Not So Great News from the Health Department, Mexican Edition

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We checked on health department reports for Mexican restaurants visited in October, and our biggest offenders are in the Northwest / 290 part of town; that was disappointing because we’ve previously eaten at all three Northwest area restaurants mentioned. We won’t be returning any time soon – once the term “poisonous / toxic materials” comes up, we tend to lose our appetite.

The kitchen at Perico’s Mexican Café and Bar (2701 Mangum) hit the jackpot with ten violations. Let’s see, there was an employee drinking from an open container in a manner which contaminates exposed food / clean equipment / utensils/ and linen. Food was found that was not protected from potential contamination by dust / dirt / coughs / sneezes / insects / rodents / drainage / drippage / toxic materials. Employees were seen handling ready-to-eat food without using utensils / gloves. Inspectors reported that the hand washing sink didn’t have hot water or sanitary towel for hand-drying and that the plumbing was not maintained properly. The storage area for garbage / recyclables was not kept clean / insect / rodent proof and employee lockers were in an unapproved area. Existing equipment was not in good repair / maintained in a sanitary condition. Finally, vent covers were not kept clean and in good repair.

The bar at Perico’s had food-contact surfaces / utensils used for potentially hazardous foods that were not washed / rinsed /sanitized frequently enough throughout the day.

Across the freeway from Perico’s, the kitchen at Cazadores Mexican Restaurant (11031 Northwest Freeway) also had some problems. During an inspection on October 1, health department personnel found equipment that was not in good repair / not capable of being maintained in a sanitary condition / is toxic. Food employees were seen handling ready-to-eat food not utilizing suitable utensils or gloves. The ice machine was not properly installed / not operated in a manner that would prevent contamination of the ice, and utensils / glassware / plates were not handled properly to protect them from contamination. The inspector found that food-contact surfaces were not cleaned frequently enough and that food was stored in locker rooms / bathrooms / other areas that are sources of contamination.

The bar at Cazadores didn’t do too much better. During the inspection, ice that was intended for human consumption (that means me and you) was being used for cooling, non-food contact surfaces were not cleaned often enough, vents were not kept clean / in good repair and plumbing was not installed / maintained properly.

The bar at Bravos Mexican Restaurant #4 (5101 Bingle Road) was inspected on October 15, and found to have equipment / utensils that were not stored properly, and equipment surfaces were not cleaned often enough to keep them free of dust / dirt / food particles / other debris. During a repeat visit on October 21 the inspector found two repeat violations, specifically, poisonous / toxic materials not being used properly (what the hell?), and drainage / drainage tubes from the ice dispensing unit passing through the ice storage bin (what the hell #2?). They were also cited for having equipment / food-contact surfaces not being clean to the sight and touch.

Dear Bravos: This is not the way to go. You should improve after a health department visit, not add improper use of poisonous / toxic materials to the list of violations.

Thankfully, some bars were using all their poisonous / toxic materials properly. Among them the one at El Ranchero Mexican Restaurant (34551 Loop 494, Kingwood). During a routine inspection, the only violation found was not having soap at the hand washing sinks and that was immediately corrected.

The kitchen at El Ranchero wasn’t so lucky. First, an employee was not wearing clothing that effectively covered body hair while handling food / utensils. Second, a hand washing sink was not accessible to employees (both of those were immediately corrected). Third, there was an issue with the ice dispensing utensils not being stored properly (that was a repeat violation). Fourth, equipment components were not kept intact / tight. And finally, the restaurant was not kept free of litter, and nonfunctional or unused equipment.

Olivia Flores Alvarez

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