Knight’s Diner has a celebrated history serving breakfasts and lunch in north Spokane.
More than half of that history has been overseen by Vicki and Deral Green, who have cooked and served the food, made friends with customers and even saved the landmark by moving it across the city.
The couple’s last day running Knight’s will be Wednesday. After 37 years, they are retiring to spend more time with family. The diner will close and a new owner is expected to remodel the historic dining car.
Vicki Green said she’s received responses about the diner’s closure from local customers as well as others based in the Midwest and the East Coast, all of whom have cherished memories of visiting it throughout the years.
“Everybody is saying how dear memories of the diner were to them,” she said. “It’s so heartwarming.”
Green declined to name who is purchasing the diner, but indicated it was “a local investor who is very well-known in the restaurant business.”
The sale is expected to close Monday, July 15 and the new owner will begin renovations on the diner shortly thereafter, Green said.
The new owner will continue to serve breakfast at the diner, but with a different menu, Green said.
The 25-seat diner was packed Monday morning with customers enjoying homemade hash browns and buttermilk pancakes before the restaurant closes its doors this week.
Richard Webb, of Moscow, Idaho, has been a customer of Knight’s Diner for more than two years.
Webb has made it a point to stop into the diner for breakfast nearly every week with his son, Matthew, who lives in the neighborhood.
“We make a special effort to come here,” Webb said. “We love this place. We love the people. They are always warm and inviting.”
Webb found out about sale of the diner Monday morning.
“I am very sad, but I hope the new owners continue the great service,” he said.
Knight’s Diner has a storied history and is listed on Spokane’s Register of Historic Places.
The rail car that houses Knight’s Diner was built in 1906 and served the Northern Pacific Railroad as car number 988 on the “Yellowstone Park Line” before it was retired to the Northern Pacific Yards at Yardley in Spokane Valley, according to a historic register nomination document.
The car was pressed into service as a classroom for soldiers during World War II. Toward the end of the war, President Franklin Roosevelt gifted the rail car to a Spokane resident who voluntarily traveled the country selling war bonds dressed as “Uncle Sam,” according to the historic nomination. The researcher, however, was unable to track the real name of “Uncle Sam,” according to a 1992 article by Spokesman-Review columnist Doug Clark.
“Uncle Sam” moved the car near Washington Street and Houston Avenue in 1946, added furniture and used it as a summer residence until Jack Knight, a former headwaiter at the Davenport Hotel, purchased it for $600 in 1949, according to the document.
Knight hired Beardmore Transfer to move the rail car to Division and Jackson streets, renovated the interior into counters and stools, and opened Knight’s Diner in November 1949.
Knight operated the diner for five years and it had several more owners before the Greens purchased it in 1982. They moved the rail car to 2909 N. Market St. – its current location – in the early 1990s.
What has remained consistent was Knight’s original menu featuring fresh pies, buttermilk pancakes, french toast and hash browns made from Russet potatoes that were steamed and peeled every night.
“(Customers) know what they are going to get here and nothing was changed,” Green said, adding the food tastes exactly like it did 20 years ago.
Green said she’ll miss friends that she’s made through operating the diner and the generations of families who frequented the establishment for birthdays and anniversaries.
“It’s been pretty spectacular – all of the memories that they had here,” Green said.
Sterling Hunter has fond memories of the diner’s huckleberry pancakes dating back to when his grandma took him there when he was 5.
Hunter, a former Spokane resident who now resides in Virginia, happened to be visiting Fairchild Air Force Base for work last weekend and was unaware that Knight’s Diner was closing.
Hunter said it means a lot to be able to visit the diner one last time before it closes.
“It’s like you are going to a family’s house. In today’s land of fast food, you just don’t see that,” he said, referring to the diner’s atmosphere. “That’s a tradition we are losing. It will be sorely missed, but the memories last forever.”
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