TAMPA, Florida — Frank-El Soul Food is one of the few places in North Tampa to find home style, traditional southern cuisine.
Owner Frank Braaf is proud of his restaurant, serving Tampa customers for over 12 years.
"This is collard greens, pinto beans and candied yams," said Braaf, showing off his selection of soul food on the restaurant's buffet line. "We have everything that they want. It's home cooking food."
But the restaurant also had some things many customers wouldn't want. Frank-El Soul Food was shut down by the state on April 15thand 16thwith a combined 54 violations. Those violations included grease accumulating under cooking equipment, water turned off at the kitchen sink with no soap or paper towels, temperature violations on the pork and mashed potatoes, raw chicken stored over the cooked beans, and live roaches under the cooks' line and refrigerator. Hundreds more were found dead on sticky traps throughout the kitchen.
Braaf said getting violations corrected was a top priority. "Oh, yes, it was very important, sir. I'm glad that they came in," said Braaf of the health inspector's report. "I know we had problems and I always try to take care of it. But I brought a professional person in, they took care of it, and everything was fine."
But everything wasn't fine on our visit. Within moments of walking into the restaurant, we found German roaches still on the floor, under tables, even crawling up the walls!
"When you have a small business and the money is not coming in you try to do so much yourself," said Braaf of his pest control issue.
Braaf said his pest control company is working to get the issue under control. He also took us into the kitchen, where we found more repeat violations, including the water still turned off at the hand washing sink. It was quickly turned back on.
"We just had a leak and they had to come and take care of it," said Braaf explaining why the water was still in the off position. "In fact, the plumber is outside right now."
Customers want that water kept on and the leaks fixed so employees can easily wash their hands.
"That's a very big issue," said soul food fan Willie Nelson. "Sanitation is one of the main things in the restaurant business."
The owner admitted running a small business isn't easy but said this is his first major problem with health inspectors. He's hoping his customers will be back.
"Everybody comes here," said Braaf. "Everybody eats here, and if you look around you can see how it is."