Health Department Roundup

Health Department Roundup: Tex-Mex Edition

There are usually more Tex-Mex restaurants on the Health Department's online list of cited restaurants than any other type of facility.

Wait, now, before you report the Press to Ask a Mexican, let me explain. There are many more Tex-Mex restaurants than any other type in the Houston metro area. Just look in the Yellow Pages. Tex-Mex cooking is by far Houstonians' preferred dining-out cuisine. Hence, a greater volume of Tex-Mex restaurants; hence, more opportunities to be featured in this column. We'll just stick to the facts, while providing a little translation here and there.

A refresqueria is a mellifluous word for an ice cream or snow cone stand. The Refresqueria La Sultana (10025 Long Point Rd.) was cited for poor food protection from dirt, sneezes, rodents and dripping water, among other things.

Most gringos' mouths will water if offered a dinner at a place called La Casa del Cabrito (7802 Gulf Fwy.). Until they understand that the name of the place is The House of the Kid, as in baby goat. Ah, the tenderness, in both senses of the word. The Kid was storing hazardous food without a numerically-scaled thermometer and had moist cloths not stored in sanitizing solution between uses.

Eating Our Words readers recently voted the spawn of the Original Ninfa's (2704 Navigation) the tenth most overrated restaurants in Houston. Over at the Original, where things are usually done right, ten violations were reported, including foods stored without proper labeling, one or more employees not attending to personal cleanliness (pew!), and hand-washing in the food prep sink.

Gorditas are basically fat tacos; sexy, zaftig women are also called gorditas. This is meant as a compliment. When children are called gorditas or gorditos, the connotation is "healthy." Unfortunately, there's nothing sexy or healthy about the violations collected by Gorditas Aguas Calientes (3810 Irvington) this week: no covering for lighting found in food prep areas, ventilation filters not easily removed for cleaning, no ventilation hood installed above cooking equipment.

Ostionerias in Houston are a variation of the seafood cocktail stands on the Mexican coast; here they tend to be full service seafood restaurants. The Ostioneria 7 Mares' (4602 Irvington) employees were drinking out of open beverage containers in the kitchen (for shame!). There were no ventilation filters in the stove hood. Equipment and utensils not in use were stored in unsanitary conditions. And shellstock tags were not properly retained for at least ninety days.

What discussion of Houston Tex-Mex would be complete without a mention of Ruchi's, the chain where students and the jobless can fill up on tortillas and the millennia-old pickled carrots found in jars on every table? Ruchi's Taqueria Rincon (3202 South Loop West) was cited for food storage in unclean containers; improper maintenance of an ice machine; an employee eating in an unapproved area (Near the dumpster? In the walk-in?); and for being a bit too unprotected from outdoor pests.

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E. Ting