Campus eateries violate health code

Correction appended

Filth, rodents and mold are just a few unwelcome fixtures in many popular Foggy Bottom restaurants.

Lindy’s Bon Appetit and Red Lion, T.G.I. Friday’s and Panda Café have each been handed 30 or more health code violations since April 2010, with some as recently as last week, according to InspectionMapper.com – a new website that pulls data from the D.C. Department of Health to help people pick out the safest eateries around the District.

The city’s health department checks restaurants without warning about twice yearly.

Foggy Bottom averages about 20 violations per restaurant, the most common ranging from unsanitized washcloths to lack of employee health records and missing handwashing signs near sinks, according to the website.

Lindy’s, a restaurant and student hotspot on Pennsylvania Avenue, had 15 violations in a September inspection in and three violations most recently as Thursday. That makes for a total of 39 violations at the restaurant since April 2010. Fifteen were identified as critical, and included evidence of vermin, smoking in food preparation areas and multiple accounts of unclean food preparation surfaces.

“Every restaurant has problems,” Lindy’s owner Jim Eckels said. “The Health Department comes in here and clues us towards those problems, and that’s what they did.”

He declined to outline the specifics steps he has taken regarding the restaurant’s violations.

Inspections that mark critical violations entail conditions that could be considered detrimental to a patron’s health, like the presence of pests and insects or improper food storage. Other violations are docked as non-critical and deal with restaurant protocol, like placing handwashing signs above every sink.

Mahlori Isaacs, a representative from the D.C. Department of Health, said most restaurants are able to correct violations on the spot during inspections and that nearly all venues are willing to work with the department.

At the T.G.I. Friday’s at the corner of 21st and I streets, inspectors found a handful of minor violations in August that were immediately corrected, including debris on the floor and mold outside an ice machine.

Manager Bamba Sama said that the restaurant, which had 30 violations since July 2010 – including a roach found in the manager’s office – is working with the health department and goes through regular inspections, but declined to comment on specific violations.

Panda Café, along the 2100 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, had 48 violations in the last two and a half years – 19 of which were deemed critical. The eatery had four violations at their last inspection in July 2012, according to the website, including a lack of proper rags for sanitization and debris at the bottom of a sushi container.

Neighboring eateries Mehran Restaurant and Thai Place also had steep numbers of violations – 41 and 30 respectively.

Dia Khanthongthip, manager of Thai Place, said that recent violations in July 2012 – unlabeled food and dirty light fixtures – were minor and were corrected during the evaluation.

“It’s really important for customers that we keep things clean,” Khanthongthip said. Managers of Panda Café and Mehran Restaurant could not be reached for comment.

Several campus eateries hold nearly clean health records. Tonic at 21st and G streets was cited for just two violations at its last recorded inspection in April 2011 – a broken garbage disposal and “unclean food contact surfaces,” which were both fixed on site, according to the website.

“We take cleanliness and health laws and rules and regulations very strongly and very seriously,” Elizabeth Lettic, director of marketing for Tonic, said.

District Commons and Burger Tap and Shake in the 2200 Pennsylvania Ave. complex have committed minimal violations since opening over a year ago, with six and three respectively – one critical at BTS.

Kathy Arvis, marketing representative for the owner of both restaurants, said one violation was due to an improperly mounted ice cream scoop along the wall, which she said was fixed immediately.

This article was updated Oct. 29, 2012 to reflect the following:

A previous version of the map mismatched the restaurants and the violations. We regret this error.

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