We've noticed that places with dirty kitchens can escape citation or closure even after pretty damning inspections, but establishments without the proper paperwork on hand are almost certain to face punitive measures. We're not saying it's all right to try and get around certifications, etc. We're just saying that apparently it's better to be dirty than without papers. (Our great-grandparents were Italian immigrants, so it's all right for us to say "without papers.")
For example, take TLC Fresh Produce (2520 Airline), a farmers' market stand. No violations were uncovered during an inspection last week, but the operators did receive a citation for not having a valid produce dealer's permit. (It was a repeat violation.) So apparently it's illegal for consenting adults to grow fruits and vegetables and sell those fruits and vegetables to other consenting adults without some piece of paper from the city. What would Ron Paul think?
On the other hand, if you're a place like Diet Gourmet (3719 Richmond), you can avoid citation or closure despite having the following things going on in your establishment: lack of measures to minimize pests; food that's spoiled, unsafe or mislabeled; food not properly marked to indicate appropriate storage time (repeat); food held at improper temperatures (repeat); poorly maintained or designed utensils/equipment (repeat); dirty floors; microwaves that aren't cleaned daily; food-contact surfaces not cleaned every four hours; accumulated dust/debris on non-food-contact surfaces; single-use utensils not handled, displayed or dispensed properly; and this lovely violation, "Food equipment/utensils/single-service articles stored in toilet room/vestibule/garbage rooms/mechanical room/under unshielded sewer line/under open stairwells/or other source of contamination." And this was a re-inspection.
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Of course, there are those places that unlock the achievement of not having their bureaucratic ducks in a row and racking up several violations. The Drive Inn (6305 Cavalcade) is in Kashmere Gardens/Fifth Ward, and is not to be confused with the D&T Drive Inn, a dive bar off of W. Cavalcade. On Monday health inspectors closed the place temporarily after finding improperly designed/not easily cleanable food sinks; no covered waste receptacles in the bathroom; no tight-closing doors in the bathroom; poorly maintained floors; mislabeled, contaminated or dangerous food; and, the kiss of death, neither a Food Service Manager's Certification nor a Food Dealer's Permit.
Request of the week: If you've been to the Drive Inn, please let us know if it's the place we're thinking of. On Cavalcade at the east end of Kashmere Gardens there's an establishment with a sign beckoning "grown and sexy" people to stop by, but we can't remember exactly what the place was. We haven't been back in that neighborhood in a while, and we've always been curious about that spot. Google Maps suggests it might be the Drive Inn. If you know, let us know.