Health Department Roundup

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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.

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