Restaurants fail inspections

commons
Photo by James Lu.

Yalies looking to tuck into some fine dining during Restaurant Week might want to see the not-so-fine results of the New Haven Health Department’s routine restaurant inspections. Other, less adventuresome students may be no better off — Commons Dining Hall also failed its inspection.

Commons was one of eight New Haven eateries that received failing scores in health and safety inspections between March 14 and March 25. In a March 23 inspection, Commons scored 75 out of 100, with health inspectors citing chipping paint on equipment, the storage of employee food with that to be served to students, and soiled wiping cloths and cutting boards in their report. The other seven New Haven restaurants that received failing scores can expect another inspection from the Health Department within two weeks.

“I’m not pleased, because I’d like to get 100,” said Jason Congdon, owner of Bulldog Burrito, whose restaurant passed with a score of 85. “We can always do a better job of organizing our food supplies — we can probably improve bathrooms, too.”

Establishments are inspected between one and four times each year, and are graded on a scale of zero to 100 based on general cleanliness and other health-related issues. Those that score 80 or lower are given two weeks to improve their health and safety conditions before a second inspection visit.

None of the nine Commons staff interviewed Tuesday evening said they were aware of the potential health risks mentioned in the report. They deferred to Director of Residential Dining Regenia Phillips, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Other establishments that scored 80 or below in the recent round of inspections include Prime 16, Manjares Fine Pastries, Pacifico, Mamoun’s Falafel, Bella Haven Pizza, Sahara Restaurant and C.O. Jones. Sahara Restaurant was the lowest scorer, receiving a 68 out of 100 with citations for defective shelving, lack of hand-washing and hair covers, and the presence of rodent droppings, among other violations.

Brian Wnek, an inspector with the city’s health department, told the New Haven Independent that most restaurants follow up promptly to the concerns he raises.

“We expect the big issues will be fixed by the next time we come around,” he said. “We realize it takes money, but it’s all part of the process. We look for progress.”

Inspections take place with the managers present to clarify any issues that might be raised, Congdon said.

“One inspector thought that a spilled cup of black beans in our basement [was] rodent droppings. [The inspector] mentioned that we had pretty big rodents — I laughed and pointed out the container of black beans,” he recalled.

Four restaurant proprietors interviewed said they did not think the results of their health inspections would affect customers’ experiences.

At Prime 16, the deficiencies raised by health inspectors were “more about the equipment,” said general manager Larry Townsend, resulting in a score of 77. He added that with ongoing staff training and the introduction of new procedures and equipment, Prime 16 will see a significant improvement in its score when it is reinspected.

Sherif Farouk, the general manager of Pacifico, explained his restaurant’s score of 75 was due to a problem with its hot water heater and a bartender forgetting to put eggs back into the fridge, adding that he was not worried about the inspections.

The health violations arrive in the middle of New Haven Restaurant Week, which began Sunday and features 35 participating restaurants with fixed-price lunch and dinner menus. Restaurant Week runs through Friday.

Sam Greenberg contributed reporting.

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