On April 9, the official opening day, the new Knight’s in the old Borders near campus was full of familiar well-wishers from its Dexter Ave. location intermingling with campus-area walk-ins waiting for tables. But a swing by Knight’s Steakhouse, as the original location is known, at dinnertime on that same day showed a full parking lot and a wait list for tables there too.
The Knight family already has a second location in Jackson, and they’d been scouting sites for another Ann Arbor restaurant for a while. At one point they considered the former Herc’s Beef & Spirits on Washtenaw, but coming downtown was the right choice, if opening day is any indicator.
Dan and Susie Sutter are the husband-and-wife team deputized to run the campus location. They moved back to Ann Arbor after years working at Chicago’s high-energy restaurants on Rush Street. Design firm Momus came up with the light-filled, white-walled seating areas dominated by a massive dark-wood bar at the center, which both does and doesn’t look like Knight’s Steakhouse.
The menu, too, is Knight’s and not Knight’s: “We’ve added some apps, like calamari and popcorn shrimp,” Dan Sutter says. “Cowboy steak [a gargantuan rib cut] will be on the menu permanently. It sometimes shows up as a special at the Steakhouse.” Mainly, the menu is shorter: the cream of the crop.
Dan wore coat and tie on opening night, and Susie was all in black with four-inch stilettos, but Don Knight, who runs the restaurant side of the family business, was reassuringly approachable, in green shirt and khakis. Dan emphasized that the restaurant has no particular demographic in mind. The Knights don’t play profiling games. They have always made a point of welcoming all. “A student can get a burger and a coke and get out of here for $12,” while that cowboy steak will set you back about $30.
Knight’s is not the only restaurant that saw room for another steakhouse downtown: Ruth’s Chris recently unveiled its plans to set up shop on Fourth Ave. That doesn’t bother the Knights at all, says Dan Sutter: “There are other nice restaurants in the area too. Ruth’s Chris will be several blocks away. Our steaks are just as good, not as expensive, and this is a local business.”
Knight’s, 600 E. Liberty, 245-9265. Daily 11 a.m.-11 p.m. knightsrestaurants.com.