TAMPA, Florida -- Angela Martin planned on celebrating her 42nd birthday dining out at one of her family's favorite restaurants, Classic Homestyle Buffet. Located across the street from Busch Gardens at 4115 East Busch Boulevard, she says the restaurant offers tasty food at excellent prices.
Florida Restaurant Ratings: Look up your restaurant here
But Martin had second thoughts about eating at the Tampa restaurant after we informed her Classic Homestyle Buffet failed its December 14th health inspection, prompting an emergency closure.
"I never had a problem when I came to eat here before and I thought the food was delicious," said a surprised and disappointed Martin.
But state inspection records show a staggering 56 health safety violations, 26 considered critical, on the restaurant's inspection by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
(Read the entire Dec. 14, 2011 inspection report here)
Among the problems:
- Butter and cut fruit not properly refrigerated
- Food stored on the floor
- Dirty microwaves
- Slime in the ice machine
- A hand washing sink not accessible to employees
"That's a huge problem. I don't like people fixing my food with dirty hands," said Martin, who at that point told family members she might want to consider another spot to celebrate her birthday.
That's not all. According to the report, a state inspector also found live roaches in the cooking area and behind the buffet station. Not just one or two, but more than 100!
"Oh, Lord! That means I wouldn't eat here based on that. I don't like insects in my food. So you've changed where I'm eating for my birthday," said Martin.
But manager Elaine Vo says everything's been cleaned up. She eventually even invited us in to check things out ourselves.
"If everyone wants to know, just come and take a look. You will see it's not right the way they're talking. We are very clean, and very fresh, every day," said a confident Vo.
We took a look around the dining room for ourselves, and other than one small flying insect near the buffet line, everything looked clean to us.
We next asked Vo to allow us into the kitchen where the food is made.
There we found a clean microwave, but also some of the same violations listed in the original state inspection, including no soap or paper towels at the hand washing sink for employees. Vo quickly got some soap and corrected the critical violation while we were there.
We moved on where other minor violations were corrected by staff on site, like a cell phone and charger cables set on top of the ready-to-eat strawberries, an uncovered employee drink and meal in the food prep area, and more food left uncovered at unknown temperatures throughout the kitchen.
As for the insect problem, Vo says she doesn't remember that ever being an issue. "They say that, but I don't think so," said Vo, who invites guests in to inspect the kitchen for themselves.
"If anyone wants to know, just come and take a look! I'm always open!"
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation returned for follow-up inspections January 4th and 5th. The state inspector recorded an additional 48 violations.
- Cheese held at an improper temperature
- Food stored on the floor in the freezer
- Uncovered food in dry storage area
- Employee dry hands on clothes/apron after washing (repeat violation)
- Employee with non hair restraint
- Hand wash sink lacking proper hand drying provisions
- Dead Roaches on premises: 2 on cook line, 2 in storage area (repeat violation)
- Observed Roach Activity as evidenced by live roaches found: 1 live on cook line, 2 live in storage area
- Observed small flying insects in dishwashing area
- Observed wall soiled with accumulated black debris in dishwashing area
Take a look at our previous Behind the Kitchen Door reports:
Frank's Family Restaurant, Hernando 1/18/12
Big Easy Cajun, Brandon TownCenter 1/25/12
CiCi's Pizza, Kenneth City 2/1/12
China Express, Brandon 2/8/12