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BEST HAMBURGER Miami 2004 - Sheldon's Drugs and Sundries

Readers' Choice: Cheeseburger Baby

This posthumous award honors the 55-year-old Surfside institution that closed its doors May 6 after Toby and Ethyl Spector -- son and widow of store namesake Sheldon Spector, who died in 1998 -- realized they couldn't pay their bills. The Spectors had an agreement with their long-time landlord, who gave them a break on rent. But when 9501 Properties bought the building in February, they discontinued the deal. While technically not increasing the rent, Ben Grenald and his partners at 9501 effectively wiped out a priceless piece of beachside Americana when they insisted they couldn't cut the Spectors a break, even for the sake of sentiment. And at Sheldon's, the sentimental menu said it all: "No machine-made burgers made here. Just like the old days when burgers were always great." A living remnant of those selfsame old days, Sheldon's opened its doors in 1948. The linoleum lunch counter and cracked vinyl spinning stools looked like postwar America. Hundreds turned out recently for a last chance to complete the time warp by sidling up to the soda fountain and ordering a malted, a New York egg cream, or a phosphate to go with eight ounces of perfection on a toasted onion roll. There will never be another Sheldon's.

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