A statewide look at Florida’s top restaurant violations
Where did the state restaurant inspectors find the roaches? Let's just say those might not be almonds putting crunch in your entree.
Roaches seemed to turn up in food preparation areas more than usual in the inspections that make up this edition of the Roach Report. And did you know flies spit saliva on food when they land on it? Well, you know now and it'll help you grasp the gravity of one restaurant's most visible violation.
Also, plumbing issues, usually popping up only in surprise cameos like Marshall McLuhan in "Annie Hall," appeared at a guest star rate this month. Maybe it's summer and people started feeling lazy in the heat, but the overabundance of simple cleanliness violations said restaurant workers had trouble finding (pick all that apply) energy/soap/a sponge/the 409.
The Roach Report is compiled from state restaurant inspections. We don't control who gets inspected, when they get inspected or how strictly the inspector judges the restaurant. We present these without passion or prejudice, but with more than a dollop of humor (and, OK, maybe a wee bit of disgust).
As usual, we start with the restaurants closed down for the day or more wholly or partially on roach activity. Presented alphabetically, we lead off with...
▪ Captain's Tavern, 9621 S. Dixie Hwy., South Miami-Dade — We're off and running with the roaches on June 4, which the inspector saw skittering about inside a kitchen oven (three of them), inside the appetizer oven (two) and under the grill table in the back area kitchen (four).
Among other violations were: "Accumulation of encrusted food debris on/around mixer head." "Accumulation of black/green mold-like substance in the interior of the ice machine." "Interior of oven has heavy accumulation of black substance/grease/food debris."
Captain's Tavern got it together for the June 5 Call Back re-inspection.
▪ Chef Louisa's Corner, 1699 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach — Some places needed Truly Nolen with a Raid Max chaser. On June 14, Chef Louisa's needed the Roto Rooter man.
Here are a few violations from Thursday's inspection: "Raw sewage on ground of establishment. Entire kitchen is covered with sewage, backing from both grease traps and floor drains....Sewage/wastewater backing up through floor drains. Onto kitchen floor...Sewage/wastewater backing up through sinks. Evidence of sewage in three-compartment sink...Both grease trap under the three-compartment sink and (the one) under (the) prep sink overflowing with sewage onto kitchen floor."
But you don't want to hear about plumbing problems. You're here for the bugs. And at Chef Louisa's, the bugs were there for the inspector:
"Approximately one live roach on the table with cake mixer, three-plus live roaches in front of cook line, two live roaches at front counter by hand wash sink, one live roach under hot holding unit at front counter, two live roaches on wall by cook line.
"Approximately 11-plus dead roaches at the front counter behind four dead roaches under cake display units, seven-plus dead roaches by three-compartment sink, two dead roaches in front of office, five dead roaches by cook line, three dead roaches by back door, and one dead roach behind Coca-Cola cooler at front of establishment."
The inspector also dropped a Stop Sale on food being kept at the wrong temperature. Getting thrown out were cooked white rice, cooked rice and peas, lettuce, cooked pork, cooked goat (aw, not the goat!), raw fish, raw sausage, cod fish, cooked pork, cooked vegetables, cooked beef feet, and black beans.
Unsurprisingly, with something more backed up than the Dolphin Expressway, "Objectionable odor in the front entrance of the kitchen, cook line area, three-compartment sink, and back door areas."
As for the whole hand washing thing, that was kind of a not-today thing: "Handwash sink not accessible for employee use due to items stored in the sink. Box of paper and unused utensils in hand wash sink in employee bathroom. Handwash sink not accessible for employee use at all times in kitchen area."
There wasn't any soap either, but, worst of all, "Hot and cold water not provided/shut off at employee handwash sink, three-compartment sink. Observed no hot/cold water in establishment. Establishment open to the public."
Not for long it wasn't.
Not helping Chef Louisa's cause was general ickiness, such as "Soil residue in food storage containers...Interior of microwave soiled with encrusted food debris...Interior of oven has heavy accumulation of black substance/grease/food debris...Metal stem-type thermometer soiled...Cutting board(s) stained/soiled...Accumulation of encrusted food debris on/around cake mixer head."
As far as the roach count of Friday's Call Back Inspection, the inspector still saw, "approximately one live roach crawling inside the three-compartment sink, three live roaches crawling in pipes under three-compartment sink, one live roach behind stove, one live roach in front of the stove, two live roaches crawling inside dishes racks on utensil storage area (ew. Hope you folks wiped your forks and knives before dinner), three live roaches crawling under prep sink by drain area, and two live roaches by mop sink."
Chef Louisa's was allowed to reopen finally after Monday's re-re-inspection.
▪ Church's Chicken, 17495 NW 27th Ave., Miami Gardens — Usually, when it comes to bugs, we don't get too crazy about the flies. But, when an inspector reports more than 300 flying insects in the kitchen, front station, three compartment sink, dry and hot food preparation area, ice machine, ceiling vent and tiles, and food storage area, yeah, that's worth special attention.
"Live, small flying insects are inside the chicken, french fries, okra, apple pie hot holding station that is not enclosed; and is being served to the public," the inspector wrote on June 12.
So if there were black specks on the breading, this is where we remind you Church's should not look like a crunchy version of KFC Original Recipe.
Also on the non-roach bug count: six dead termites in ceiling vent above food station, in kitchen area.
While the fly folks at Church's failed to deal with their problem in the air, apparently nobody could slip over to Winn-Dixie for some Drano to deal with the problem on the ground..
"Sewage/wastewater backing up through floor drains. In kitchen area....Standing water in floor drain/floor drain draining very slowly....Observed standing water in bottom of reach-in cooler at front counter, by ice machine, three-compartment sink, and by water heater."
Unsurprisingly, with all this there was an "Objectionable odor throughout kitchen, front counter, dry storage, and wash ware areas."
Overwhelmed by the flies and the water works. So, how about basic cleanliness as taught by Grandma/Grandmother/Big Mama/Abuela?
"Accumulation of black/green mold-like substance in the interior of the ice machine," the inspector saw, along with "soil residue in food storage containers," and an "Accumulation of food debris/grease on food-contact surface. On all cooking equipment, and prep table."
Later in the report, the inspector just got rolling: "Shelf under preparation table soiled with food debris. Accumulation of food debris/soil residue on handwash sink. Accumulation of food debris/soil residue on paper towel and/or soap dispenser. Buildup of food debris/soil residue on equipment door handles. Food debris/dust/soil residue on dry storage shelves. Food debris/dust/soil residue on dry storage shelves."
For the June 13 call back re-inspection, Church's got the fly count down and still failed after the inspector saw "approximately 100-plus live, small flying insects in kitchen, front station, three-compartment sink, dry storage area, ice machine, food storage area, and managers office."
On June 14, another reduction of flies, but another failure: "At time of Call Back Inspection, approximately 20-plus live, small flying insects in kitchen, front station, three compartment sink, dry storage area, ice machine, food storage areas."
They finally got it together Friday, allowing them to reopen for the Friday night munchie rush.
▪ El Castillo De Las Frutas, 6420 Bird Rd., West Miami-Dade — Check out where the roaches ran just west of Coral Gables on May 30.
Let's start with four live roaches on the floor by the front counter food service area. Then, go back to the kitchen for eight live roaches on the prep table and cold holding drawers gaskets. Then, go to two live roaches inside the reach-in cooler and three more on the reach-in cooler gaskets. Six roach corpses were under cook line equipment in the cold holding drawers' gaskets.
In case you were uncertain, the inspector made sure to point out, "Equipment located in the main kitchen preparation area."
Combine that with "food-contact surfaces not sanitized after cleaning, before use" and "accumulation of food debris/grease on food-contact surface. Slicer, band saw, cutting boards, plantain slicers, oven, can opener blade, ice scoop" and there's a fair bit of bacteria breeding ick there.
As far as handwashing, "Employee handled soiled dishes or utensils and then handled clean dishes or utensils without washing hands," but whose fault is that, considering the inspector also saw "No soap provided at handwash sink" and "No paper towels or mechanical hand drying device provided at handwash sink" in the kitchen?
And if you can't be clean, at least be honest: "Establishment advertised fresh juice, but juice was not prepared from original fruit."
▪ Nikudo Japanese Restaurant, 18812 S. Dixie Hwy, Cutler Bay — Making its second Roach Report appearance in four months and this one after the inspector gave the restaurant a hint and a half for its miso.
The June 13 inspection ended with a Warning after the inspector dropped a Stop Sale on dumplings and crab salad prepared the day before, but kept at an improper temperature. Also, the inspector saw an "accumulation of black/green mold-like substance in the interior of the ice machine."
Maybe Nikudo thought the inspector was playing on June 13 because the ice machine slime was one of 20 Repeat Violations when the inspector shut Nikudo down on June 14.
Roaches joined the 20 repeat problems when the inspector saw six roaches around the dishwasher area, three alive and three dead.
Also the "Interior of oven has heavy accumulation of black substance/grease/food debris."
But at least the staff could wash its hands properly...naw, we're kidding: "No soap provided at handwash sink" and the "sushi bar equipment drain line drained into handwash sink."
Nikudo reopened after the Call Back Inspection.
▪ Simon Lumiere, 12750 W. Dixie Hwy, North Miami — This is one of those places where you hope the little things adding texture to your meal didn't have six legs (or, any legs at all if we're being real).
During the June 14 once over, the inspector observed, "10 live roaches inside of an empty ice machine underneath the counter, by front counter area, were employees area cooking and engaging food preparation...approximately 20 live roaches inside the oven in where food is been prepared by front counter area...approximately four dead roaches inside of an empty ice machine underneath the counter by front counter area, where employees area cooking and engaging food preparation."
And it's never a good day when the inspector's olfactory organ comes into play. "Objectionable odor in establishment. In the kitchen area."
Maybe that's the result of a problem with general cleanliness, as evidenced by "interior of oven has heavy accumulation of black substance/grease/food debris" and "grease accumulated on kitchen floor and/or under cooking equipment underneath all equipment in the kitchen." Also, "encrusted material on can opener blade."
In case you were wondering, yes, it's a Basic violation for your place to be junky. "Plastic buckets, shoes, cables, old plates, ice machine, items that are unnecessary to the operation or maintenance of the establishment such as equipment that is nonfunctional or no longer used."
▪ Yambo, 1642 SW Flagler Ter., Miami — Hey, Yambo, Yambo, if the seven roaches the inspector saw on the outside frame of the front food service window were the only yucky violation, you might have stayed open on June 11.
Alas, it wasn't.
"Food-contact surfaces not sanitized after cleaning, before use. Do not use equipment/utensils not properly sanitized. Cups washed in hand sink not sanitized."
Carnivore customers wouldn't be happy to see, "soil residue in food storage containers used to store raw meats inside the walk in cooler."
Then, there's this lovely petri dish writ large: "Food stored on floor. Observed black beans on floor. Observed water on floor." Also, "stored food not covered in walk-in cooler. Raw beef, pork chicken and fish."
Yambo cleaned up its act for the June 12 Call Back Inspection.
Some places got "Administrative Complaint Recommended." In effect, that means you're within a bad mood of being shut down and the inspector will be back the next day to check on you.
▪ Beach Bar & Grill, 4299 Collins Ave., Miami Beach — On the roach tip, the inspector saw four live roaches behind the reach-in cooler under the bar area's front counter.
But if you ordered a soft drink from the bar, you combined ice from an ice machine with an "accumulation of black/green mold-like substance in the interior" with liquid from a soda gun described as "soiled."
In the kitchen, there was a "slicer blade guard soiled with old food debris." And inside the appliances, it was ugly.
"Interior of oven has heavy accumulation of black substance/grease/food debris." "Interior of microwave soiled with encrusted food debris." "Interior of reach-in cooler soiled with accumulation of food residue."
▪ Chez Josito, 475 E. Ninth St., Hialeah — Thursday, the inspector saw "one live roach walking on the wall in packing area...one live roach on the floor in kitchen by prep table...one live roach outside by walk in coolers."
But that's the cost of doing business in South Florida compared to the rain of Stop Sales. The inspector dropped one on raw fish when he saw it fall "on the kitchen soiled wet floor (soapy water from washing and hosing down prep tables)." Dented cans of diced potatoes, chunk light tuna and fruit salad also got tossed by order.
For the handwashing hawks, "Hot water not provided/shut off at employee handwash sink."
There seemed to be a drainage problem that turned the kitchen floor into a little bacteria breeding lake: "Employees hosing down prep tables in kitchen after scrubbing it with soap. Kitchen with standing water throughout the inspection."
I'm sure Chez Josito's management wasn't happy that they got dinged on "Employee eating while preparing food. Employee eating a plantain chip while packing food."
So, some customer is a burp or cough from getting little moist bits of plantain on their food.
Some places got only a Warning Issued after an inspection that included live roaches.
▪ Extacy, 728 NW 79th St., Miami — There were only two or three live roaches inside a kitchen cooler that wasn't working. But, we'd be remiss in our duties if we didn't point out a few things
Such as. "no soap provided at handwash sink. Observed no soap in restroom used by food employees." And, at the ice machine, an "accumulation of black/green mold-like substance in the interior."
▪ Latin House Express, 13990 W. Dixie Hwy., North Miami — Just one live roach underneath stainless steel reach-in cooler next to the three-compartment sink in the kitchen. Again, civic duty demands we note a few Stop Sales for food kept either too warm or too cold: rice and black beans, cooked chicken and ground beef.
▪ Sake, 275 NE 18th St., Miami — One live roach underneath the rice container.