TAMPA, Florida -- In the middle of downtown Tampa, Urban Cantina is known for their homemade chips and salsa.
"Around lunch time, it's packed. You'll be waiting for an hour," said Akira Mitchell, who works downtown and considers herself a regular customer.
"I always get the enchiladas ... is where it's at!"
But Mitchell was shocked when we showed her a copy of this restaurant's October 1st inspection report. Urban Cantina racked up 16 violations for things like temperature abuse on the cooked pork and refried beans, no soap or paper towels at the cooks line sink, a black or green mold-like substance on the inside of the ice machine, and numerous live roaches crawling around the kitchen.
"Obviously it's disgusting," said Mitchell. "I want them to clean up their act because clearly I like their food, but if you're not going to be up to par you're not going to have me as a customer."
So last week, when we stopped in, employee Marielly Abzun told us the owner was unavailable.
"He's really busy today," said Abzun. "He said no one was allowed back there without his presence."
Owner Chris Rivas eventually showed up about a half hour later.
"I'm not trying to be on camera or anything," he told us holding his hand up to the camera.
When we asked for permission to look in the kitchen, we were told, "Not today."
When we asked to see if the owner had a copy of his latest inspection report Rivas yelled, "No ... you can suck my **** though. Put that on your report."
Rivas told me he was especially upset the day we came to visit over the death of his brother a week earlier. We turned off the camera, talked for a few minutes, and eventually he decided to reconsider. After a short wait, we were finally escorted by restaurant staff back into the kitchen.
Inside, we found the authentic Mexican this restaurant is so well known for, including those homemade chips. Employees were now all wearing gloves, something we did NOT see when we first arrived. Each and every hand sink also had soap and paper towels. We checked out the ice machine where an inspector reported finding mold growing a week earlier.
"Did you do some cleaning inside the ice machine?" we asked.
"I did it inside and outside," said the kitchen's cook.
We did find a few items left uncovered stored in the refrigeration units, minor violations, and watched as a tomato/onion sauce was mixed up in an industrial sized pot on the floor.
But the good news is there is no evidence of any remaining insect issues. Employees say they're working hard to keep their kitchen clean.
"I think we've just decided to focus and pay more attention and keep checklists and be way more aware of what needs to be done," said Abzun.
There was a several minute delay before we were finally allowed back in the kitchen, but once we finally got inside most issues brought up on the inspection report did appear to be corrected.
The biggest concern seems to be the restaurant's list of repeat inspections going back to last year.
The staff says no more, and promise we'll see super clean inspections from here on out.
Outrageous Restaurant Red Alert reports:
Band Aid Soup: Customer served soup - with a band aid in it!
Terrible 10: 10 Tampa Bay restaurants with the WORST critical violations
Ceiling Roaches: McDonalds cited when roach falls from ceiling onto diner's food
Finger in salad: Pizza customer claims there was a fingertip in his salad
Baked Roaches: Roaches found baked into Pizza Supreme
More Restaurant Red Alert Reports:
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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
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Athenian Garden, Tyrone Area, St. Pete 2/22/12
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China Jade, Carrollwood, 3/7/12
Nicki's West 59th (Bradenton), Top's China Buffet (Brandon), 400 Beach (St. Petersburg) 3/14/12
Hamburger Mary's Bar & Grille (Ybor City) 3/21/12
Sandy's Restaurant, Indian Rocks Beach 3/28/12