This month a favorite restaurant (let’s call it Seafood Palace for clarity/humor) in the Southeast quadrant was shut down for less than two days due to “failure to control vermin.”
I don’t feel beholden to out the actual name of restaurant; it is embarrassing enough for them. If anyone wants to dig a little bit (hint: Washington Post archives) they can arrive at the answer soon enough.
But I have eaten at Seafood Palace maybe 20 times. It is delicious, moderately-priced, close, always timely and the staff is friendly. But “failure to control vermin?” Really? Other violations I see are things like “operating without a license” or perhaps “operating without a food manager.” Those are technicalities. Nothing technical about rats the size of house cats.
This particular violation means there were
vermin, or “disease-carrying rodents or insects,” in the restaurant. “Failure to control” implies that the vermin were too numerous to stifle, or perhaps the restaurant failed an inspection once and then failed a follow-up.
The violation is in the past; not knowing of it I bypassed Seafood Palace for a newcomer last week. If I had gone that night, it would have been my last meal at Seafood Palace spent in ignorant bliss. Now the real question is: Will I go back to my favorite neighborhood restaurant?
The New York Times had a fantastic piece a few months back titled “The Four-Star Roach.” Even the nicest restaurants in the City Where Everything Is Better Than Washington can be affected by the unwanted guests that human density draws. The article’s comments are perhaps even more valuable than the blog post itself. Here’s the first one:
As he was getting up to pay his check, a roach fell from the ceiling and onto his shirt. Rather than flick it off, he walked up to the cashier and pointed at the creepy-crawly, still roaming the terrain of his shoulder. The cashier took the check, ripped it up, and said, “Have a good night.”
Of course, no insight on if the diner returned. But the point has been made. Roaches are not just for takeout joints. I would love to eat again at Seafood Palace and taste the delicious foods that I cannot prepare myself. But will “failure to control vermin” always haunt me?
That’s a question that for now, I have no answer to. Perhaps in a few weeks, the pain will lessen.