Can’t get no sanitation

With sanitation inspection records publically available, local eateries come in all flavors of gross.

With sanitation inspection records publically available, local eateries come in all flavors of gross.

Local restaurants – be them part of a chain or privately owned – know how to entice and impregnate many of us with a food baby, but it’s the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture that comes around to make sure our babies are healthy in the guts of our stomachs.

Inspections aren’t all performed at the same time; instead, they’re completed on a rolling basis with each restaurant being inspected at least once a year. Establishments with repeated violations, though, are inspected more often on follow-up visits. For this reason, the dates of inspections are scattered, but most of the following were performed in 2009-10.Screen shot 2010-09-27 at 9.54.48 PM

The PDA publicly displays the results of its inspections on its website. Some of the results are more shocking than Kesha becoming more than a trashy one-hit wonder, while others are as predictable as Kanye West’s comeback.

On the Food Safety Inspection results page, each business in the area is listed as “In Compliance” or “Out of Compliance” depending on the establishment’s status according to the PDA’s regulations.

For your enjoyment, here are the naughty and nice lists of the 19121 and 19122, each business with its most recent inspection date:

First, we have A Tale of Two McDonald’s. The M-shaped golden arches at the corner of Broad Street and Girard Avenue earned a spot on the naughty list in December 2009 with excess gunk on the soda dispensers, an ice scoop lying on top of the ice machine and food debris on the floor.

The one closer to Main Campus, located across from White Hall, was in compliance with regulations as of December 2009. However, you must be warned that it may monetarily violate your wallet while you’re in your drunken stupor.
One upsetting detail the PDA can’t control: the fast food restaurant’s late-night menu limitations. On any given weekend night, that McDonald’s only serves large sizes, and during that time, the dollar menu is strictly off limits.

The Tale of Two 7-Elevens is not quite as interesting but deserves recognition. Both stores, one at 1501 Cecil B. Moore Ave., and the other on Liacouras Walk, violate plenty of regulations. The food on the shelves at the Cecil B. Moore Avenue store is stocked fewer than 6 inches from the ground, according to a March 2010 inspection.

For the 7-Eleven on Liacouras Walk, the second numeral in the convenience store’s name might also stand for the number of violations it earned during its last inspection in February 2010.

It has open condiment dispensers and food that is not stored, or kept heated, at the right temperatures. During the last inspection, the PDA had to throw away spoiled coffee creamer. That’s what you get for getting the cheap stuff instead of Saxbys Coffee – or is it?

Probably one of the biggest surprises on the list was the oh-so-good but overpriced Saxbys, not more than 100 feet from the 7-Eleven on Liacouras Walk.

In April 2010, Saxbys was slammed for seemingly no good reason: It didn’t have a copy of the Philadelphia Food Safety Certificate posted.

I think the PDA’s feelings were just hurt.

Shuffling down to the other end of Liacouras Walk, Master Wok did not fare so well, either. You may want to bring along your own sanitizer, water and soap before you dig into your food.

Down the list, repeated January 2010 violations include the word “sink.” These violations included a lack of running water at the employee sink, a lack of “employees must wash hands,” reminders in the kitchen and bathroom sinks, and a lack of soap at the hand-washing sink near the food preparation area. Yikes.

Before your stomach can be offered a shred of hope, there are two more surprising horror stories to be told.

The first comes from the Barnes & Noble Café at Broad Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. Here, where a small coffee can cost as much as $4, mouse droppings were found under storage racks this past July.

The only thing worse than mouse droppings is a cockroach infestation at a business that is “In Compliance” with the PDA’s regulations. To those of you who are not 21 years old, don’t worry that you’re being carded at Food Way.

According to the inspection report, dead cockroaches were found behind units in the store. There was even a live one crawling on the wall while the inspector was there in September 2009.

Not listed on the PDA site are the Noshery Gourmet Café, Rita’s Italian Ice and the Starbucks at the TECH Center, but “Innocent until proven guilty,” is probably the best route with these food vendors.

At the end of this slightly disturbing report, we must ask ourselves: Is there any hope for humanity between Girard and Susquehanna avenues? The answer is yes.

The Fresh Grocer comes out victorious and triumphant, with zero violations as of a February 2010 inspection. A spotless record seems to be unheard of in these parts, but the new grocery store on Main Campus has pulled off the seemingly impossible.

Your best bets for clean eating are still, miraculously, some campus favorites, such as Qdoba (inspected March 2010), the Creperie (August 2009) and Insomnia Cookies (September 2009). The only damaging effects from those places will be the cholesterol that will surely flood your arteries.

Matt Flocco can be reached at

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