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Do you go to places with a "C" on the door?

  • m

I bet we all went to "C" places before the started posting grades without even knowing it. Now when you see a "C" do you run screaming or walk in bravely?

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    Carolyn Tillie

    When the rating system was first put into place in Los Angeles, Sweet Lady Jane's was given a "C". I talked to workers there and did some investigation and found out that it had a great deal to do with the regulations regarding sink size and placement in relationship to the rest of the work stations. Once they redesigned their back kitchen, the rating was changed to an "A". The quality of their desserts was never different from no rating to a "C" rating to an "A" rating -- always exceptional.

    So, the rating may not necessarily be based on filth. (Although a "C" rating DOES scare me a bit more now that the system has been in effect for a while.)

    Unrelated question -- I got ants a one of those fast-food Chinese places once. I thought about going back but couldn't find their rating. When I asked about it, they said they no longer had to post a rating. I didn't believe them and walked out.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Carolyn Tillie

      The Dept. of Health Services rating page is at the link below. My guess is if there's no rating posted, it's because they're lower than a C.

      Link: http://www.lapublichealth.org/rating/

      1. re: Grebby
        Carolyn Tillie

        I just perused the recently closed locales and it gave me quite turn -- The Magical Castle closed in mid-May for VERMIN?!?! Ubon closed for not having hot water? I used to like and respect Zazou in Redondo Beach -- they got closed for vermin and are now re-openen, but with only a C rating.

        I'm scared -- and have bookmarked that site for frequent investigation.

        Thanks, Grebby (I think)

        1. re: Grebby

          I was under the impression that if you got lower than a C you were shut down until you could get it up to a B. I also thought that C places had a week to improve to a B or an A or they would be shut down.

          1. re: Muhlyssa

            Not quite... you get increased inspections at a C... it's when you don't get a letter grade but a number that they have the option to shut you down. (Certain infractions require immediate closure -- vermin, lack of bathroom, lack of hot water, gross contamination.)

            I just went to Banh Mi Che Cali. They have a C. I've never seen a banh mi shop have anything higher than a low B, because of the nature of it -- they work so quickly and are usually so swamped that they just have food everywhere and it's not necessarily up to code. Same with Chinese places, esp. dim sum -- it's so busy and there are so many things being made at any given place that to have to open a tray to get to spices or sauces would kill the efficiency of the restaurant.

            My rule is I'll eat at an A or B restaurant no questions asked, but if it's a C, I have to have eaten there multiple times before... and sushi bars have to have an A, no exceptions.

            One day I was eating at Yashima in the Olympic Collection, and had a coworker and a client with me. We'd ordered a roll to start (don't ask, I don't get it either)... as we were waiting, the health inspector came out of the kitchen, took down the "A", put up a "58" and walked out.

            Thirty seconds later, our sushi showed up.

            They were back up to an "A" two weeks later, to be fair... and that place is always SCRUPULOUSLY clean.

        2. re: Carolyn Tillie

          "So, the rating may not necessarily be based on filth. (Although a "C" rating DOES scare me a bit more now that the system has been in effect for a while.)"......

          I'll bet you saw all those "Dirty Dining" segments on eyewitness news. They scared the crap out of me...can you all say VERminnnnn.....

        3. I have tried a few C restaurants in the past couple of years, and I have always regreted it. some B's are pretty good, though.

          1. I think that places without a rating have not necessarily received a grade lower than a C. I went to the Sanamluang Cafe in Pomona for old times sake a couple years back -- I went to college out there -- and they had dipped below a C rating and instead had a number -- something in the 50s if I can remember correctly. The restaurant was the same as it was when I was going to college -- everything on the whole didn't seem to be sparkling clean. But whereas back then we would give it the benefit of the doubt, going in knowing it had gotten a fifty-something made it less appetizing.
            One final note, I've worked in restaurants in the South and in Southern California and was struck by the greater degree to which attention was paid toward health inspections there compared to here. This suggests that perhaps a C or lower rating in LA is not a good thing.

            1. All that matters is how it tastes. A D might give me pause, but a C? That's a passing grade!

              1. If I already know the restaurant I will go to someplace with a C rating - The low rating is often temporary based on abnormal conditions on the day of the inspection.

                Below a C - I turn around and go elsewhere.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Ray

                  The truth is a lot of the most chowhoundish places around town post c's and b's. So much so that a friend of mine likes to joke that the ratings should be read inversely -- with a's the lowest rating.

                  That said, few meals are good enough to warrant being poisoned. My recommendation is this (and it squares with what other people have said in this thread): If you're worried about the rating at a restaurant, ask the mgmt why they got it. If the rating was based on a technicality, they'll be grateful for the chance to tell you. If the mgt gets defensive, chances are the rating was based on something more damning. Of course, if there's a language barrier, as is often the case, you'll just have to go by facial expressions or hand gestures, rude or otherwise.

                  On a related topic, has anyone else read Kitchen Confidential? After reading it, I can't help suspecting that there's some kind of bodily fluid -- or worse -- in every dish I'm served. But what are you going to do? Knowing all that he knows, Bourdain himself says he'll try everything once. His only rule: don't order fish on Mondays...

                  1. re: Rafi

                    I read that just a month ago - what an amazing writer and what a life! And even the bread basket being recycled didn't really bother me. I've gotten food poisoning at some of the "better" restaurants with A ratings, and been fine at the countless number of dives I frequent. I definitely avoid the fish on Mondays, as well as seafood frittatas at Sunday brunch and mussels just about anywhere!

                2. I don't let the health department ratings deter me at all.

                  As one of the other writers noted, it's quite easy to get sick anywhere. The worst food poisoning I've had locally was from my favorite korean restaurant, BCD tofu house, from eating their raw clam panchan. I went with four friends, all of whom got sick too. They have since stopped serving the raw clams in the hot months. I've eaten at BCD since without difficulty and wouldn't hesitate to go there anytime. (The best soon dobu in town in my opinion.)

                  But I've also had food poisoning from the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel, but I'd go back there in a second also.

                  The unfortunate microbiological truth is, you can be at a very clean restaurant and if one person in the kitchen doesn't wash their hands, you may get sick. However, you probably won't die or for that matter, even miss a day of work. Adventure has its price....

                  Another point I'd like to make is this: certain types of ethnic food, particularly asian foods which are held at room temperature cannot by definition meet health department standards. Neither by the way can the hanging dry salamis in your local kosher-style deli, which are technically illegal despite the fact that there is virtually no chance of them making you ill.

                  I travel a lot and I eat food all over the world and I eat everything. I almost never get sick when traveling (mainly because i avoid salads). The worst food poisoning I've ever had has been on airlines. I would rather focus on how busy the restaurant is rather than the health department rating.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jeff Falls

                    I would tend to agree for the most part with the post above. I have had food poisoning from hoity toity highly-rated expensive restaurants with an A ratings. However, use common sense. If the restaurant has a C and is visibly unsanitary (flies flying around dirt everywhere) stay far away. If it looks clean then the rating could be due to technicalities, like improper sink size. Trust your instinct, everytime I have had food poisoning I had a premonition that something was wrong with the food. For example, I was eating calamari and commented that it didn't feel cooked enough. Sure enough, the entire table got food poisoning from the shared calamari appetizer.

                  2. The only time I've let ratings stop me cold at the door is when they have a FAIL sign with a percentage (lower than 60). That's what happens when you fall below a C. I don't know what the rule is: anyone with a C has a time limit to fix things, or C is a rating you can keep indefinitely and FAIL only comes if you fall lower than a C.

                    The sign's pretty scary. There's the percentage, a big fat FAIL, and the date they're going to close the place down.

                    1. "C" ratings don't scare me away, even when the citation is for vermin. Having grown up in the restaurant industry, I learned that it is virtually impossible to store the volume of foodstuffs necessary for the operation of a restaurant without encountering some type of infestation at some time. Sometimes that happens to be the day the inspector pops in. It doesn't mean the restaurant isn't doing something to abate the problem, or doesn't have hygienic systems in place. Vermin (and other varmints) are attracted to food storage areas ...... because that's where the good eating is! If a "C" doesn't get upgraded in a reasonable amount of time, and it may be a couple of months between inspections, then I'd have second thoughts.

                      1. Don't let the rating scare you. A lot of the best meals I've had were from "C" greasy joints, and probably a lot of the blandest, boring meals I've had were from these sanitized-for-your-protection "A" restaurants.

                        Speaking of Kitchen Confidential, he suggested that if a restaurant's restroom is dirty, it probably indicates that the kitchen must be way more filthy. Reason being that compared to the kitchen, the restroom is relatively easy to clean.

                        All that said, I do insist that my sushi restaurants come with "A" rating. "C" grade raw fish probably ain't good eats.

                        1. I respect the ratings and do not eat establishments with a 'C'.

                          In looking at the Health Department website I clearly see that with the exception of a few flagrant violations the number of deficiences required for a sub-B score means to me that the owners simply do not try. The notion of a 'bad day' inspection does not play with me because of the number of violations required and I don't think it's O.K. to only poison people once in awhile.

                          I suggest you read the separate citations and the definitions of each violation. Some do indeed sound petty but they deduct only a very small penalty.

                          However, To each his/her own.

                          1. Having watched an inspector or two make his rounds, I know for a fact my own kitchen would seldom make even a C. Cleaning supplies in the prep sink area? Cooktop insufficiently wiped down? Domestic animals allowed in or near locations of raw food? Hey, I'm there, on a regular basis. I'm also still alive.

                            The first time our Eatin' Posse went to New Concept, we took each others' picture around the "C" sign posted outside, AFTER we'd eaten...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Will Owen

                              I was just about to say, I bet our home kitchens would all rate C, if we're lucky! You get demerits for such crap, it's really only the limited cooking or fast food places that rate well (as they do less and so "screw up" less).

                              TT (whose kitchen is immaculate and would rate an A)

                              1. re: TexasToast

                                But you don't have the number of people working in your kitchen, or serve the volume of food as a restaurant. (I hope not anyway!) That makes a big, big difference.

                              2. re: Will Owen

                                I was told that for Chinese food, A meant American, B meant Best and beyond that, you are on your own. PS have never been back to New Concept since our outing there.

                              3. I would want to know what the C was for! I've worked in kitchens and I know what a bad C is and what a good C is. A big difference.

                                One of the biggest reasons for being counted down is having wet towels on the line or in the prep area instead of in the sanitary bucket with sanitation liquid in it. Dry, clean towels only on the line or on the prep stations! Got it. Also...dirty floor drains. It's hard to keep those drains perfectly clean every hour when you are working in a busy kitchen. How about those walk ins? What is the temp? First in, first out, all labeled each day, all food off the floor and covered at all times. All meat on the bottom shelf only! How does the food look in your frig?

                                1. if it really was that bad, the joint would be closed down....

                                  i grew up in SF where they didn't have ratings, then moved down to LA and ratings are everywhere... so i don't really care about the rating... i hate going out with my friends and we decide on a place then when we get there, the rating says C and so people don't want to eat there.... if the places looks decent, then i would eat there... if the food is good, i don't care what the rating is... sometimes i have stuff in my water, i ask for another one or don't ask for the water as its usually in a pitcher sitting around as opposed to a carbonated beverage, if the utensils or plates don't look clean, i will wipe it down or ask for another one, but i don't judge a place by little things like that, but more overall cleanliness, floors, counters, etc.

                                  what rating do you think your kitchen is? remember you don't sanitize all your dinnerware and cookware everytime you use them, or do you? does your sink have hot water at a certain temperature? and your refrigerator is it set at the proper temperature? im sure you don't mop and sweep everyday

                                  btw, just because a place is clean, doesn't mean it doesn't have questionable practices... these don't get on the rating.... i know a lot of people who went to the culinary academy in sf and are working in top restaurants, when a steak drops on the floor, i haven't met one chef who says they discard it... they pick it up, put it on the grill for a few seconds (they all say, high heat will instantly kill bacteria) and put it back on the plate...

                                  i think ratings kill it... they should get rid of them... they can subconsciously taint great food

                                  1. Sometimes a C just beckons like a lightbulb to a moth. I was looking for a bowl on wonton soup a couple years ago recommended on chowhound and pulled into the shoppping center it was supposed to be in (about 10 blocks n. of western off the 10 i believe) and though i couldn't find it, I did see a C rating on a luoisiana/ southern food place that also had paintings of pork chops on the windows. I couldn't resist...my brain said no, but my heart and body said "yes - you're going to eat there." the fact that i'm from the south probably clouded my judgement. in any case, i got the smothered pork chops and collards and biscuit and hot sauce and had a fine meal. i was clearly not recognized by the folks in there so i had to start chatting with them (smalll place) in order to feel comfortable while i ate, but it all turned out fine. I even ended up giving a 5 mile ride to one of the people i met in there who was in a bind. good food, great conversation.
                                    I'm betting that the reason they had the C rating was just becuase the food wasn't at proper temps under the lights. But the food was certainly cooked with love and care.