Everything’s Yummy and Homemade at Shorty’s Diner

The food, the prices, the portion sizes — they’re almost too good to be true at Shorty’s Diner.

It makes the decisions tough, starting with which route to go, breakfast or lunch?

Not that you can go wrong with either. Breakfast, served all day, can range from Shorty’s $7.50 Special (three eggs, choice of bacon, sausage or ham, hash browns, home fries or grits, toast or a biscuit) to the $12.75 Classic Sampler (all three meats with two eggs, a giant buttermilk pancake or French toast and your choice of side).

As for lunch, Shorty’s is the place where you get the meatloaf! It’s Mom’s recipe. That’s Gil Short’s mom. He’s the owner of the ’50s style diner located in The Edge District in Williamsburg.

Short’s wife, Bonnie, makes the coleslaw and pies; customers can’t get enough of her coconut cream. The soups are all his mother’s recipes. His ex-wife, Barbara, also works there, prepping all the salads.

“They made me fire my girlfriend,” Short quips. But seriously . . . “We make everything you could possibly make homemade,” he says. “We give three eggs instead of two. You get lots of potatoes. Our bread is thicker than normal. The pancakes are huge. People ask, ‘Why are you making them so big?’ I say, ‘I want the reputation that you can’t eat all the pancakes for $4.99.’”

Short’s lived a life full of highlights, starting with who he played football for at Miami University. That’d be Bo Schembechler, who went on to coach Michigan for 21 storied seasons.

“We had a roast for Bo two years before he died,” Short says. “It had been 46 years since we played for him and we were still afraid of him.”

Food isn’t a new business for Short, who owned multiple sports bars over the years but is largely known for his impact in the horse racing industry. Short designed and built Colonial Downs and served as president and general manager before moving on to Indiana and Texas to start similar ventures.

He retired for a spell to West Palm Beach, Florida, but that lifestyle wasn’t something that suited “an Ohio country boy,” he says. “I needed a business that I could get up early and close early.”

A diner that closes its doors by 2 p.m., fit the criteria.

“I opened up Shorty’s, which is off a footprint of a restaurant I owned in Toledo, Ohio, in the ’70s,” he says. “I’ve never looked back. We’ve been so blessed and so busy it’s been unbelievable.”

The Williamsburg location dates back to November 2011. A second diner at Willow Lawn in Richmond opened in January 2021 despite the pandemic.

“We have had great support through the whole thing from our locals,” Short says. “We didn’t get hurt near like other restaurants did.”

When folks come to Shorty’s Diner, they love to chat up Short. He’s hardly an ego-driven guy, but he tells it like it is when he says, “I get a lot of people who come in to see me. I sell my business on me and a big part of my following comes in and I talk to them. I am very active on my floor. I’ll never get away from being the guy they come to see.”

Find the Williamsburg location of Shorty’s Diner at 627 Merrimac Trail. The diner is open daily from 6 a.m.-2 p.m. Shorty’s Sweet Side, which serves soft serve ice cream sno-balls, milkshakes and malts, is open weekends from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Call 757-603-6674 for information.