CLEARWATER, Fla.- It's not hard to find customers who love the taste of El Chicanito Restaurant on Gulf to Bay Blvd. in Clearwater.
"I took my girlfriend out there to eat," said customer Michael King. "Their food is good, I know that."
What customers don't know is that the restaurant was shut down by the state November 13th with 13 critical violations. Among the problems the inspector reported the restaurant was filled with roaches and rodents, with live bugs found near plates at the dishwashing area, and 48 rodent droppings discovered on shelves, near the slicer, and on food container lids.
"That's nasty!" said King. "They got to clean it up you feel me?"
We wanted to know if everything was cleaned up, so last week we stopped by. The manager agreed to show us into the kitchen.
We were given a tour where we saw the carnito, or fried pork, cooking up in the kitchen. We did not see any insects, but we did find some clear violations, like a bottle of medication and an employee purse stored on a shelf right above where food is prepared, and food sitting out uncovered.
When we asked to take a look in the walk-in cooler, we were told no. The manager asked us to turn off our camera.
"You wouldn't be willing to let us look in there?" we asked. The manager replied, "No."
In fact, after that, we were told the interview was over.
"That's enough. I don't want you to record anymore," said the manager, only saying the violations listed in the state report were minor.
When we asked if the rodent and roach problems were taken care of, we were told there was nothing living in the kitchen.
"No, no, no... not any kind of problem like that. Just some dead roaches under the dish washer," said the manager.
El Chicanito has been open for 15 years on Gulf to Bay in Clearwater and, despite the violations, some customers we talked to say they will be back.
"You know it's disgusting, but I come from the ghetto," said customer Paul Jackson. "I've seen it growing up."
And while he'll be back, Jackson says if he's paying for food he definitely wants the kitchen clean.
"They need to take care of their job... clean it up. You won't have to go through this."