For 75 years and through multiple owners, Shorty’s Place in Falls City has been a Karnes County tradition serving up comfort foods like chicken-fried steak, burgers, steaks, fried okra and an array of fresh baked desserts.
Since late 2018, the restaurant has been owned by Chris McCombs, who grew up in Corpus Christi and previously worked as a caterer in Dallas. Although McCombs has a background preparing more upscale cuisine and taught at the Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Dallas, he has made sure that Shorty’s hasn’t strayed far from its roots.
Owning a restaurant fulfilled a longtime dream for McCombs, who had a thriving business as a caterer but wanted to pursue a different avenue of business. Growing up, he had family in the area, including an uncle who lived in Gillette, and was attracted to the idea of living in a small town.
“I lived in Dallas for 20 years, and after the first year I was ready to move,” McCombs said. “It had its positives, but I like living somewhere that is quieter, and where the people are more down-to-earth. The people in this area are incredible. They have been very welcoming and are loyal and it’s been a pleasure to get to know them. They have been wonderful.”
Although a sign in the restaurant proclaims Shorty’s opened in 1945, McCombs said he believes it was actually 1946 when Ma and Shorty McGill opened the establishment. A photo of the couple, as well as one of Shorty alone during Karnes County’s centennial celebration in 1854, are featured prominently in a reserved seating area of the restaurant.
McCombs is appreciative of the history of the establishment, and said that the next longtime owner, Lillian Beam, was recruited by Ma McGill to work there. When Ma McGill became ill, she sold the restaurant to Beam, who ran it for the next four decades.
“I have pretty much kept the same menu - it’s great food and people know what to expect,” McCombs said.
An opportunity to serve the community its is something McCombs takes literally. He said this Thanksgiving, the restaurant will serve free meals complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and a roll, as well as a choice of pumpkin or pecan pie, to those in need.
“Anybody who doesn’t have family to visit or who can’t afford a Thanksgiving meal is welcome, and we will also be offering free meals to first responders,” McCombs said.
To help cover the cost, the restaurant will accept donations. Those interested in helping fund the Thanksgiving outreach can call 830-254-3322.
“Last year we served about 350, and I’m hoping to double that this year,” McCombs said.
He is also looking forward to catering an education foundation banquet in Poth this year, complete with a more upscale menu and fancy place settings. McCombs said he would also welcome the opportunity to cater similar events in Falls City and other parts of Karnes County.
In the meantime, McCombs and the Shorty’s Place staff plan to keep serving up all the local favorites that people have come to love.
“Our No. 1 most popular item is actually our okra,” McCombs said. “I’d say about 90% of our customers order it. Our fried okra is legendary. People love it, and it’s the same recipe that was used by Ma McGill. People also love our chicken-fried steak and ribeyes.”
Hamburgers are also a Shorty’s Place specialty.
“Our hamburgers are phenomenal,” McCombs said. “They are off the chain great. I think our burgers are the best.”
One thing McCombs cautions is for visitors to expect a bit of a wait while their meal is prepared, but he says the quality is well worth it.
“This is not a fast food restaurant,” he said. “Nothing is precooked. We make the food when people order it. It might take a little longer, but it tastes so much better.”
Located at 7901 U.S. Highway 181 in Falls City Shorty’s is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.