SARASOTA, Florida -- The walls of Mrs. Chen's Chinese Restaurant are lined with awards. The restaurant, with it's all you can eat buffet, was voted best restaurant in Sarasota.
But a state health inspector uncovered major issues inside the kitchen, shutting the restaurant down as an emergency closure on April 7 with 28 violations.
According to the state report, the issues included live roaches on the cook's line under buckets of soy sauce, temperature violations on foods in the reach-in cooler, along with pans of fried chicken and fish found at room temperature. The inspector issued a stop sale after finding more problems in the walk-in cooler, with the a/c unit dripping onto the chicken and beef.
"Well, the dripping on the meat, certainly uncovered… and the roaches definitely, I'd probably put them at number 1," said customer Bill Rainville.
10 News stopped in, checking to see if conditions had improved. Inside Mrs. Chen's Restaurant we found Mr. Chen, who explained what happened with all those temperature violations.
"We're pretty clean, it's just an issue with the refrigeration," said Mr. Chen. "He just came in right at the moment right after a rush, so we opened the cooler a lot. Usually the temperature is pretty good. It was just the wrong timing, you know?"
But what about the a/c unit dripping on the food? Chen explained that was an easy fix. "The drain was clogged, so it was leaking. But we got it fixed right away."
We also asked about the insect issues in the kitchen and under the soy sauce buckets.
"They said they saw like four," admitted Chen. "We don't have an issue with roaches. I mean, you can look around and take a look for yourself."
And that's exactly what we asked to do. But Chen said the dining room was as far as we could go. When it came to inspecting the kitchen for improvements: "I'm sorry, I'm not able to, I'm sorry," said Mr. Chen.
Mrs. Chen's was cleared to reopen the following day, with six remaining violations.
Customers say they're optimistic the restaurant will do better on future inspections.
"We come here often and it's fine," said customer Michael Scaraltos. "It's good to know and hopefully the publicity will make them keep it clean."
If you have a restaurant you'd like us to check out be sure to e-mail 10 News Investigator Beau Zimmer at RedAlert@wtsp.com.