CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla.- Across the street from the sugar white sands of Clearwater Beach, Toucan's Bar and Grill is known for its great location and fresh seafood.
"The food is wonderful," said customer Ryan Trueman. "It's one of the most creative menus on the beach."
But not everyone is a fan. In September, a tipster filed a complaint with the state alleging cooks were handling raw chicken and fish, then putting toppings on burgers without first washing their hands.
When the state went in to check things out, the inspector documented 16 critical violations, according to state records.
The problems included food stored on the floor; no toilet paper in the ladies room; temperature violations on the cooked mushrooms, frying batter, and potatoes; and employees touching food with their bare hands. There were also no paper towels at an employee hand sink, and on the cookline another sink was missing altogether.
So, last week, we stopped in. Restaurant management had no problem taking us back into the kitchen. In fact, Chef Bob Behring said he's proud of his kitchen and has nothing to hide.
"The place is brand new, go anywhere you like," said Chef Behring. "Check it out."
And that's exactly what we did. We found hand sinks in each room, stocked with soap and paper towels.A very good sign.
"It's very important ... Food borne illness. You can attract diseases from it. Like I say, we all wear gloves," said Behring.
We asked about the missing sink documented by the state.
"The rule of thumb is one sink per room, so when we built this place, I didn't need this," he said,pointing to a second sink along the cooksline. "I took it out. So when she came, I didn't make a new plan, so she wrote us up for that."
Chef Behring stressed there is a sink for employees in every room.
But we weren't done there. The ice bin looked crystal clean. We even checked out the walk-in cooler, where we found most food up off the floor and covered.
We did discover one problem: what appeared to be moldy fruit in a box of produce.
"We go through a case a week ... I'll throw them out right now," said Behring.
Besides that issue, everything else looked good and many customers seem to agree.
"I'm very particular on the food I eat," said Trueman. "This is one of the restaurants I can come to and not worry about cleanliness because I know it's going to be taken care of."
Based on our visit, we give Toucan's Bar & Grill the "A-OK" stamp of approval.