City restaurants fail routine health inspections

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Photo by James Lu.

Four New Haven restaurants recently flunked health inspections, and another five were on the edge of failure.

Routine inspections of 25 local eateries conducted Sept. 12–16 by the New Haven Environmental Health Department revealed deficient sanitation and safety standards, including at least two cases of rodents and several insect infestations. Six proprietors whose establishments were inspected said they appreciated the vigilance of the inspections, though they added that inspectors often cited them for minor issues unrelated to food quality. Several customers leaving the failing restaurants, however, said they were not aware of the inspections.

When a restaurant fails its inspection — which is scored out of 100 points, with scores below 80 considered failing grades — it is given two weeks to correct deficiencies before a reinspection.

“It’s great to be inspected because it makes you aware of what you are missing and what you have to do to improve sanitation,” said Pankaj Pradhan, the owner of the Red Lentil on Temple Street.

Red Lentil failed its initial inspection with a score of 74 out of 100, mostly because of incorrect placement of thermometers at the back of fridges, Pradhan said. Other issues cited in the report included overexposed foods, water above safe temperatures in bathrooms and toxic items stored alongside ingredients. Pradhan added that he worked quickly to address all the issues identified by inspectors and received an improved score of 89 during his second inspection.

The same attentiveness was not evident next door at Kudeta, which initially received the lowest score of all restaurants inspected in the past month — 62 out of 100. Inspectors cited the restaurant for storing raw eggs with other foods, mislabeling toxic items on spray bottles, and having dirty and defective equipment. Despite these results, a representative named Sarah who declined to give her last name said that Kudeta “passed every inspection” and that the report contained “false information,” though she declined to comment further because the lunch service was in progress.

Members of the Environmental Health Department could not be reached for comment.

Five customers leaving Kudeta Wednesday evening said they were not aware of the results of the health inspections conducted at the restaurant.

“I wonder what percentage of people actually have some clue of those inspections,” said patron Mark Redburg, adding he doubted anyone would read the official document or local newspaper reports.

It was a similar story at Barcelona on Temple Street, which scored only 72 because it stored food products on the floor, had fruit flies in liquor bottles, and had broken wall and ceiling tiles, among other violations. A spokesperson for the chain — which has six locations across Connecticut — said she was unaware of any health inspections and could not comment on the restaurant’s operations without permission of the owner.

Four other restaurant proprietors — including three whose restaurants passed inspections — said the tests often take into account minor issues that do not affect the food produced.

“I do think the inspectors can be a bit aggressive and picky,” said Colin O’Toole, the owner of O’Toole’s Irish Pub, which passed with a score of 97. “A lot of the restaurants surveyed are very good restaurants — at Barcelona the food quality is very good and I eat there myself.”

That sentiment was echoed by the manager of Buffalo Wild Wings on Church Street, which narrowly passed inspections with a score of 80. While he asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized by the chain to comment, he said he had to “fight” the inspector to get an 80.

While Buffalo Wild Wings’ manager said his business has been doing well, O’Toole said establishments that received lower scores may suffer.

“The results [of the health inspections] will deter the average customers from eating [at failing restaurants],” he said. “It’s unfortunate for those places to get those scores, because they’re usually not dirty places.”

The other New Haven eatery that received a failing score was the Davenport Deli and Grocery on Davenport Avenue.


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