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Best Mall in Broward Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach 2004 - Riverland Shopping Center

"We built this city! We built this city on rock 'n' roll!"

OK, not only does that song totally suck but it's dead wrong as well. Anyone in South Florida knows damn well how our cities are built: one collection of shops at a time. Look at any Broward/Palm Beach burg from Margate to Wellington back to Pembroke Pines: It's just one giant interconnected mall! To calculate such a place's cultural worth, subtract 20 points for every chain store. Add 20 points for every unique nook and cranny. That's why Riverland reigns supreme: The closest thing to a chain is the Supersaver Grocery, which could have been teleported straight from Calle Ocho. (The tiny branch of the Broward Public Library doesn't count.) For your shopping pleasure, explore Scot Drugs and Riverland Hardware, two fading showcases that Wal-Mart has all but eradicated. Sissi Fashions offers tight, flattering outfits for the hottie on your list, while clean, white T-shirts at the Community Thrift Store are under a dollar. Yarly's Bakery yummily supplies your bizcocho needs. The Rainbow Restaurant doesn't accept plastic but is one of the most authentic Greek diners in town -- truck drivers like to park their big rigs outside and grab a real meal. Tucked away in a blind alley, Sassano's Pizzeria makes a mean pie. Grab one, pick up some plastic cups at the 99 Cent Store, and some Argentinean merlot at Super Saver and you're good to go. C'mon, throw off those chains. Until Riverland's inevitable date with the wrecking ball, this self-contained universe is unsullied by the corporate-conquest machine. These locally owned businesses used to be the source of strength in every small community, keeping cash close to where it was generated. Riverland is firmly rooted in its community with small, long-term tenants who are anything but fair-weather friends. Unlike Blockbuster or Starbucks, these hardy holdouts are part of our town. Readers' Choice: The Galleria

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