Inverness, Florida—With awards lining the windows, Evergreen Buffet was at one time a runner-up for "Best of the Best" of Citrus County restaurants.
"I got the honey chicken and the lo mein and all that, it was pretty good," said longtime customer Nick James.
But James must have missed our report in 2013 warning customers of potential problems in the kitchen. The restaurant was shut down in January of last year, according to state records, with an employee not washing their hands, close to 100 droppings and evidence of rodents chewing on bags of food. Back then, employees blamed all the issues on the owner being out of town.
"We correct everything. It won't happen again, we promise," said manager Elaine Tacn.
But just a year and a half later it did happen again. Evergreen Buffet was shut down a second time June 12, this time with 35 violations. The problems included multiple fly traps hanging right above the food prep area, no soap or paper towels at an employee hand sink and 39 live roaches throughout the kitchen with 60 more under the dishwashing sink and bug poison spotted stored right next to food.
"I can understand maybe like one or two ... but 60? Especially in places that should be kept sanitary, that's pretty disgusting actually," said James.
10 News stopped in again last week to check on conditions in the kitchen. This time employees were not so happy to see our camera.
"Please can you stop it," asked Tacn putting her hand up blocking our camera's view.
The restaurant was cleared to reopen the following day. Employees again assured us problems were corrected.
"Everything is all right," said Tacn. "The other day when he came back he couldn't find nothing … everything gone."
But state records show the restaurant actually had 17 remaining violations on its latest inspection. At least one customer said he is tired of all the excuses.
"I'm definitely not coming back here," said James on his way out. "That kind of ruined it for me."
Take a look at Evergreen Buffet's entire inspection history here.