Health Department Roundup: Chain Gang Edition

This week we round up chain restaurants cited for health code violations.

First up: Houston's own Café Express (1422 W. Gray). Who can resist its cornichon/roasted garlic/olive/crouton/caper bar? Amidst the overcooked chicken breasts and watery pasta entrées, the Café's delicious oddments bar offers meal accompaniments better than the meals themselves. Unfortunately, Le Café was found guilty of the following no-nos: produce crates were being used as storage racks; garbage receptacles had no drain plugs in place; and openings to the outside weren't filled to protect against insects.

Besides violating Cajun cooking in general by mixing ground meat in several seafood dishes where it does not belong, the Pappas "Cajun" offshoot Pappadeaux (7800 Airport) failed to provide shatter-resistant coatings to lights located in areas where food is exposed.

Thai Spice Buffet II (2520 S. Voss) also had this problem, but serves great autumn mushroom rolls; we never knew each season had its own roll until we ate there.

Luby's #17 (12121 Westheimer) let non-food prep surfaces get a bit dusty, a surprisingly mild problem when one thinks of everything that could go wrong at Texas's buffet of buffets. (Ever try to wipe up a spill with one of those green Luby's "napkins"? Swiss cheese is more absorbent.)

The corporate slogan of Pei Wei (1005 Waugh Drive) is "East of Usual." A more appropriate one might be "South of Good." And what's so usual about Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, anyway? Think these things through, ad people. PW got dinged for uncovered garbage receptacles and for being unable to verify a food manager's certification.

Cedar Creek (1034 W. 20th St.) seems unduly cramped on its corner lot but appears expansive when one enters the splintery glory of the latest addition to a welcome homegrown franchise. My favorite of the "Creek family of restaurants," which includes Onion Creek and Dry Creek, is selling frozen desserts without a permit and was found not to be cleaning utensils at least every four hours.

The winner and grand champion violator of codes for the week is the 59 Diner Town and Country (10407 Katy Fwy.), with 11 citations. An in-exhaustive selection: failure to provide water under pressure; effective measures to minimize presence of rodents not utilized; raw shell eggs held at a temperature above 45 degrees; bulk food stored in unlabeled containers; and ventilation filters not cleaned at sufficient intervals to prevent accumulations.

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