Burger-famous Alpine County store re-opens its doors
Tribune News Service
ALPINE COUNTY, Calif. – After four years of being closed down, Sierra Pines Country Store between Woodfords and Markleeville is back in business with the same giant burgers that have tantalized taste buds for three decades.
New operator and Ruhenstroth resident Larry Cameron, 48, is leasing the general store, restaurant, Laundromat and fuel station, all of which sit squat like an old west outpost in the tall, shade-bearing pines off scenic Highway 89.
Cameron is planning to buy the entire outfit in the near future, including the adjacent mobile home park. He said word’s spreading that the famous burger joint is once again open for residents and hungry travelers alike.
“The reputation is already here,” Cameron said last week. “I just had a customer who said he hadn’t been in here for 30 years.”
With T-shirts reading “Burgers Giant,” Cameron and kitchen manager Mike Harding, along with Cameron’s wife Oonagh, showed off the store and discussed some of the changes planned for the property, such as an outdoor volleyball court and barrel barbecue.
Of course, they also talked about the establishment’s revered constant, namely the burgers.
Ranging in size from the three-quarter-pounder Big Daddy burger to the one-quarter-pounder Juniors burger, Sierra Pines patties are all made from the natural, grass-fed beef of Genoa’s historic Ranch No. 1.
“Our staple is the giant burger,” Cameron said. “That’s really our reputation. The supplier has changed, but we’re using the same recipe as the original owners.”
Sierra Pines offers more than burgers, though. Omelets, waffles, pancakes and chicken-fried steak can be found on the breakfast menu.
Of the homemade biscuits and gravy, Cameron said, “I’m a connoisseur, and I consider our biscuits and gravy the best.”
The lunch menu boasts sandwiches, clam chowder, Cobb salad and tri tip chili with corn bread, among other items. Dinner brings tri tip steak, roasted chicken, spaghetti and meatballs, pork chops, beer-battered cod and chips, and weekly fish specials.
“We make our own chili and soup. Nothing comes out of a box,” Cameron said.
However, those looking for boxed commodities will find a general store replete with basic necessities and plenty of outdoor and camping equipment.
“We’re also the only Laundromat in the area,” Cameron added.
One way or another, Cameron has been in the ski/hospitality industry since he was 18. Presently, he runs Kirkwood Valley Lodging, and he’s getting ready to hand over the reins of Kirkwood’s Tower Bar and Grill, which he’s operated for the last five years.
About two months ago, Cameron saw an opportunity in the vacant Sierra Pines store, which first opened in 1976. Familiar with Alpine County, he knew that the establishment had once seen a lot of business, especially in the 1980s.
Cameron subsequently contacted the owner and began leasing the property. His intent is to buy everything in a couple of years.
“Business has been doubling every day,” he said. “Word’s getting around.”
Anticipating a busy summer season, Cameron is moving forward with plans for an outdoor barrel barbecue and smoker, a volleyball court and horseshoe pit, and spray misters to be installed in the towering pines around the store.
“It’s at least 10 degrees cooler up here in the summer,” he said.
Sierra Pines Country Store is located at 19750 Highway 89. Business hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
For more information, call (530) 694-1700.
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