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[whitespace] Bent Fork Making The List

The methodology

By Will Harper & Kelly Luker

TO COME UP WITH our Dirty Dozen, we first had to generate a list of possible nominees. Thus, our first dilemma was figuring out how to identify, as objectively as possible, a dozen places out of the 4,600 facilities the county classifies as restaurants.

We started by making a list of those restaurants receiving the lowest inspection scores (from 0 to 65 out of a possible 100) between Jan. 1, 1999, and April 30, 2000. using a database provided by officials at the county department of environmental health (who were very helpful during this process).

We also used complaints made by consumers between Jan. 1, 1999, and May 30, 2000, as indicators as to who might qualify for the Dirty Dozen. If our database showed several complaints against a particular restaurant, we'd ask to see the restaurant's inspection file. If we were sufficiently grossed out after seeing the contents of the file, we'd add that eatery's name to the list of possible nominees.

More telling than complaints, though, were so-called "enforcement actions" when the department of environmental health actually punished restaurant owners for health violations.

Department officials are loath to punish violators. Between Jan. 1, 1999, and April 30, 2000, records indicate that the county shut down only 21 restaurants--usually for less than a day.

We figured that if punishment-shy county inspectors were willing to go so far as to close the doors of a restaurant or even give it a warning, the place was worth a closer look.

Our indicators were just that--indicators. We used the inspection scores, complaints and enforcement actions to give us an idea of which are grossest places to eat in the valley. But they didn't determine our final choices. For instance, just because a place got a low inspection score didn't mean it met our gross-out standards. Sometimes, restaurants lost points during inspections for structural defects. We chose places plagued by things like cockroaches and rats, employees who chopped raw chicken near vegetables, or salmonella-friendly food temperatures. We also looked at whether a restaurant showed a pattern of neglect in addressing previously cited health violations.

We considered all of these factors and came up with our list. So readers can take our picks with a grain of salt, though we suggest a spoonful of Pepto instead.

Take a stab ...

OUR DIRTY DOZEN FOOD REVIEWS were given bent fork review ratings: the more forks, the better the food--regardless of the reports at the environmental health department.

RATING:1 forkDon't even think about eating here.
RATING:2 forksDown to your last $3.50.
RATING:3 forksNot on a first date, but what the hell.
RATING:4 forksOh yeah, just like Mama used to make.

Introduction: Bottom Feeders.

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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