The historic Knight’s Diner on Market Street is once again open for business, this time under the leadership of Spokane native Doug Gariepy.
“I grew up in this neighborhood,” Gariepy says, so when the opportunity to buy Knight’s Diner came up, “it was a no-brainer.”
Although he grew up nearby, Knight’s Diner’s status as a community staple became even more apparent to Gariepy when he took over. The restaurateur previously operated a Zip’s Drive-In in Colville before buying Knight’s, which it reopened in early fall.
“So many people come here to tell stories about this restaurant,” he says. “I’m proud to be part of this story.”
The history of Knight’s Diner is truly rich. The restaurant car was manufactured in 1906 by the Pullman Car Company. Serving as North Pacific Car No. 988, she suffered two crashes on the Yellowstone Park Line before retiring to the Spokane Valley to be converted into a classroom for soldiers during World War II. As the war drew to a close, President Franklin D. Roosevelt personally arranged for No. 988 to be given to a Spokane resident who had traveled the country as “Uncle Sam” selling war bonds.
Several years later, No. 988 caught the eye of Jack Knight, a butler at the Davenport Hotel. Knight bought the touring car for $600 (potentially with money from bootleg liquor sales) and in 1949 it made its official debut as Knight’s Diner. The restaurant transferred ownership several times before its last owner, Vicki Green, bought it in 1982. Green operated Knight’s for 37 years, until it closed in 2019.
Since Gariepy took over, part of the car has been expanded to include a new galley, and a 1907 North Pacific caboose has been added to accommodate a food preparation area. Windows have been retrofitted, handicap ramps added and, perhaps most noticeably, a section of the counter has been removed to make way for family booths.
Knight’s Diner has been on the Spokane Register of Historic Places since 1991.
JToday, Gariepy’s Knight’s Diner pays homage to the wagon’s rich history and iconic ancient roots in part by passing on the elegant, old-fashioned signature to the restaurant. Retro music plays in the background, and Gariepy’s menu features classic breakfast and lunch fare, as it has for decades. In addition, most dishes are cooked from scratch.
“I cut my own vegetables. We do everything from scratch,” he says. “I do the dishes all day, then I cook.”
Gariepy says customers can expect to see Green’s complimentary brown sauce and onions, as well as its silver pancakes, remain on the menu. In addition to these beloved staples, Knight’s Diner’s new menu is entirely owned by Gariepy. There are traditional breakfast combinations, which include items such as eggs, sausage, hickory-smoked bacon, hash browns, and toast. There is also a selection of burgers, served with fries, as well as sandwiches.
To leave his own mark, Gariepy named some menu items after himself and his family. The Baylian Burger, for example, is named after Gariepy’s son. And the Gariepy “My Specialty” omelette is, of course, named after the owner himself. Topped with a generous layer of cheese, the heavy four-egg omelet features ham, andouille sausage, onion, bell pepper, tomato and mushrooms, served with hash browns and warm toast buttered.
I ordered the “My Specialty” omelette myself and so have a personal right to believe that Gariepy’s Knight’s Diner serves up savory comfort food at its finest. Plus, the portions are big and who doesn’t love leftovers?
Reopening of the Knight’s Diner was no small feat, says Gariepy. “It’s a seven-day-a-week job. I just want to make sure I can be everything for everyone.”
But Gariepy knows he can’t do it all on his own. Running Knight’s Diner has been a team effort, from start to finish.
“I brought my mom from her retirement. She retired six years ago, and I asked her if she wanted to come over and be a hostess,” he says. “My mom is my hero. She’s been doing this her whole life. Having her in the house really elevates the team. Everyone loves her.”
In addition to his mother, Patty Wilks, Gariepy’s girlfriend, Trish Malizia, is also the manager of the restaurant.
Gariepy says the aspect of reopening he was most concerned about was finding staff for the rest of his team.
“But I knew they would come out of the woods,” he says. “Those who are here are aces. You see how much they care for you…it’s very uplifting. That’s the biggest compliment I get from everyone: ‘Your team is just amazing .””
Gariepy and his team are proud to leave their mark on the legacy of Knight’s Diner, where so many memories have been made and where many new ones will be made. ♦
Knight’s Diner • 2909 N. Market St. • Open Tuesday-Saturday 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. • Facebook: Knights Diner • 509-319-2247