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NYC Begins Grading Restaurants; Dirty Chefs Vow to Fight

A Starting yesterday, if you went out to eat in New York City, you might have noticed a conspicuously placed sign in the window, with a big blue "A" on it. It doesn't have the literary appeal of a scarlet "A," but it should have made you feel better about chowing down on that corned beef sandwich.

The city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene yesterday began implementing its restaurant grading system, which eventually will see to it that every one of the more than 24,000 restaurants in the city is graded A, B, or (shudder) C based on the results of the department's health inspections. Health Commissioner Thomas Farley awarded the first "A" grade to Spark's Deli in Long Island City, Queens.

While having the commish compliment the owners of a neighborhood joint on the cleanliness of their kitchen would make for a good photo op, according to the The New York Times, he couldn't have hung any other grade on the place, since any establishment not earning an "A" gets another shot at an inspection before having a sign posted in the window.

The Times also reports that despite the fact that inspection results, including the number of "violation points" awarded on each surprise visit, have been available on the health department's website for quite some time, not all restaurateurs are taking this new system in stride:

Two weeks ago, the New York State Restaurant Association, which has fought the grading system since it was first proposed 19 months ago, sent a letter to some 3,500 eating establishments, rallying opposition and raising money for a possible legal challenge, said Robert Bookman, legislative counsel for the group’s New York City chapters.

“We don’t know that the government can compel you to post a sign that expresses an opinion about your business that you do not share,” Mr. Bookman said.

Well, Bob, when that opinion is based on a report that includes, "Found Feivel Mouskewitz and his extended family swimming in the matzo ball soup," I think the public might have a right to know.

The inspection results are worth a perusal -- you might be surprised at what you find. Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe -- perennially on Zagat's top food list -- scored 16 points on its last inspection in November 2009, which would earn it a "B" (and a whopping 60 points the previous November, which, were problems not quickly corrected, would have earned the restaurant a padlock on the front door). The Dunkin' Donuts at Third Avenue and 26th Street got a super clean 4! So, instead of those prosciutto-wrapped sea scallops with romesco, summer bean salad and basil-sherry vinaigrette, enjoy a turkey, cheddar and bacon flatbread sandwich tonight, and rest easy knowing that you've saved yourself some cash -- and are that much less likely to have eaten a roach.

Posted by Eric Lipman on July 29, 2010 at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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