Restaurant News & Reviews

Rodents near sugar. Salt in a Home Depot bucket. Both help get restaurants shut down

A statewide look at Florida’s top restaurant violations

Routine, unannounced restaurant inspections ensure food retail establishments are in compliance with state sanitation and food safety procedures. These are the top ten violations found between 2015-16 in Florida restaurant kitchens.
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Routine, unannounced restaurant inspections ensure food retail establishments are in compliance with state sanitation and food safety procedures. These are the top ten violations found between 2015-16 in Florida restaurant kitchens.

This week’s “Sick and Shut Down List” of restaurants that failed state inspection isn’t long on the establishments, but is long on the violations.

Especially El Crucero, which somehow managed to get back open one day after a list of boo-boos more diverse than a Benetton ad.

What follows comes directly from inspections by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. We have no say in who gets inspected or how strictly. We report without passion or prejudice, but with a mop bucket of humor.

El Crucero, 7050 SW Eighth St., West Miami-Dade — With nine High Priority violations and 40 total violations and a tiny list of restaurants, it’s tempting to provide a comprehensive list of the ways El Crucero went wrong last Tuesday.

But, we’ll hold it to the usual highlights. First, the living problems, such as the rodents that left over 30 dry rodent droppings on a white wooden shelf with salt and sugar containers.

Or the roaches, one of which was crawling up a kitchen wall, one walking near a steam table with salt, cumin and sazon and clean plates, and another walking under that table. And when the inspector looked up, he saw “50 plus dead insects inside the light fixtures.”

Think El Crucero might have a plumbing problem: “Observed in the women’s restrooms water stains and a hole in the ceiling tile. Also observed throughout the entire establishment, water stains.”

The inspector saw an “employee wash hands at the front counter three-compartment sink with no soap,” even though if there’s no soap, you’re not washing, you’re just rinsing. It’s unclear if this is the same employee as the one who washed his hands — really his single use gloves — at the three-compartment sink (with no soap).

Also, washing hands at the three-compartment sink instead of the handwashing sink is a violation. In the bathroom, there was more trouble: “Observed no paper towels in both restrooms, Men and Women. Both restrooms are for customers and employees.”

And “throughout” the business: “Wall soiled with accumulated grease, food debris, and/or dust.”

And the inspector went further: “Observed broken doors on the ground near dumpster...Unnecessary items/unused equipment on the premises. Observed in the prep area: 1 large unused oven, 20 plus chairs, 8 wooded boards, ac units, and table.”

The walk-in cooler’s temperature was 76 degrees or 20 degrees warmer than South Florida was Monday morning.

And, we close with the “accumulation of black/green mold-like substance in the interior of the ice machine.”

El Crucero passed Wednesday’s re-inspection.

Taj Mahal Bengal Indian Cuisine, 4579 NW 36th St., Miami Springs — “Nest” doesn’t appear often on inspection reports, so this piece of Taj’s Thursday inspection begged for leadoff status.

“Observed a nest with approximately 15-plus live roaches on the wall above the three-compartment sink in the warewashing, also approximately 25-plus live roaches crawling on the wall next to the stove in the kitchen area, approximately 10-plus live roaches behind the paper posted on warewashing area wall.”

And there were over 15 roach droppings under a shelf in dry storage. Back there in dry storage, there were three dead roaches. In a gap atop the dry storage exterior door, the inspector saw “dead roaches and roach droppings present in the area.”

The inspector dropped a Stop Sale on cooked curry chicken from the previous night that needed to be at 41 degrees, but was still at 65 degrees despite being in a reach-in cooler. That’s a reach-in cooler that was “soiled with an accumulation of food residue.”

Taj kept salt in a nonfood grade container better suited for antifreeze — an orange Home Depot container. In other, not-meant-for-food-storage news, “raw chicken and samosa (chicken empanadas) stored in direct contact with plastic Thank you shopping market bags.”

Another tray of vegetable empanadas weren’t in non-food grade storage. They weren’t covered at all as they sat in the walk-in cooler.

That front handwash sink had water, but no soap or no way to dry hands.

Taj failed its Friday re-inspection when the inspector saw three live roaches and two dead ones in a cabinet with clean containers, three other live roaches on walls and a hole in the front of the women’s restroom.

Miami Springs got its Indian food back after Taj passed the Saturday re-inspection.

Since 1989, David J. Neal’s domain at the Miami Herald has expanded to include writing about Panthers (NHL and FIU), Dolphins, old school animation, food safety, fraud, naughty lawyers, bad doctors and all manner of breaking news. He drinks coladas whole. He does not work Indianapolis 500 Race Day.