Coral Gables Institution Burger Bob's Bids a Final Farewell

End of an era: No more breakfasts at Burger Bob's.
End of an era: No more breakfasts at Burger Bob's. Photo by Carlos Barbón @barbonwatercolors
A longtime Coral Gables diner that endured as a snapshot of the mid-20th Century for more than five decades served its last platter of pancakes last week.

For more than 50 years, Burger Bob's, which shared space with the Granada Golf Course pro shop, has been a go-to breakfast and lunch spot for locals. The cash-only restaurant was the city's favorite quintessential greasy spoon.

Here you could find a reliable meal for about $5 from a menu of classic American diner fare — everything from platters of eggs and pancakes for breakfast to sandwiches and melts for lunch. And, of course, the $5 burgers.

But it wasn't the location, the food, or even the restaurant's unique charm that made Burger Bob's special. It's the odd-couple duo that has run it for the past 28 years.

Owner Robert "Bob" Maguire took over the restaurant in the early 1990s, and business partner Rita Tennyson joined him several years later, acting as both chef and day-to-day manager.

For years, the restaurant was a successful operation thanks to its unique, kitschy charm. The ambiance was unmistakably nostalgic — like a scene from Cheers, minus the bar. Located at the edge of the golf course with a near-perfect view of the first hole, it was a place where some regulars were known to stop in twice a day and a well-known haunt for the town's business crowd.

Despite its popularity, Burger Bob's location in a city-owned building has seeded rumors of its impending doom for years. In 2010, New Times reported the city was considering scrapping the diner as part of a large-scale redevelopment. But the development wound up going elsewhere, leaving Bob's to continue its operation.
click to enlarge A view of Burger Bob's from the golf course. - PHOTO BY CARLOS BARBÓN @BARBONWATERCOLORS
A view of Burger Bob's from the golf course.
Photo by Carlos Barbón @barbonwatercolors
In October 2020, Burger Bob's met its most formidable hurdle, in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unable to serve guests or accommodate take-out orders, the restaurant turned to fundraising to stay afloat. Burger Bob’s GoFundMe raised more than $15,000.

The final blow to the restaurant landed last June, when the City of Coral Gables told Tennyson and Maguire their lease would not be renewed and they would begin the process of requesting proposals to rehab the space with a new restaurant concept.

In recent months, community efforts on Burger Bob's behalf culminated in a lease extension through March of this year.

But a day after the extension was granted, Maguire sent a letter to the City of Coral Gables stating he would not serve out the contract and would be closing the restaurant. A final farewell this past Sunday, January 23, gave longtime customers a chance to bid farewell to the institution and the people who operated it.

New Times attempted to contact city officials for details about what will become of the space, but phone calls and emails were not returned. The Miami Herald reports that two bidders have been identified: Rodney Barreto, chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and an influential lobbyist; and Tennyson, who runs a catering operation from the restaurant's kitchen.

"Our final farewell for Bob was pretty much to celebrate with customers and to thank them for their support over the last few years," Tennyson tells New Times. "We had a chance to meet a lot of amazing people that became more than just customers. Over the years, they became actual friendships. That's what we will miss the most."
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna