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Posted on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 5:51 a.m.

Knight's Steakhouse: without the smoke, better than ever

By Susan Isaacs Nisbett


Inside Knight's Steakhouse in Ann Arbor.

Angela J. Cesere |

Every summer for the last 32 years, our family has spent time Up North. And every summer for the last 32 years, and into the fall and winter and spring, we have lamented that Ann Arbor seemed to lack a restaurant — a comfy, easygoing restaurant, preferably wood-paneled — where the bill of fare, as suited to a random Tuesday as to a casual Saturday, was American home-style cooking of the sort we found at our fallback Up North favorite, the Crow’s Nest, near Cross Village.

To be sure, for a good number of those 32 years, Ann Arbor had a restaurant, the cozy, wood-paneled, townie-in-the-know Knight’s Steakhouse, that could have satisfied that craving — for meatloaf, a burger, some pork roast or a steak, a slice of pie or a square of cobbler. And, let it be said, for a well-mixed martini (for the adults) or a Shirley Temple (for the kids — like our current 20-something who still calls it her preferred cocktail). But Knight’s permitted smoking, and even in its non-smoking nooks, the odor of cigarettes permeated our clothes and hair. For us, that nixed the deal.

But when Michigan’s May 1 law made smoking in public places a no-no, Knight’s became a yes-yes for us. The haze has lifted, and the air is fresh in this still old-fashioned place where walls, ceilings and carpets have been repainted, retiled and cleaned. While we’re not forsaking the Crow’s Nest and Cross Village, Dexter Avenue and Knight’s are a lot closer, by several hundred miles.

Based on several recent visits, we’re likely to join the ranks of regulars — like my friend Greg, whom I seem to meet there every time I go — who know good, honest food and good value.


Knight's Steakhouse
2324 Dexter Ave., Ann Arbor
Knight's in restaurant guide

  • Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m, Monday-Saturday. Closed Sunday and major holidays.
  • Plastic: Yes (but not Discover).
  • Liquor: Full bar.
  • Prices: Moderate — $4.95-$14 mains at lunch, $4.95-$20 at dinner, with steaks at both meals from $16.50-$31.95.
  • Value: Excellent.
  • Noise level: Moderate to high when the restaurant is hopping.
  • Wheelchair access: Yes.

Let’s start with the meat, for which the Knight family is justly celebrated, both at its market on Spring Street at Miller and at the restaurant (and on menus of other restaurants that tout their use of Knight's beef). Steaks are not cheap at Knight’s ($16.50-$31.95), but they are worth the dollars they command, from juicy prime rib and especially flavorful fillets to rich porterhouses, strips and rib steaks gorgeously caramelized outside and rosy within.

At prices from $4.95-$6.95 depending on size and toppings, the hamburgers, from Knight’s fresh-ground meat, are by no means a poor-relative’s alternative to steak.

Fries are great, too, as are the big bakers that are so appealing with a Knight’s steak. And with that steak, or before it, may I recommend an upgrade to (or order of) my favorite salad, a retro throwback that deserves attention in Knight’s excellent version? Should you see Knight’s wedge of iceberg lettuce with crumbled blue cheese, thin strings of red onion, blue cheese dressing and crisp bacon on the menu (it’s a recurring special), throw caloric caution to the winds and indulge.

Indulging is a big temptation at Knight’s. The portions are ample, and the drinks are good (as the crowd of regulars at the centrally situated bar attest). The desire to finish the bread basket is strong (gotta love those warm, chewy, poppy seed-sprinkled rolls). The desserts we’ve sampled — cobblers, pies and giant ice-cream-stuffed profiteroles with fudge sauce (yum!) — merit attention, though I’d pass on the stiff, so-so lemon meringue tart.


Pork chops with grilled asparagus and waffle fries at Knight's Steak House.

Angela J. Cesere |

Meatloaf with mashed potatoes beckon, a special of pork roast with pierogi and sauerkraut calls. There’s always fish to be had (though on a recent visit they were out of both of my fish choices and the meatloaf my husband craved), but somehow I find myself content with crisp-fried shrimp. On another occasion, the shrimp in my shrimp cocktail appetizer were large, but not, alas, the meaty beauties I’d craved, somewhat rubbery instead.

While no appetizers are needed, I found that, at least while eating for science (i.e., this review), my dining companions and I enjoyed most of the appetizers we sampled. We did awfully well by escargots wrapped in puff pastry or a rich-as-Croesus shrimp and crab Rockefeller concoction, for example.

At both lunch and dinner, an appealing revolving roster of specials livens up a menu that encompasses soups, salads, sandwiches and heartier fare. It’s nice to have that full spectrum represented at both meals, just as it’s nice to have the specials to look forward to. And there’s a kids’ menu, one that even includes “spaghetti noodles with butter,” a much sought-after item when our own kids were little and would balk at the least speck of green, including the decorative sprig of parsley chefs seemed unable to resist.

There are always crowds at Knight’s — reservations are a good idea — but we’ve learned not to be discouraged by the sea of cars in the parking lot and to wade on in, even without a reservation. The wait passes, the hosts are always pleasant, and they are willing to accommodate diners who request, say, a quiet(er) table for someone with hearing issues; the buzz can get going when the place is full. And once you’re seated, the waitstaff, efficient but never overbearing, never rushes you through your meal. In pleasant weather, there’s a deck out back set up for dining. It’s not Up North, but the food, the casual ambiance and the people make up for it.

Susan Isaacs Nisbett is a freelance writer for


Tex Treeder

Thu, Feb 2, 2012 : 1:15 a.m.

A new comment on an old article. I just had dinner at Knight's tonight with a good friend of mine. Both of our meals were excellent, the wait staff was friendly and efficient and the atmosphere was pleasant and comfortable. That's about as good as it gets.


Wed, Oct 19, 2011 : 10:53 p.m.

I don't know if anyone will read this, since I'm commenting on a year-old article. but I was just at Knight's tonite and I have to tell you, if you think the no-smoking thing hasn't affected their business you are DELUDING YOURSELF. it used to be you couldn't even get in the door around 6pm. today I waltzed in with no problem. I think three parties were waiting for tables. when you could smoke, you had to have a reservation to eat before 8pm. now...not a problem. I personally despise the no-smoking law. it should be up to the establishment whether to allow smoking or not. these same people who want to take our smokes away also want to tell us how much salt to use, what kinds of fats to consume, and Lord knows what else. and these are the "tolerant" lefties who care deeply about you! yah right....

Change Michigan

Thu, Oct 14, 2010 : 4:33 p.m.

The only thing good about the place are the steaks. Lousy service, slow staff and rude employees. Tried it a year ago and recommend Weber's instead. They know what service means. The man who served us was wearing SWEAT PANTS. It took 45 minutes to get a drink. The place needs gutting too. The crowd is all people who know each other so if your new..prepare to wait. I think anyone who owns a restaurant should wear professional clothes and not sweats to serve. Not happy there. I give it a 5 out of 10. Steak was a 10.


Tue, Sep 28, 2010 : 3:29 p.m.

My thoughts go out to the family as they recently lost their Matriarch, Mary Knight. she raised a fine lot of kids, good people indeed.


Sat, Sep 25, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.

There, there, Bobby. It's over now. And you know what? They won't miss you. In fact, they probably don't even know who you are.


Sat, Sep 25, 2010 : 12:17 p.m.

My family started going to Knight's in the early 1980s *when I was a wee bairn*, and now I take my husband, and out-of-town friends. It's comfortable, consistent, the bartenders KNOW how to make a proper cocktail *no funny pink sugary garbage*, great steaks and my all-time favorite, the fried perch *MMMM*. Specials are usually quite good too. We don't attend as often as we'd like *lack of funds and prices are high*, but we go when we can.


Fri, Sep 24, 2010 : 9:22 a.m.

Tyranny is a small minority of smokers (about 26 percent of adults in Michigan) polluting the air with death-causing chemicals in an enclosed indoor public establishment. Funny when a Democratically elected body takes away their right to smoke death sticks around others they cry injustice! Don't like it? How 'bout not smoking for the few hours you're in a restaurant? Or you're so beholden to paying money to sicken yourselves you can't do that? Smoking is not a protected right. Sheeesh!


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 4:35 p.m.

BTW, The GERD/ Acid Reflux ad is well placed.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 3:27 p.m.

Yes a2bob, that was the guise used to justify the intolerance of other peoples bad habits..."think about the workers" I'm so glad to hear about your concern for the people who work in bars a2bob...Just one question how come you're not as passionate about shutting down other dangers in the work place/dangerous jobs such as working on a fishing boat, electric lines, gasoline tamkers, ect.?...Oh wait, I think I know why. because it doesn't effect your "right" to go to any restruant in michigan and be free from smoke.

Jamie Weeder

Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 3:07 p.m.

I love Knights. As for all the hoopla non-smokers seem to give to smokers on this issue, I never really noticed smoke-filled bars and restaurants. And I'm a non-smoker, never have smoked a cigarette. The only real notice I ever gave was the occasional smoky smelling hair the morning after. To which I would respond by showering. It's probably not the best habit to pick up, but to each their own. Bars and smoke always seemed to go together... and as for people complaining about carcinogens and unnatural air-pollution, I'd like to see what kind of car they drive and if they where a medical mask when they take a walk in the city.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 3:05 p.m.

I love Knights. It is my favorite place :) It has been a family favorite restaurant for over 20 years. I love how my food order can be counted on to be prepared in the same consistancy as before, in fact I almost always order the same things everytime I go. So good! What many people don't know is that most of their employees have been there many many many years, people in the kitchen, bar and waitstaff for over 20 years. All of their desserts are made in house. For people that drink they make generous drinks. It is a gem of a restaurant.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 2:59 p.m.

The grill in the kitchen gives off smoke. Odering grilled items is tantamount to killing restaurant employees with second hand smoke too.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 2:26 p.m.

"What about the workers there? Do they need to put up with that work environment?" They can decide not to get a job there. How about chemical plants? Driving a gas tanker around and breathing in gas fumes all day? I think there's still some Mining going on in Michigan isn't there? I hear there may just possibly be more deaths from mining, logging, boating in michigan than second hand smoke deaths.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 2:19 p.m.

Self-absorbed AA Bob here. Note that I could vote with my feet and stay out of Knights. What about the workers there? Do they need to put up with that work environment? I guess that even the conservative gutless Michigan legislature finally decided the answer to that one was "no." Beyond that, Knights obviously distinguished itself as over-the-top smoky. Again, there's a reason that the author put the "no smoke thing" right in the headline of the article.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 11:41 a.m.

"The only problem I have ever seen at KNIGHTS is it is hard to get a seat because they are too popular. You are correct, NO smoke = even more customers and everyone wins." If it was hard to get a seat here because there were too many customers, then how can you have more customers now?


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 11:37 a.m.

Time out jail? I bet they close their doors next week as a result of this revolt.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 11:28 a.m.

"Just another case of a self absorbed person who thinks their rights outweigh the rights of others." Ahhh, the new Ann Arbor way of life it seems. Knights is good, but a touch overrated.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 9:34 a.m.

AAbob, It's about people having the right to do what they want. No one is forcing you to go to a bar that allows smoking...Yet you are trying to force people out of the bar who want to smoke. Just another case of a self absorbed person who thinks their rights outweigh the rights of others.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.

Knight's has always had one of the best burgers in town. But their treatment of non-smokers has been shameful. Evidence the prominence this change in circumstance has received in today's article. Even in the title! I understand (but disagree with) smokers belief in their "right" to foul the air for other oddballs who just want to breathe air with no carcinogens. I recall a drive home from a late flight-arrival. "Let's go to Knight's for a bite--it's only a couple blocks from home." A young friend was waiting tables. That friend noted the smoke that defined the work environment. I picked up the ketchup bottle and my hand simply stunk from the smoke-haze-goo on the bottle. This, is, not, natural. This, is, not, healthy. Knight's was "in-your-face" smoke pall. Knight's is on "time-out jail" with me for a while. I'm sure we both like it that way. I should go back to "reward" Knight's now that one can actually breathe in there. But to me, they need to pay a price for years of disregard.

Atticus F.

Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 9:19 a.m.

To say that Knight's is a better place now that it no longer allows smoking, is purely a matter of oppinion...I'm sure there are plenty of people who used to enjoy a smoke and a martini at Knight who would disagree. Also to the people who say that bar business won't be affected by the smoking ban...Wait until December. The whole reason the law took affect in may, is because the weather is nice, and the lawmakers knew the ban wouldn't have an immediate effect on business.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 9:02 a.m.

Knights is a favorite place for not only the Townies but many others in the area. :+} The only problem I have ever seen at KNIGHTS is it is hard to get a seat because they are too popular. You are correct, NO smoke = even more customers and everyone wins.

ClaytonB Johnson

Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 8:26 a.m.

Three Cheers for good food, sans the stench of the second-most disgusting smell in the universe! I generally liked Knights but refused to return because everything I wore (and me) needed laundering after spending time there. Now I may be able to taste the food. Yippie!


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 8:09 a.m.

I have to put the French Dip on my list of must haves, with sauteed mushrooms and Swiss cheese. Its the shot and the beer places that will will and have seen a down tick in their business, not places that have good food. And since we are on the topic of smoking, how come parents can smoke in their car with their kids, windows up and all? If we are really concerend about protecting people from second hand smoke we should protect children in these siutations who don't have a voice or a choice. Unlike someone who works at a restaurant or bar, they did not fill out an application and make a concious decision to put themselves in the midst of smokers to earn a living.

Joel Goldberg

Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

One additional item worth a mention: the amazing calves liver with onions. A rarity on modern menus, their version is tender, succulent and invariably perfectly cooked. And the restaurant is much more enjoyable since the smoke cloud lifted. Now if they'd only ratchet up the quality of the wine list to match the meat.


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 6:48 a.m.

We've always loved Knights. Particularly because it's a local family that owns and operates it. Also highly recommend the family owned market on Miller for the same amazing quality meat products. And now, with the air a bit more clean, we can take the kids!


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 6:13 a.m.

I love Knights! AND The Crow's Nest! I always get the fried shrimp and my husband loves their Petit Filet. He sometimes gets their Salmon Caesar Salad with the salmon on-the-side, it's a nice portion of fish. Their Key Lime Pie is excellent!


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 6:04 a.m.

hmmm, according to the "govt took our freedoms'" crowd, Knights should have been out of business by now! Glad to read that the place is doing well and that the food is as good as ever. I will put it at the top of the list for the next night out. Thanks for the review.