Archive for Sunday, July 22, 2012

Taking a look at restaurant violations

Over 650 ‘critical’ infractions found at Lawrence eateries so far in 2012

July 22, 2012


Findings of investigation

Restaurants with the most critical violations since 2010

• El Mezcal, 1520 Wakarusa Drive: 76

• El Mezcal, 1819 W. 23rd St.: 65

• Jade Garden, 1410 Kasold Drive: 60

• Zen Zero, 811 Mass.: 53

• Haskell Diner, 1910 Haskell Ave.: 44

• Burger Stand, 803 Mass.: 36

• Esquina, 801 Mass.: 33

• King Buffet, 1601 W. 23rd St.: 32

• Yokohama, 1730 W. 23rd St.: 29

• Oriental Bistro, 1511 W. 23rd St.: 28

• Ingredient, 947 Mass.: 26

• Paisano’s, 2112 W. 25th St.: 25

• Mad Greek, 907 Mass.: 20

Other findings

• 92 Lawrence restaurants recorded no critical violations during their 2012 inspection, and 106 restaurants recorded between one and three violations.

• 42 restaurants had not received any critical violations since 2010.

• 11 Lawrence restaurants recorded 10 or more violations in 2012.

• 44 restaurants received a non-compliance notice from inspectors in 2012.

How we conducted our investigation

Using the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s online restaurant inspection website, we examined all 266 Lawrence restaurants inspected between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year. For restaurants that had received a “non-compliance notice” for a high number of violations, we checked inspection reports back to the beginning of 2010. All the information has been added to a searchable database, available at, which includes links to all the inspection reports. The database will be updated monthly. To search a restaurant’s inspection reports, visit

Google Map

Restaurant inspection map

A map of restaurant inspection violations for the first 10 months of 2012. : * If inspection reports don't open in Firefox browser, try Google Chrome or Safari.

Some are sparkling clean, some are a little grimy, and a few others occasionally are plagued by pesky roaches or rodents.

But when you sit down at your favorite Lawrence dining spot, you probably have no idea what may be lurking in the kitchen.

That’s what the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s restaurant inspectors are interested in, giving a surprise visit to about a dozen Lawrence restaurants each week.

They find everything from clean kitchens to a rare mice infestation, according to the reports for 266 Lawrence restaurants inspected in the first six months of 2012.

Kansas Department of Agriculture Inspection Supervisor Nicole Hamm sat down with the Journal-World to explain the inspection process and help put the numbers in perspective.

The inspection

At least once a year, inspectors visit every restaurant in Lawrence, which also includes bars, fraternity and sorority houses, school kitchens, and even snack shops at Kansas University. Inspectors pop in unannounced and run through an extensive checklist and observe restaurant staff for up to two hours, quizzing managers on safety measures. They’re looking for anything from cooks not wearing gloves, to food stored improperly, to cockroaches scurrying about.

The goal isn’t to catch restaurants red-handed, but to promote food safety, Hamm said.

Many issues found at restaurants come down to simple training and education.

“It’s a partnership,” said Hamm, stressing that the inspectors work with restaurants on food safety guidelines.

Critical violations

During inspections, inspectors look for what’s known as critical violations, which are violations that could lead to a foodborne illness: everything from food being kept at improper temperatures to improper storage of chemicals.

Inspectors use the 2005 Kansas Food Code, a 200-page manual modeled after federal law.

In the first half of 2012, inspectors visited 266 restaurants in Lawrence, finding 651 critical violations.

Most of those violations can be fixed on site, Hamm said, and don’t result in additional action.

But if a visit results in five or more critical violations, inspectors issue a “non-compliance notice,” which means they’ll be back in less than two weeks for another inspection.

In the first six months of 2012, inspectors issued 44 non-compliance notices to Lawrence restaurants.

Restaurants have a few more chances to clean up before any fines are levied, and it takes multiple non-compliance notices before the state seeks a license revocation.

“We really, really try not to do that,” Hamm said.

While several Lawrence restaurants racked up dozens of violations during inspections in 2012, none of the cases reached revocation status.

Immediate closures

Some inspections, however, find critical violations that could cause imminent harm, forcing an immediate closure of a restaurant. But restaurants are not required to inform the public of such closures, though the information is posted online.

In 2012, only two Lawrence restaurants, Esquina and La Familia, were closed following inspections.

Here’s a recap of those closures:

• La Familia, 733 N.H.: On March 29, inspectors found 11 critical violations, the most serious of which was the discovery of “30-40 mouse droppings located on the floor under the dish machine. 20-30 fresh mouse droppings located on the floor under the can rack. 10-20 fresh mouse droppings located under the store.”

A pest control bill supplied by La Familia showed that a pest control service had visited the restaurant last in November. The restaurant agreed to a one-day voluntary closure to address the violations. The next day, the restaurant reopened and was again inspected, but this time no violations were recorded. The restaurant agreed to have pest control come once a week for the next month. The Journal-World was unable to contact the owner for comment.

• Esquina, 801 Mass.: On April 19, inspectors found more than a dozen live roaches in various areas of the restaurant. The restaurant agreed to a voluntary closure. Later that day, inspectors returned after a pest control company had treated the restaurant. No roaches or violations were reported during the second visit, and the restaurant agreed to regular pest control treatments. On May 21, inspectors returned and again found live roaches on grease traps, as well as 23 dead roaches along the wall. The restaurant was not closed but issued a non-compliance notice. Since 2010, Esquina had racked up 33 critical violations during inspections, including three non-compliance notices in 2011.

Robert Krause, Esquina’s owner, said that they were “dumbfounded” by the discovery of roaches.

“We’ve never, ever seen a roach in our restaurant,” Krause said, explaining that the roaches were found in the basement. Krause also pointed out that they were able to fix the issue in less than an hour. Krause chalked up the roach problem to the old buildings downtown, which makes pest control more of a challenge.

“We spend a ton of money on pest control,” Krause said.

Most violations

For the 44 Lawrence restaurants that received a non-compliance notice in 2012, the Journal-World examined reports for those restaurants dating back to 2010. A total of 13 restaurants had been cited for 20 or more violations during that time. Here’s how the four restaurants with the most violations during that time responded to our findings:

• El Mezcal, 1520 Wakarusa Drive: 76

• El Mezcal, 1819 W. 23rd St.: 65

The Journal-World was unable to reach a manager or owner from El Mezcal to comment on their violations.

• Jade Garden, 1410 Kasold Drive: 60

Restaurant owner Lisa Koay said the inspection process is necessary to keep restaurants safe, but oftentimes the violations are minor.

“A lot of small things,” Koay said, such as employees drinking soda in the kitchen. Koay said she’s also been frustrated at times when different inspectors come by and would like to see more consistency so the restaurants and inspector can build a rapport. Even though the restaurant has received a high number of violations, Koay pointed out that her restaurant hasn’t been fined or closed down.

• Zen Zero, 811 Mass.: 53

Subarna Bhattachan, co-owner of Zen Zero, said his restaurant “takes the health regulations seriously,” and sometimes violations are a result of new employees not following regulations, despite training.

“We go over and over them,” Bhattachan said. And what time of year inspectors visit restaurants can also play a role in the number of violations, he said. For instance, on extremely warm days it can be more of a challenge to keep refrigeration at proper temperatures. Bhattachan said his restaurant has taken measures, such as buying new equipment and performing extra cleaning on holidays, to clear up any previous problems during inspections.

Zen Zero was also ordered to close its doors for 10 days in January 2011 stemming from violations but settled with the Department of Agriculture to close for five days, from Jan. 6 to Jan. 11.

“We’ve had some issues in the past, but we’ve worked to rectify them,” he said.

‘Just a snapshot’

Hamm cautioned that what an inspector finds on one particular day may not necessarily be indicative of the cleanliness of a restaurant.

“They’re just a snapshot in time,” Hamm said. “We really want to make sure they know what to do the other 364 days a year.”

Hamm advised diners to keep their eyes open when visiting restaurants. Anyone can make anonymous complaints to the state online at

Google form

Highest violations since 2010

Chart shows which restaurants have had at least 20 critical violations since 2010. Only restaurants who received a noncompliance notice during an inspection in 2012 were included in this chart.

Google form

Violations per restaurant in 2012

Chart depicts how violations were distributed among the 266 restaurants inspected in the first half of 2012. In total, there were 651 critical violations noted by inspectors.

Google form

Full restaurant inspection results 2012

This searchable charts shows the results for all Lawrence restaurants inspected in the first 11 months of 2012.

Related document

Restaurants with no violations ( .PDF )


OhHai 1 year, 9 months ago

Well, if you think that the employees at The Merc look scruffy, you should see the kitchen.


melvin30 1 year, 9 months ago

I LOVE that the strip clubs and biker bars are cleaner than many of the more "reputable" places... like Paisanos...and Ingredient...and best of all: Lawrence Country Club! LMAO


kernal 1 year, 9 months ago

My two favorite experiences at La Familia one day were: Cook #1 picking his nose while frying up chips and Cook #2 sneezing into the vat of taco meat. Haven't been back.

As for Buffalo Bob's, after hearing tales by previous kitchen employees and dire warnings from same, I will never ever eat there. NEVER!

Downtown is rife with cockroaches and mice and has been for decades. I doubt any restaurant can completely eradicate them as they're in the apartments, the stores and the alleys.


Topple 1 year, 9 months ago

I was served a fried roach right on the top of my french fries at Biggs BBQ on Iowa last summer. I'm not mortified by things like that anymore, but still pretty gross.

I see they were served a non-compliance notice. I guess as horrified as the manager and my waitress acted, they apparently weren't concerned enough to get their crap together.


roosmom 1 year, 9 months ago

"Food service work is considered work of last resort in the US - kids, druggies, felons, immigrants, looked down upon by many. In some parts of the world a cook is an honorable profession. I think there might be a reason those country's rate of diabetes and heart disease are lower. You pay $40. for that dinner, that cook is making $8-10/hour"

Seriously? Have you had your head in the sand? I think the food service industry has become a very popular industry, just look at the TV. I would however guess that the places that aren't on the list might just pay better and have happier employees than the ones on the list. I'm not blaming the employees for this, but the owners who want to put every last cent in their pocket.


insearchofauniqueid 1 year, 9 months ago

The city has no problem issuing permits to local restaurants but roadblocks franchises like olive garden. A franchisee has a franchisor who also oversees quality control and best practices which on turn adds higher standards to uphold. A sole proprietor who's only concern is an annual health inspection can easily lose sight of cleanliness and pest control all too easily when operating in a hard economy. Transparency and accountability are 2 things that will make these establishments clean up their filth.


BadgerHawk71 1 year, 9 months ago

Get rid of one of these cesspools and add an In and Out Burger already


repaste 1 year, 9 months ago

Food service work is considered work of last resort in the US - kids, druggies, felons, immigrants, looked down upon by many. In some parts of the world a cook is an honorable profession. I think there might be a reason those country's rate of diabetes and heart disease are lower. You pay $40. for that dinner, that cook is making $8-10/hour,


shaunepec 1 year, 9 months ago

In the spreadsheet-like form you can search for restaurants with zero. Also, the map includes the restaurants with zero violations, color-coded.


bunnyhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

Why didn't the LJW include a list of the restaurants with no violations? At least on the web edition?


Rae Hudspeth 1 year, 9 months ago

All too funny, really. None of this is surprising to anyone in the food service industry.

How many of your own kitchens would pass this inspection? Or your Granny's for that matter? Do you wear gloves when you prepare sandwiches for more than one person at a time? Did Granny smoke in her kitchen? Is that a bug in the sink? A mouse trap under the dishwasher?

However, it isn't funny how an article like this brings the bigots out of the woodwork.


oneeye_wilbur 1 year, 9 months ago

Any restaurant that does not clean tables with soap and water and a bit of bleach and clean the legs, and the seats top to bottom, you can bet that the entire place is dirty. I do not know why the workers wear disposable gloves. All that does is keep their hands clean.

Wiping a rag back and forth on a table top is hardly cleaning. At least for craps sake turn it over to a cleaner side.

There is not one restuarant in downtown lawrence that is clean by standards of clean. And the floors in most places , one can hardly walk on without sticking to the floor covering.


brewmaster 1 year, 9 months ago

Where are the "free market" Libertarians that argue to eliminate government inspectors and let the unregulated, free market induce the owners to clean-up their restaurants?

These restaurants know in advance that they are subject to annual inspections, but many of them are still filthy, unclean, health hazards. How gross and unhealthy would they be if they were never inspected in an unregulated free market?


Andini 1 year, 9 months ago

Was anything "funny" found at Grandaddy's?


mamsir 1 year, 9 months ago

we have seen a couple of mice run across the floor at tellers...


Milton Bland 1 year, 9 months ago

I thought these inspections were the responsibility of the Douglas County Health Department. They are always "busy out in the field" when needed for a septic tank inspection. There are not that many new homes being built in Douglas County, so one would assume the "busy" inspectors are doing foods service inspections.


rockchalker52 1 year, 9 months ago

Back in the day, Jade Garden was in the regular rotation of our office carry-out lunch schedule. One of the gals found a cricket towards the bottom of her chicken fried rice. We figure it was hangin' in the carton & got caught up in the whole 'to go' thing.

Didn't knock the restaurant out of the line-up, but we did start calling it Bug-in-a-Box.


greenworld 1 year, 9 months ago

Buffalo Bobs is owned by Schumm and no can guarantee his restaurants will never make the paper as he use to be on the city commission and is still buddy-buddy with them. I have always thought Buffalo Bobs was a mouse turd place to go.


1 year, 9 months ago

I'll be interested to see the report from Buffalo Bob's. I worked in an old restaurant with the same owner, Mass Street Deli. We had roaches and occasionally they made their way onto the customer's plates. I once served a sandwich..and the little roach was under the pickle!


jhawk1998 1 year, 9 months ago

The only way Krause does not know abou how dirty his restuarants are is if he has never been there. I work in the area and the stench and filth outside Esquina and the Burger Stand are bad enough I would never eat there. There is no emphasis on cleanliness whatsoever. I can't believe it isn't another health code violation that their outdoor seating area in back is surrounded by caked-on filth. Other restaurants in the downtown area don't seem to have the same problem keeping their grease film cleaned off the rear sidewalks.


kufan1146 1 year, 9 months ago

Haha, I bet a lot of advertisers with the Journal-World just pulled their ads..


George_Braziller 1 year, 9 months ago

I haven't eaten at La Familia since the time I placed a take-out order and while waiting watched the woman who took my order bus a table, wipe it down with a wet dishcloth, and then stick her unwashed bare hand into the tortilla chips for my order.

Threw the chips away and I've never been back.


TetraHydro 1 year, 9 months ago

Hardly a mention of bambinos... If you only knew. Smoking is prohibited in restaurants in Kansas now, but not in this kitchen apparently. Good thing the guy running the kitchen at bambinos is the old owner of "annabells" in eudora..Which was known for food poisoning..


chocolateplease 1 year, 9 months ago

Why aren't Dillons & Hy-Vee on the list of restaurants? Aren't they subject to the same inspections? And ditto for Miltons downtown!


deec 1 year, 9 months ago

If the average customer knew what goes on in all restaurants, they'd never eat out again. Ditto for what goes on in feedlots and food processing plants.


bobberboy 1 year, 9 months ago

P.S. That would serve you just right !


bobberboy 1 year, 9 months ago

Thanks to KDHE for keeping the pressure on restaraunts to keep our food clean ! I hope all you Teabaggers have mouse droppings and roaches in yours though !


Mike Edson 1 year, 9 months ago

I am a big fan of 715, but all too often I witness their cooks exhibiting hand to mouth behavior with food while preparing dishes. The times it is hardest to ignore is when they lick the sauce from their fingers. If you are an open kitchen establishment you must enforce the health code rules. It can take months to find a new customer and only seconds to loose them.


larrybill 1 year, 9 months ago

Wow I cant believe the Sonic on 23 and 31 are so bad. I bet if you look up the last several years inspections you can see a trend. I know the sonics in lawrence got bought out last November. I would expect this out of the old owners that still own the Sonic in eudora and baldwin. The owner and director of operations are from Columbia MO and are MIZZU fans. Makes me wonder if the new owners kept the same crappy dope smoking managers around. It sure seems like it..They also changed all thier phone numbers. I guess if you have a problem like your expensive food made me sick you have to call information to get the new number. It seems like the best Sonic in lawrence is the one in north lawrence. Goos job to the manager and his crew.



sbward1 1 year, 9 months ago

The state board of cosmetology requires salons to post their inspection reports in public view which displays all compliance and violations. This is a health issue that prevents disease from being transmitted. That being said, I feel the state should oblige reports to be posted in restaurants too since critters carry disease. Mold and surface swipe reports should be posted as well.


Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 9 months ago

“We go over and over them,” Bhattachan said. And what time of year inspectors visit restaurants can also play a role in the number of violations, he said. For instance, on extremely warm days it can be more of a challenge to keep refrigeration at proper temperatures."

"Aunt Bea, call the man!"


Liberty275 1 year, 9 months ago

I only recognize two rules.

1: If you would eat something you dropped on a desert island and it won't make you ill or worse, the it isn't going to make you ill or worse if you drop it on the floor. Granted this is somewhat statistical, as your survival hinges on whether the floor is clean and the food is sticky. I never said it was true, so you college boys can point out the error if you want. It's still a rule. Well, more a guideline than a rule.

2: I'll decide which restaurants I patronize from personal experience and watching the news. Like this story for instance.

The state can protect the rest of you however you want them to. I'm fine with whatever as long as I can have rule one.


John Gibson 1 year, 9 months ago

First thing I noticed was the man testing food is not wearing gloves. Shouldn't he be since he is that close to the food when testing it?


James Minor 1 year, 9 months ago

Try driving behind some of these resturants and if you see people smoking there will be bugs and rodents. Smokers are known for leaving doors and windows open allowing the little critters in the store. Proper sanitation does not limit itself to just wearing gloves when serving food. I was in one resturant where the server sneezed on his glove, wiped the glove on his pants, and started serving food again. Resturants should train and enforce proper sanitation practices for all their employees, so there won't be an extra surprise in their meal!!!!!


DoUntoOthers 1 year, 9 months ago

No wonder Krause wanted to keep serving out of his home-no inspectors. Funny that the roaches picked on his food (maybe they are gourmand roaches).


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 9 months ago

"cockroaches" are delicious deep fried. Crunchy like punkin' seeds.

Besides, whats a few nuanced "cockroaches" in a complex government village like Larryville? At least there is 'more' air conditioning than is Botswana.


Mike Edson 1 year, 9 months ago

It is great to see that the state is conducting restaurant health inspections! Kansas should implement the inspection grading system used in Seattle and San Francisco. Each restaurant receives a grade based on their inspection and then must visibly post the sign on their front window to be seen by customers. So underneath the restaurant's posted menu there would be a sign that had an A, B or C. "A" of course means passed inspection, and "C" would suggest eat at your own risk. If the restaurant failed inspection, they would be closed, and a sign would be posted with an "F" listing the violations.


seriouscat 1 year, 9 months ago

Where is the downtown Milton's? I have seen cockroaches running around the dining room there, and lining the wall back the by kitchen.. service was bad enough...but the filth? Never again.

And I definitely think there should be a stiffer consequence when inadequate practices result in food poisoning, which seems to be a common occurrence at the N Lawrence Sonic.

Finally, I think people who automatically blame whoever is at the bottom of the totem pole when issues come up at a business need to pull their heads out of their bums. Priorities at the top of the chain are reflected at the bottom. Stop blaming the new, poorly trained, and poorly compensated people for problems that clearly stem from inadequate management.


Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 9 months ago

We’ve never, ever seen a roach in our restaurant,” Krause said, explaining that the roaches were found in the basement.

In the basement? Not according to the report:

6-501.111(C)* CRITICAL - Effective pest control measures in place [One live adult roach crawling on floor by air conditioner unit; left side of grease trap has 5 live adult roaches around the pipe/grease trap joint, 1 juvenile roach observed at the pipe/trap joint; 1 live adult roach located next to the mop sink; 1 live adult roach on glass rack located next to mop sink; 1 live adult roach crawling along the wall behind the grease trap; back side of the grease trap has 6 live adult roaches; right side of the grease trap has 7 live adult roaches on the side facing the wall; 1 nymph roach observed along the top of the trap; 3 live adult roaches observed crawling around the top of the grease trap; the opening on the right side of the trap has approx 10 live adults, one has an egg sack attached to it, 4 live juvenile roaches were observed on the opposite side; 3 nymph roaches observed in same area]
The a/c and grease trap are in the kitchen.


geekin_topekan 1 year, 9 months ago

This would never happen at Jack in the Box!


Jayhawk1958 1 year, 9 months ago

Glad to see that Burrito King isn't on the list. Great food at great value.


aldo 1 year, 9 months ago

Where is Angler's/The Orient/Oh Boy Chicken on this list? Not inspected in the first 6 months of 2012 ?


tiredoflawrence 1 year, 9 months ago

Some downtown restaurants seem to be missing off this list. Ones with connections to the city council?


geekin_topekan 1 year, 9 months ago

If the owners of El Mezcal, Zen Zero etc. have earned their citizenship than they are AMERICAN owned restaurants. I feel a lesser person for having dignified such trolling but there are those who still equate brown skin with non-Americans.

Repeat--they are AMERICAN owned regardless of cuisine.

Carry on. No charge for my wisdom which is immeasurable anyway.


Flap Doodle 1 year, 9 months ago

How many of the cited restaurants have illegal aliens working for less than minimum wage?


Matthew Herbert 1 year, 9 months ago

Let me put on my surprised face that El Mezcal tops the charts. That place HAS to offer cheap margaritas because you have to be drunk to enjoy the food and later when you're vomiting, you just blame the tequila.


Steven Gaudreau 1 year, 9 months ago

Not sure how a business like Esquina gets closed for infestation of cock roaches and the owner was shocked and never saw alert. Its not like the inspectors walk around pulling up floor boards. These things are in plain sight in the middle of the day for the inspector to see. No way that place had seen a pest control agent like he claims.


greenworld 1 year, 9 months ago

How do you say, your restaurant is gross in Spanish???


jafs 1 year, 9 months ago

This is good information, but I'd like to see it posted at the restaurants in a prominent place that can easily be seen when you come into the restaurant.

Especially for places that have gotten "critical violations" and/or fines for non-compliance.

Also, perhaps the regulators should be a bit quicker to take action - critical violations are ones that can affect the public's health, so maybe there should be more of a penalty when they're found.

I love one comment, that it's harder to keep food cool in hot weather - no kidding! It's also more important to do so, since food that's not kept at the proper temperatures can harbor bacteria.


Clint Church 1 year, 9 months ago

Imagine that. Mostly foriegn owned restaurants.


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