Shorty's Famous Hot Dogs: More Than 100 Years of Good Eats in Wake Forest, N.C.
Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 8am by visitRaleigh
Note, April 13: During our current COVID-19 crisis, Shorty's Famous Hot Dogs is open for takeout orders, offering burgers, dogs, pimento cheese sandwiches and more. Orders can be placed from outside the front door or by calling 919-556-8026. This information is subject to change so please follow Shorty's on Facebook for the most up-to-date status.
Located in the heart of downtown Wake Forest, Shorty's Famous Hot Dogs has been a go-to hangout spot for locals for more than 100 years. Originally opened as a movie theater way back in 1916, founder H.E. Joyner began selling snacks—before building an expansion with pool tables and a full lunch counter—to stave off nearby competition.
An advertisement in the Wake Forest College newspaper (Wake Forest University, then located just down the street, now calls Winston-Salem, N.C., home) from 1919 touts, "HIGH CLASS MOTION PICTURES" and "Ice Cream, Candies and all Good Things to Eat." Then called Gem Theatre, the name Shorty's arrived along with second-generation owner Millard "Shorty" Joyner (H.E. Joyner's son).
Today, the pool tables remain in a back room and a centuries worth of memorabilia packs the walls, but the main attraction is the doggone good hot dogs. You're likely to find a line out the door at lunch time that's filled with customers who have been eating here for decades (pro tip: even when the line to order is long, you can skip ahead and grab a seat at the counter if there are any available—you'll have your food in no time).
The hot dogs—bright-red colored, served on a steamed bun and best ordered "all the way" (chili, mustard and freshly-chopped onions at Shorty's)—go hand-in-hand with an order of crinkle-cut cheese fries and a large sweet tea.
If you're anything like us, you'll want at least a couple of hot dogs to fully appreciate the flavors that come from the flat-top griddle. Prices, while no longer the five cents they were back in the 1930s and 40s, are certainly reasonable—$2.50 for a hot dog and $2.99 for a hamburger.
On a warm summer day, it's difficult to resist indulging in an Arnold Palmer, the part-iced tea, part-lemonade drink named for the late golf legend. Palmer, once a college student at Wake Forest, is said to have frequented Shorty's during his time as a Demon Deacon—in fact, he even celebrated his 80th birthday back at the restaurant in 2009.
Still run by the same family that started it all (you'll find fourth-generation owner Chris Joyner behind the counter), the hot dog shop turned 104 years old in early 2020, making it the longest-running restaurant in the Raleigh area.
Shorty's Famous Hot Dogs is located at 214 S. White St. in downtown Wake Forest. Open Mon.-Fri., 10:30am-7pm, and Sat., 10:30am-3pm. Right next door is White Street Brewing, known in part for their award-winning Kölsch, which allows food to be brought into the taproom from nearby restaurants.
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