Steppin’ Out – Shoestring: Placerville and Garden Valley

“Some people wanted champagne and caviar when they should have had beer and hot dogs.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)


About 23 years ago I received a call from Rick Siegel, who owned the Shoestring on Broadway in Placerville, inviting me to lunch. I have been a permanent customer ever since. A few years later Rick sold this Shoestring to his sister, Debbie Harding, and opened a new Shoestring in Garden Valley.

After a few more years he retired and closed the Garden Valley Shoestring. Apparently missing the business and people, a couple of years ago he helped his daughter, Tamara Bergman, reopen it. At the same time, Harding’s daughter Brittany is following in her mother’s footsteps at the Placerville Shoestring.

Both Shoestring locations specialize in hot dogs, chili dogs, burgers, shakes and more, but their real product is smiles.

If you have ever seen someone, especially a new customer, take their first bite of a chili cheese dog or chili cheese fries, you will know what I mean. All their food is great, but those two items fill your mouth with happiness and bring a smile to your face.

To give you a little background and history, the first Shoestring was opened by Rick and Debbie’s father, Richard Siegel, in 1959. Its location was on Van Nuys Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley. “He opened it on a shoestring,” said Harding, “and that is where it got its name. We sold it when he passed away and then moved to El Dorado County, opening a new Shoestring here in 1989.”

Richard Siegel was introduced to the hot dog business by his cousin “Uncle Hugo.” Hugo Siegel had a large number of hot dog carts (some say as many as 350) in the Los Angeles area in the 1930’s and 40’s. He was the inspiration to Richard Walsh, who opened Cupid’s Hot Dogs, which is now franchised. On top of that, he even sold one of his carts to an enterprising young couple named Carl and Margaret Karcher, who paid for it by borrowing $311 on their car and adding $15 from their savings. They would go on to create the Carl’s Jr. restaurant empire.

Back to today’s Shoestrings. Their menus, which differ slightly from each other because they are quite independently run, are very large with no less than 30 kinds of burgers, from a simple hamburger to a double caliente cheese burger and even, for those with big appetites and strong hearts, a “4 X 4,” featuring four patties and four slices of cheese. They also have at least ten kinds of hot dogs (yes, all beef with a natural casing so you get the ‘snap’ when you bite them), including the by far favorite chili cheese dog. And, they make their own, beanless chili for the dogs, burgers and fries.

They serve four kinds of pastrami sandwiches (isn’t just pastrami and Swiss enough?), several chicken sandwiches and even salads. Then there are the fries: a small fry, big fry, box of fries, cheese fries, large and small chili fries and chili cheese fries, and even deluxe chili cheese fries with onions, jalapeños, sour cream and tomatoes.

I recommend that if  you want to order a chili cheese fries, bring a friend and ask for two forks, or get a small order.

There are also kids’ meals and specials that they test and add to the menu, or maybe not. And, I will bet they would make you anything you like, as long as they have the ingredients. They are very customer friendly.

To go with your meal they have sodas, shakes and freezes and soft-serve cones.

Well, I could go on and on, but I am making myself way too hungry and I just ate lunch, so I will tell you how to find them.

The Placerville Shoestring is located at 1320 Broadway and is open daily: from 10 until 8, Monday through Friday, from 11 until 8 on Saturday and from 11 until 7 on Sunday. You can reach them at 530-622-7125.

The Shoestring in Garden Valley is located at 4860 Black Oak Mine Road, is open from 11 until 8, Tuesday through Saturday, closed on Sunday and Monday, and can be reached at  530-333-2400.

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