Daily Archives: March 19, 2016

They Found What?!?! by Valerie J. Patterson

Picture it: Monday afternoon, a lovely day for al fresco dining, a pleasant meal, good company, and, well, rodents!

There, I said it.  I didn’t want to say it.  I don’t even want to think about it, but there it is.

Monday, my friend and co-worker, Debbie and I went to a local eatery for lunch.  As soon as we stepped outside the courthouse and into the sunshine we were refreshed and happy to be anywhere but inside.  We walked a few blocks to one of our favorite places–a Mexican restaurant–and were delighted to see new wrought iron tables and chairs and big umbrellas lining the sidewalk.  I looked at Debbie and smiled.

“Shall we eat outside?”

“Absolutely!  It’s gorgeous out here!”

We went inside and informed the host we would have a table outside.  He grinned great big and said we would be their first patrons to use the new tables.

Outside we went.

The sun was shining, the service was excellent, and the food was as tasty as always.  Plus we both tried a new dish.

Then, a few days later a friend texted me and asked, “Hey, did you hear the Mexican place was shut down because of a rodent infestation?”

I thought for certain I was going to lose the dinner I had just finished eating.  I left my kitchen where I was doing the dishes, and sat down on the sofa and gagged!  I texted back that I had not heard that news, and that I was trying to process it without being sick.

How does this happen?  How do you run a restaurant and not know you have a rodent infestation?  How do you not take care of it immediately?  How is it possible that you have to be shut down by a Food Safety Inspector before you deal with it?  How do you continue to serve unsuspecting patrons?

Truth be told, if I frequented the Department of Agriculture’s website and viewed the reports of the restaurants I eat at, I’d never eat out again.  Ever.  I’d brown bag lunches and my freezer would be stocked with meals I had prepared myself.  And let’s be honest, this would be far healthier for me anyway.  Again, let’s also be honest in admitting every now and then we all enjoy a good meal out somewhere.  Who doesn’t want or need a break from the kitchen here and there?  Or to step outside from work occasionally?

I recently read an article that said if you want to know how clean a restaurant’s kitchen is, use the restroom.  If the restroom is not clean, neither is the kitchen. If this is true, then perhaps if I had used the restroom before dining al fresco, I wouldn’t have eaten at that restaurant Monday.  I’ll never know.

What I do know is this: It’ll be a long time before I go there again…if I go there again.  Even though I know it will be up to the standards of the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety when it reopens, I will be remembering that they didn’t care enough for my health as a patron to run a clean kitchen to begin with.  It took me almost 2 years to return to a restaurant that had received a bad report, and they weren’t closed down–for rodents or anything else!

Until next time, may your kitchen pantry always be full of a variety of inviting choices and may the restaurant you choose to eat at be clean and rodent-free!  Maybe check the restroom before you sit down!