After one meal, the Lutzes bought the restaurant and three decades later Lutz’s Steakhouse is still going strong
After spending seven months looking at businesses, Dave and Nancy Lutz first visited 3100 Westfield Rd. as guests with a another couple in August 1983. The Lutzes enjoyed their meal, talked with the owner and then purchased the restaurant.
“Dave was impressed by the cars in the parking lot. He thought it was a good sign. We made an offer, bought it, and were scared to death,” Nancy said, looking back on the city icon’s history which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. “Dave was in manufacturing business, and we at one point were determined he would not able to buy into the company. He wanted something on his own.”
The restaurant, which was named Calloways, was in business for six years before the Lutzes purchased it.
“On a Saturday night, the staff was told new owners would take over Monday. To our advantage, we didn’t lose any staff,” Nancy said, adding that the name change didn’t come until six months after the ownership transition so they wouldn’t lose any customers.
While living in Kokomo, the couple spent the first year driving back and forth because their sons had just started the school year. The family relocated to Noblesville in May 1984 and all had their place in the restaurant.
“Our sons, Brad and Craig, did dishes. Mark, who was 6 at the time, was paid $2 an hour to stay in the office, watch TV and stay out of the way,” Nancy said. “My grandchildren are bus help and help with catering.”
The landscape has changed quite a bit during Lutz’s 30 years of business.
“We’d see deer between us and the (Pebble Brook) golf course. There were some houses across on Ind. 32,” she said, adding that at the time Noblesville had seven or less restaurants. “We were about the only entertainment in town. There’s a lot more choices for people (today). It’s helpful and it hurts.”
One thing that hasn’t changed much is the menu. Nancy said many items have stood the test of time including onion ring loaf, monster salad, butterscotch rolls and French-fried lobster.
“We’ve added a lot more seafood items,” she said. “We tend to be more interested in providing the quality of what we do than branch out into trends. We stick with what we do best.”
Nancy said the biggest challenge came when her husband died in December 2009 at age 66.
“I kept going for them (the staff). It’s the best thing in the world for me was to keep myself busy,” she said, adding she doesn’t have any long-range goals for the restaurant. “I’m coming in tomorrow; that’s why we lasted so long. I keep coming in, and it continues to be fun and exhilarating.”
Following Dave’s death, Nancy also had the challenge of becoming computer literate.
“Dave did everything by hand. He used paper to graph meat prices and we might have been the only company with hand-written paychecks in 2008,” she said.
While all of Lutz’s local food suppliers have been purchased by larger companies, the restaurant found a new way to incorporate local produce. Last year, Chef Sherry King began a vegetable and herb garden outside the building. The garden provides the kitchen with fresh tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cabbage, dill and basil.
Lutz said her customers and staff are the reason the restaurant still is in business.
“Some customers have been here that long or longer,” she said, adding most of the kitchen staff has worked for more than a decade and two employees have been there for at least 25 years. “When people come, they don’t leave.”
The longest-tenured employee at Lutz’s is daytime bartender Mindy Stephens, who began as a server six months after the Lutzes purchased the restaurant. Her father had Lutz’s as an account while working as a supplier for Taurus Foods.
“My parents were friends with Dave and Nancy. They are great people to work for,” she said.
Sephens compared the restaurant’s customers to those on ‘Cheers,’ where “everybody knows their name.”
“Most have known me since I’ve lived in Noblesville since the fifth grade,” she said. “Once you start coming in here at all on a regular basis you really start coming in on a more regular basis.”
Casey Keiner had Lutz’s cater his rehearsal dinner. On a Tuesday afternoon, Keiner was having a business lunch with his colleague Brian McGavic, of Noblesville, who also has ties with the restaurant.
“We really enjoy the Lutz family. They’ve done a great job serving us and catering weddings,” McGavic said. “I like the environment and of course the food.”
Address: 3100 Westfield Rd.
Hours: Lunch is 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The kitchen serves dinner 5 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The restaurant’s bar is open later and Lutz’s is closed Sunday and Monday.