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[whitespace] Fly on Menu
Quit Buggin': Until recently, the menu hanging in the window at Tory's Restaurant in Cupertino featured a few dead bugs. County officials have temporarily shut down Tory's three times this year alone.

Bottom Feeders

Our brave scribes dug for the dirt on area restaurants, and here is their no-holds-barred report. Take a seat and behold ... The Dirty Dozen.

By Will Harper & Kelly Luker

Photography by George Sakkestad

NOBODY KNOWS how to put the kibosh on a good meal like the health department. A few bolded lines on a report and some checks in a few boxes marked "vermin" from the Department of Environmental Health, and that's it.

Since the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors started discussing the possibility of posting health department ratings in local restaurants as is done in other areas, there's been a slew of press attention paid to violations at selected area restaurants along with charges of lax, idiosyncratic enforcement and ethnic bias.

When Metro reporters started digging into the health department files on the valley's restaurants several months ago, they were shocked at what they encountered. From four-star to greasy spoon, hip and trendy to ethnic mom 'n' pop, the picture was not always pretty. Rodents, ants, roaches, flies, rat droppings, hair, wingnuts, rubber bands and--yes--even unwrapped condoms are just a few of the surprise ingredients that have found their way into lunch and dinner orders. Then there were food poisoning claims and reports of filthy floors and walls, unsanitary employees, poor handwashing facilities, recycled food--it was almost enough to make us all take up anorexia.

Then we noticed something strange. Some of the health department's most frequent and serious violators were brimming with patrons. Some of them were even places (gulp) at which we had eaten.

Even more troubling, when we went there to check them out, the food actually looked and smelled pretty good.

We decided that, hard as it might be, we had to do the reasonable and responsible thing: pull up a chair, peruse the menu, and try not to think about it too much.

After all, in these busy times, who has time to pore over the reports at the health department of every restaurant in town before eating out? Who has time to decide whether the owner has achieved full compliance? Even more to the point, who has time to worry about it?

So, after culling through the health department files, we picked some of the most questionable restaurants in the valley, and with fork, chopsticks and nimble fingers, we bravely dined our way through what we fondly like to think of as--the Dirty Dozen. Like hang gliding and snake handling, half the fun of life's little adventures is living them--and in our case, living to tell about it.

Making The List: The methodology and ratings.

Not on the Menu: Gruesome complaints and bizarre things allegedly found in food.

Wok on the Wild Side: Asian restaurants still get disproportionately high rate of poor inspection reports.

Chew Fly, Don't Bother Me: Tory's Restaurant in Cupertino.

A Fowl Feeling: Mai Garden Restaurant in San Jose.

Fast Food Frightmare: Mr. Chau's Chinese Fast Food in Palo Alto.

Overly Greasy Spoon: Bob's Surf 'N Turf in San Jose.

Not Cool Enough: Gordon Biersch in Palo Alto.

Pastor Its Prime: El Mexicano Taqueria in San Jose.

How Fresh? Fresh N Healthy Vegetarian in San Jose.

Chill Is Gone: Nola in Palo Alto.

How Now Stale Bao? Thanh Mai in San Jose.

Coffee To Go, Please: My My Coffee and Sandwiches in San Jose.

Vermin in the Vermicelli: Florentine Restaurant in Mountain View.

Off-Screen Horror Show: Century Capitol 16 Theaters in San Jose.

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From the June 8-14, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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