This week people across the country will remember just how much cooking can suck. Imagine being a chef or restaurateur, trying to cook for many more diners than the average Thanksgiving party. And keeping things clean for the Health Department while you do it. And not making a whole lot of money, with a good deal of that income earmarked for cocaine. Absolutely, definitely kidding about that last part!
Inspection-wise, we'll start off with good news - Torchy's Tacos (2411 S. Shepherd), the popular Austin spot that's invading Houston almost exactly 70 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, had a completely clean pre-opening inspection. But let's not kid ourselves, fans of the place would have lined up at 7 a.m. Dec. 7 if inspectors had found dried human blood in the queso vats.
In other good news, The Moon Tower Inn Meat Wagon, the mobile effort from the East End hot-dog slingers, got a totally clean report from the Health Department as well. Word has it they're going to wait until the weather is absolutely perfect for running a food truck, then shut down for a few months.
Local institution Hank's (9217 S. Main) seems to care more about making good ice cream than correcting health code violations. A routine inspection turned up five infractions. Besides one for storing food in an inappropriate area, they were all repeats: wood shelving used in cold storage, "ceilings not non-absorbent" (aka "absorbent"), bathroom doors that don't fit tight enough, and no covered waste receptacle in the bathroom. All of the repeats sound more like items on a personal to-do list than serious health issues. And we're guessing we'll see them the next time Hank's gets a visit from the health inspector.
On to the bad stuff. Dimassi's Meditteranean Buffett can't seem to get its shit together. First the Kirby location had a tough time, now it's the 10811 Westheimer site. The kitchen and buffet earned a combined 18 violations (and a citation) after an inspection based on a complaint. The worst included food not protected from contamination; dirty floors; openings to the outside that could let in insects; and no protection for food sitting on salad bar/buffet. The restaurant also began to work on improvements before the city approved plans.
China Star Chinese Buffet (4414 North Fwy.) had about as rough a time, racking up 16 violations and a citation on a re-inspection. Floors and food-contact surfaces (as opposed to the non-food-contact surfaces we usually see reference in reports) were dirty; kitchenware/food-contact surfaces were not sanitized frequently enough to prevent possible contamination; single-use articles were being reused (at home we've been drinking water out of a red Solo cup for the past three days so we feel their pain); food wasn't stored at least six inches from the ground; and potentially hazardous food wasn't held at the proper temperature.
Possible Genius Idea of the Week: Andy Liquor Store (824 W. Little York) earned one violation during a pre-opening inspection - "Operator providing/allowing any canopy/awning/other covering to remain over any part of the mobile food unit/any area within 100 feet of the mobile food unit." Either the city got this wrong or Andy's opened up a booze truck north of Garden Oaks.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.