SPRING HILL, Florida - China One Super Buffet has attracted lots of loyal customers over the years.
"Where else can you have a reasonable meal and people eat 'til they're stuffed?" asked former China One customer Kitty Hudson. "The food was excellent."
But last October, Hudson said she stopped eating at the restaurant after a horrible experience with her husband and son, Michael.
"It was dirty," recalled Hudson. "The floors were dirty, there was black mold. Michael came out of the bathroom and said the roaches were so big you could put saddles on them and ride them."
The issues were so bad Hudson filed a complaint with the state. The following week, an inspector went in, documenting 10 critical violations, including soil build-up inside the ice bin; temperature violations on the Egg Foo Yung; and roach activity. Seven live insects were spotted throughout the kitchen.
State records show the restaurant met inspection standards January 15, but then had an emergency closure on its following visit, March 25, with 59 violations, seven considered high priority.
"I think they didn't care much," said Hudson. "They just wanted to pass that one inspection and that was it. Then they went back to their slobbing ways."
Among the issues documented last month:
- Numerous temperature violations on the chicken, cabbage, shredded cheese, and chicken nuggets
- A black or green mold like substance inside the ice machine
- Food not covered in the walk in cooler
- Grease under cooking equipment
- Mold under the soda machine
- And no proof of employee health/safety training
The inspector also found more live roaches, close to 50 this time, all over the kitchen, under the dish washing area, behind the oven, inside the freezer door frame, even right above the food prep table.
"Seeing this list of violations that's definitely a concern, especially these high priority ones," said another former customer, Justin Campbell.
We wanted to see what things were like in the kitchen now, several weeks after the state cleared this restaurant to reopen. We asked to take a look inside the kitchen and, after lots of discussion, debate, and more waiting, we were finally invited back.
The on-duty manager, who simply went by the name Wang, took us anywhere we wanted to go, apparently unaware many of the issues written up by the state still existed inside the kitchen.
"When the health inspector pointed some of those issues out, was it important to get those issues corrected?" we asked.
"Yeah, he gave me a long report. I don't know what happened," Wang said.
But everywhere we looked on our visit weeks later, we found many of the same violations. Food was left uncovered throughout the kitchen, grease was accumulating under the cook's line, and we found plenty more roaches both in the kitchen and around the buffet.
We also found many of the employee hand sinks without soap or paper towels. The manager brought soap over to the sink. When we wiggled the empty soap dispenser, things got even worse as multiple roaches ran out from hiding.
We found both back kitchen doors left wide open, a torn screen making it easy for bugs to get inside.
But that's not all! This restaurant also racked up "shocking complaints" from customers complaining of electrical dangers at the buffet line. On March 20, one customer said her daughter was badly shocked when her spoon touched the buffet line. Another customer called on March 22 complaining of numbness in his arm after he too received a jolt of electricity.
"Had you heard that complaint from customers before?" we asked.
"One old guy ... I remember that one guy," Wang replied.
Employees couldn't say if the electrical issue had been corrected, and when asked about all the problems inside the kitchen, they had very little explanation.
"I don't know, you know. I don't know, I don't know," said Wang.
But customers we talked to know one thing for sure.
"I'll never go back there and I'll tell people not to go there," said Hudson, who filed the original complaint. "It's plain and simple. Don't go there."
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