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A B C or D?

Where do you draw the line? I think that most states have instituted a health rating system for restaurants that requires regular inspections for cleanliness and code violations, Do you look for their letter grade before eating there? Would you eat at a place with a "C" grade? Personally, I won't go past a "B" rating. If the infractions were really serious, the place would be shut down.

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    1. re: JAB

      There is some ring of truth to that. The young woman who gave me most of my Chinese-food knowledge in my late 20s always preferred to enter restaurants from the rear door. Our perennial favorite, Qui Hing Low in Mountain View, CA, had a kitchen that looked like the bowels of Hell, half-naked demons and all, and you really had to watch your step, but it smelled really good (except for the sweat).

      The other part of that is how many Asian food practices that are deemed essential to this or that dish's proper preparation are often in violation of health laws or rules - holding temperatures, for instance. There was a case I read of here in the San Gabriel Valley of a restaurant famous in its community for some deeply loved dish that had to sit at room temperature for much more time than the Health Department was willing to allow. Okay, science is science, but if people have been eating this for a thousand years or so it can't have been killing too many, right?

      1. re: Will Owen

        i also vaguely recall that certain chinese noodle dishes were considered to be a problem because they weren't being refrigerated. the thing was that if the restaurant were to comply and refrigerate the dish, the noodles would become dry and hard and completely inedible.

    2. Not sure I've ever paid much attention. I imagine physical appearances correlate with the inspection grade such that if it looks dirty I probably wouldn't think to go there anyway.

      1. I haven't seen them around here but I swear by those ratings when traveling on business and am grabbing lunch/breakfast in the go. NYC became less risky, lol!

        1. Depends what I'm eating..................
          Near my mother's nursing home the McDonald's got the euivalent of a D (Unsatisfactory) and the rating has to remain on the front door for a minimum of 6 months until the next scheduled inspection.

          Nevertheless, I will still get coffee there...
          I wouldn't buy/consume 'food' at that location, it just plain looks seedy

          2 Replies
          1. re: bagelman01

            I'm amazed that the corporate office doesn't do something about that. You would expect a major chain like that to make sure no one gets less than an A

            1. re: mucho gordo

              You'd be amazed what franchise owners can get away with. This is one filthy unit owned by a group that has more than 100 McD franchises.
              The owner responded to an artocle about this in the local weekly saying that they want to completely remodel and clean the place up but can't get a building permit approved.

              Meanwhile, the place is always packed, dirty or not the locals go there.

          2. my favorite vietnamese restaurant had the bathroom past the kitchen - you had to go past grandma (cooking) to get to it, along with the all the mess in the hall and on the floor. no idea what their rating was...i know the bathroom was a disaster, so i'm sure that would have knocked their rating way down. wouldn't stop me from eating there again. ate there for years. never had a problem.

            on the other hand, i ate at a pizza chain once and the table wasn't clean, so i grabbed (what i thought was) a clean bar mop to wipe down the table. there were 3 of us sharing a single pizza. we all ate the same thing: i was the only one to come down with food poisoning.

            so, cleanliness is somewhat relative in my book. i go to places people recommend - if it looks skanky i'm not gonna try it even with an A rating...

            1. Folks, just a quick reminder that we don't allow discussion of health code violations or ratings at specific restaurants. It's fine to discuss your standards in general, but please don't name names of places you've had issues.


              1. The lowest rating (or anything that involves closures to fix it) would affect me. Others, not so much.

                1. There are lots of political games in the rating system, or in health inspections in general. If an elected official has an axe to grind, they can make your life miserable

                  1. I used to go to a Hawaiian restaurant in Gardena, CA that I don’t believe ever got higher than a C rating. The food was darn good though and I kept going back. Things may have changed since then. But as I recall there was no requirement that they had to display their rating. This meant the only ratings you ever saw in the windows were pretty much all A’s.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: mike0989

                      Hmmm, that's odd. In NYC you MUST display...which is why the mod's policy of not discussing ratings doesn't make sense...It's public information

                      1. re: BiscuitBoy

                        There was some debate back then as to what the whole point was if they didn't ahve to dispaly the grade. The responce in defense of not requireing it was the grades were Public record, even if not displayed.

                        Regardless, the grade just reflected how well they did with DOH, and have no reflection at all on what they are putting out.

                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                          There's a recent explanation of the reasons behind the policy here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/927030 if you want to comment on the policy.

                      2. Never once have I ever looked. I don't worry about it. My feeling is if it's that unsafe, the BOH will close it.


                        1. I'm not sure it's "most states", I've only seen it discussed on the LA and NY boards. It certainly doesn't exist in Honolulu, and would most likely not be statewide here. There are of course health codes, and they are enforced, but there is no rating system. It's a pass/fail thing.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            It's not even consisten statewide. Connecticut, a very small state, has health districts. These may comprise a city such as New Haven, or a group of smaller towns, such as the Quinnipiac Valley Health District which emcompasses, Hamden, North Haven, Woodbridge and Bethany.
                            Neither of these requires the grade to be posted at the restaurant. The New Haven inspections are posted on-line at the New Haven Advocate website.
                            The small Valley Health District: Andsonia, Derby, etc requires the restaurants post the grades on their entry doors.

                            Some districts inspect only places that prepare and serve food and/or drink. New Haven inspects any place that sells food or drink for consumption, on or off premises. So a gas station that sells soda from a cooler and potato chips gets inspected, as well as a fine dining establishment.

                          2. If the violations include little critters, live or dead, it's a no-go. Most other violations I will tolerate, particularly if it's a restaurant I already know and love.

                            1. Generally, nothing below an A. I'm going to sound like a hypocrite but sometimes I'm not too worried about what it takes to get that rating. I know how the health department is in the county I live in and the county I work it. Where I live, if you've got an A you deserve it. Where I work, it generally depends on how the inspector feels that day and who they talked to. I think most people agree that one MAJOR infraction is more concerning that lots of small ones. Sometimes they still get a high letter grade though.

                              1. If the front door -or the outer screen door- is propped open when the inspector shows up, points. If a towel is laid on any counter in the kitchen when the inspector shows up, points. If the back door is propped open for the delivery truck guy walking back and forth to wheel in the inventory while the inspector is there, points.

                                If there aren't enough points to close it down, I don't think about it. It's probably better than usual: the restaurant will be constantly prepared for a surprise inspection until they earn back the "A".

                                1. In Los Angeles County, an "A" score represents a rating of 90-100 while a "B" score represents a rating of 80-89. There isn't much of a difference between 89 and 90.

                                  Ratings are merely a snapshot of the conditions at one time. Just because a restaurant had an A rating during the inspection does not necessarily mean that their current conditions are still an A rating.

                                  Ratings can drop from an A to B, C, or even an immediate closure in minutes through no fault of their own (e.g. introduction of vermin from third-party sources, water heater breakdown, etc.).

                                  It's a useful system, but it has limitations that most people are not aware of.

                                  Having said that, I eat at pretty much any type of restaurants, including C or below.

                                  1. I don't know if they even HAVE a rating system in Florida... I've never seen it. Though you hear about various places in the paper that were shut down for violations - I honestly don't pay attention.

                                    1. The only time I made a huge issue of a 'D' rating was at a very well known hamburger place here in LA.
                                      It'll go nameless, as directed, but the problem I had with it (never ate there again) was that they intentionally undercook their meat because it tastes better.
                                      Undercooked hamburger with the infractions that were displayed were just not something I"d take the chance with.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: latindancer

                                        There was a hamburger stand in NoHo, that will remain nameless, that was constantly being closed down for various infractions and reopening shortly thereafter until the last time they were closed. They never reopened there. A year or two later, I happened to notice that they reopened at a different location.
                                        I wonder if it's the same one you're talking about.

                                      2. I draw the line when my aunt who works for a cola company tells me where the drivers won't eat at. If they make deliveries and won't eat there, I don't want to eat there since they see the kitchen.

                                        1. I'm in NYC all the time and it's the only place I know of that requires the placard on the window or door.

                                          We will only eat at A places.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: C. Hamster

                                            North Carolina is the same way. As is South Carolina.

                                            SC requires the letter grade.

                                            NC has the letter grade and actual score number displayed. If you have a drive thru window, it must be displayed there as well.

                                            1. re: JayL

                                              Yep, I'm from Virginia where this is not required, but I lived in Charlotte, NC where it was required. Personally, I rarely ever saw a grade less than an A, even at some of the shadier looking fast food places, so when I would see a B (which is the lowest grade I ever saw) I definitely was a little leery, but would still eat there. That being said, if I was to see anything lower than a B, I think I might have to go elsewhere.

                                              1. re: SaraAshley

                                                That's because if you get a low grade, you have a few days to call them back and get re-graded. Get a B or C today, fix what they graded you down on, call them this afternoon, and if you're lucky they'll be out within hours to check those issues.

                                                BAM! You have your A on the door.

                                                1. re: JayL

                                                  Grade inflation strikes the restaurant world.

                                          2. I don't remember exactly what the grading system in Nashville is, but the Health Department would publish a list of places that had been inspected last week, and any violations were itemized. This was more informative than a simple letter grade, since X number of points given for a dirty work area is hardly equal to the same points for someone's washing his hands in the prep sink, or leaving the walk-in open while moving stuff in or out. It was pretty easy to make our own judgment about eating there or not.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Will Owen

                                              That's the way it's done in my burg, too.