Shorty’s Eatery in Old Shasta
By Kimberly Boney
By Kimberly Bonéy
Photos by Erin Claassen
“There’s gold in them thar hills!” The phrase has long been associated with the quaint town of Old Shasta, which had its heyday between 1850 and 1890, during the Gold Rush. The sentiment still echoes today, where the ruins of old brick structures and still-standing edifices have a way of transporting visitors back to the days of miners, pioneers and Gold Fever. Just ask any local or out-of-towner who has had the distinct pleasure of a visit to Shorty’s Eatery, located off Highway 299 in Shasta State Historic Park, and they’ll tell you the place is worth its weight in gold.
The restaurant opened two years ago, in a building that is an identical reproduction of the former Blumb’s Bakery, which operated from 1873 to 1918. Shorty’s Eatery has since restored the legacy of the longtime bakery to a shining new glory, and it’s the only restaurant in Shasta. While it is very busy during the summer, Fred and Annette Magee, the husband-and-wife team who own and operate the business, insist that it’s the locals who have been wonderfully supportive during the winter months, when lake-going crowds have dwindled for the season.
This little gem offers patrons a diverse selection of paninis, deli sandwiches, a build-your-own hot dog station, and divine baked goods – all made with love by Annette. Their sandwiches feature artisan-made sourdough from the Truckee Sourdough Company. The Scottish shortbread, made with bits of toffee, seems to be a virtual addiction for many of Shorty’s patrons. “They come in for that alone,” Annette Magee says with a laugh. The brownies and lemon bars – made with fresh squeezed lemon juice, of course – are popular, as well. “And, on the weekends, we have cake.”
While the menu is a draw, many patrons visit Shorty’s to soak up a bit of history. The building, its décor and the overall vibe pay homage to the cafes of old. 1940s tunes float happily through the air of the eatery, something that Magee says adds to its distinct charm.
“When people come in, it just feels good. It’s comfortable – like home. They feel relaxed. They can sit on the porch with their dogs and play a game of checkers, just like in the olden days. I think people like it because it’s just not the same as the rest of the world,” says Magee.
“We love being here as much as our customers do,” Magee says. “We want to be a part of people’s lives – a lot of lives – and this is a good way to do that.”
Locals and visitors agree that the delicious food and the genuine, joy-filled atmosphere leave a lasting impression of the establishment. Online reviews show resounding support for the wonderful experience that is to be had at Shorty’s Eatery.
So, how did the couple decide on the name? “We wanted an authentic sounding name that fit with the Old West theme of the restaurant. We couldn’t figure it out, so we began considering the names of some of our old pets. We thought about Shorty, our old, long-haired dachshund with the bad attitude, and it just seemed to fit. He’s long gone, but we keep a photo of him here. And there is a running joke that I’m short, and that works, too. People call me ‘Shorty,’ they call Fred ‘Shorty,’ and we all get a chuckle out of it,” says Magee, chuckling, herself.
Fred Magee, who retired from the U.S. Forest Service purchasing department, cheerfully runs the front end of the restaurant, welcoming patrons. Annette Magee works wonders preparing the food and baking in the rebuilt oven that has bricks from the original Blumb’s Bakery. “Henry Blumb baked up to 150 loaves at a time in that oven,” she says, proud to pass on a bit of the building’s rich history.
The retired middle school teacher with Columbia School District spent some time working with the Shasta State Historical Park, and had to retire from that job to be eligible to open the restaurant in its location. The Magees could see that there was a need for something like Shorty’s in Old Shasta, and thought the historic location would add to the unique experience of a visit to Shasta State Historical Park. The couple found the perfect way to combine their love for people, history and the quaint town of Old Shasta under one roof.
Lori Martin, a park ranger at Shasta State Historic Park since 2003, says that what gives Shorty’s such staying power is more than just the delicious sandwiches and baked goods. “It’s the combination of the wonderful owners, its employees, the ambiance, the décor and the effort they have put into every detail of the experience, including the fact that each sandwich has a name. It’s more than just a restaurant. It’s a place that ties our community together.”
The rest of the Shasta State Historical Park works cohesively to give visitors a true glimpse back in time, to the days when the town was ablaze with gold fever. “The park has a really good bunch of volunteers and staff. We love getting to know the blacksmiths next door – they made our door handle for us. The Courthouse Museum, The Litsch General Store (also a museum), the Leo Building (which sells souvenirs) and the ruins of the old brick buildings bring the charm of The Old West back to life. People are amazed when they come here. I can’t say enough for having good neighbors,” says Magee.
If you ask the Magees what the best thing about owning a restaurant is, they’d both say, without batting an eye: “It’s the people. Definitely the people.”
15350 Buell Alley, Shasta • (530) 999-1222
Open Wednesday–Saturday, 11 am to 4:30 pm
Shasta State Historic Park
15312 Highway 299, Shasta • (530) 243-8194
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