Dairi-O opened its new location at 5916 University Parkway on Monday, about a mile down the road from the restaurant it had to abandon to make way for the Northern Beltway.
The old location, at 6401 University Parkway, had remained opened during much of the new construction but finally closed Dec. 6.
“We had hoped to open before the holidays,” said Rusty LaRue, the chief operating officer for Dairi-O. “But we were able to keep everyone on the payroll. No one missed a paycheck. And the nice thing about this is we have a fully trained staff here.”
Dairi-O, owned by Jeff Speaks, is based in King. It dates back to 1947, when it opened in King as a hamburger joint. For years, though, it has been known for its hot dogs.
The new location is the Stanleyville area of northern Winston-Salem, across the street from Summit Square Boulevard and surrounded by fast-food competition — Burger King, Arby's, Taco Bell, Jersey Mike's, Cookout and Bojangles all are within a few hundred yards.
The new Dairi-O is 4,850 square feet, slightly larger than the building it replaced. It can seat 118, or 59 with COVID-19 restrictions. There also is a patio that will have five or six tables when the weather warms up.
Notably, the new location has a double drive-thru with two lanes around three sides of the building.
It’s not the company’s first two-window drive-thru, but it is more spacious with two lanes all the way around. The pickup area also is covered.
“We were already working on the drive-thru before COVID, but we did end up tweaking some things,” said LaRue, a former star in football and basketball at Wake Forest who played in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls. “We also are working on a mobile app so we can do online ordering.” He hopes that app will be ready by the end of this quarter.
The restaurant is following COVID-19 protocols, including masks for all staff and for customers who are out of their seats. “We even have a clean team, with their own T-shirts,” LaRue said, referring to a dedicated group of workers responsible for cleaning and sanitizing the restaurant.
Also because air flow and filtration have been cited as important in reducing spread of the coronavirus, Dairi-O installed a Dedicated Outdoor Air System (DOAS) by CaptiveAire that brings and filters fresh air to the restaurant, instead of recycling the indoor air like most HVAC systems.
“We’re trying to do everything we can, including bringing in fresh air," LaRue said.
The menu at the new restaurant is the same as ever. But the restaurant as a whole has come a long way from its days of focusing on hot dogs.
“We changed our burgers two and a half years ago to a new blend, and now in new markets where people may not know about our hot dogs, the burgers are almost on a par with the hot dogs.
Dairi-O’s six burgers include a vegetarian black-bean patty ($5.49), a cheeseburger on pita ($6.49), and the 6.4-ounce Monster burger ($5.79).
If you want to stick to the classic dog, an all-beef dog with all the fixin’s, fries and a drink will run you $5.99. Make it two dogs and the combo price is $7.49.
The menu includes a chicken sandwich, chicken wraps and chicken souvlaki. “The souvlaki is my favorite,” LaRue said. “Because I remember when my dad worked at Baptist Hospital, he used to take me to Grecian Corner.”
Other sandwiches include fish, barbecue and BLT. There are chicken wings and nuggets, a handful of soups and a half-dozen salads.
And don’t forget the ice cream, both soft-serve and hand-dipped. You can get it in shakes, floats and sundaes, ($2.79 to $4.59) or on top of a brownie, banana split, hot fudge cake or strawberry shortcake ($4.29 to $5.99).
“We’ve tried to not change a lot,” LaRue said. “A lot of places have been cutting menu items during COVID, but we’ve tried to keep the same menu. We want people to have the same Dairi-O experience they’ve always had.”