Burger Bob’s Perseveres, With a Little Help From its Friends
For those who have lived in the Gables for any length of time, Burger Bob’s on the Granada Golf Course is an institution. Under the same ownership for 27 years, it is a throwback in time, reminiscent of a soda-shop era when hamburgers were just hamburgers, orders sizzled on a hot grill and the waitresses called you “honey.” Today it still offers a bowl of its popular chili for $4 (50 cents extra for cheese and onions) and the only hamburgers anywhere that still sell for $5.
There is nothing formal here, just revolving stools at the counter and ersatz red leather-covered metal chairs at Formica tables. Depending on the time of day, you will find proprietor Bob McGuire behind the cash register or behind the dishwasher, serving the regular customers that he says make up 80 percent of his business. The food consists of classic diner fare for breakfast, such as egg plates and pancakes, along with burger melts and sandwiches for lunch – with a good side of coleslaw or potato salad.
“Going to Burger Bob’s is like coming home,” says Hank Langston, a customer for 20 years, who visits about three times a week. “My favorite food is the hamburgers. But don’t miss out on the French toast for breakfast. Also, their Reuben sandwich. And their chili? It’s the best in town.”
Ask Bob what the secret to his success is, and he will tell you it’s all about finding the best help. “Good help, that’s all. And nice people – nice neighborhood, nice customers.” Waitress Rose has been with him for 19 years; Manager Rita, for 26 years. Ask for the secret formula to his ever-popular chili, and Bob just chuckles. “Rita and I are the only ones who know. The recipe goes to the grave with us,” he says.
Now, however, Bob is facing hard times induced by the pandemic. Still a stalwart who rises before dawn so he can stop at the farmers market for fresh produce, Bob rents his space from the city. When officials closed down Bob’s and the pro shop because of Covid, he was not even given the option of offering takeout.
The result was a predictable loss of revenue and an inability to pay rent, utilities, vendors, insurance and so forth. The debts accumulated quickly, with little recourse to pay them – until the community decided to help out. A GoFundMe page was set up by resident and loyal customer Steven Krams, with the aim of raising $20,000 to bail Bob out. As of press time, more than half that amount had been collected.
“His many local patrons are concerned that, with the stresses that he is dealing with, we might lose our beloved Burger Bob,” wrote Krams on a GoFundMe page entitled Helping Burger Bob’s. “He could use a little help from his friends to keep going until [patrons] start coming back in enough volume to pay all the operating expenses.” To make a donation, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/helping-burger-bob039s.
Bob remains philosophical about the situation and is embarrassed by the funding efforts. Thinking back to when he took over the restaurant (which had been there for 30 years), he reminisces, “I probably needed a job. I cooked at home with my mother, and so I told them I was a cook. And here I am – back to where I started, washing dishes.” Bob actually had been a food service director at the Miami Heart Institute for 20 years before starting Burger Bob’s. He had already decided to retire and “was getting restless, so this was the thing to do. Coral Gables was the place to be.”
If you do decide to dine at Bob’s, just remember to bring cash. That is another throwback to an earlier era. And expect Bob to be there. “I’ve always trusted the community. Even if I’m in a wheelchair, we will be here another 27 years,” he says. “The city will be good to me.”
2001 Granada Blvd.