You may be surprised to see how your favorite Uptown eatery scored on the latest round of health department inspections.
The latest reports on food facility inspections show most Court Street food vendors violated varying degrees of food preparation or storage regulations.
Complete inspection data from the department was unavailable, but nine Uptown food destinations had critical violations during recent inspections this year, ranging from flies present throughout Courtside Pizza to raw food being stored above ready-to-eat, uncovered food at China King.
Six restaurants — Casa Nueva, Uptown Grill, O’Betty’s Red Hot!, Bagel Street Deli, Fluff Bakery and Catering and the West Union Street location of GoodFella’s Pizza — received only non-critical violations, such as not securing hair properly or having debris on can openers. Eight establishments, such as the other GoodFella’s location on Court Street, Court Street Coffee and Pita Pit did not receive any violations.
Despite the number of critical violations, those at the Athens City-County Health Department maintain the results don’t show any cause for concern about the sanitation of Uptown grub.
Health department administrator Charles Hammer and sanitarian Adele Hanson both downplayed the violations, saying that they didn’t find anything uncommon.
“It is very common for sanitarians to find violations, both critical and noncritical, at a food service operation inspection,” Hammer said. “This is not unique to the Uptown Athens area, and the recent reports do not reflect an unusual level of non-compliance with the rules.”
Hammer added that he doesn’t consider inspection reports to be representative of any restaurant’s overall long term condition.
The department’s protocol, he said, is a safeguard to prevent those problems from persisting.
Restaurants, Hanson said, are inspected anywhere from one to four times each year, depending on the dishes they serve.
“When a violation is found, we pursue correction of the infraction,” Hammer said. “The violation is documented on the inspection record. For a critical violation, we require immediate correction of the condition or practice.”
But some students — including Madison Stricklin, a junior studying journalism, who also grew up in Athens — said she has low expectations for Court Street fare.
“I’m used to it. I mean, when I walk in to the restaurants in Uptown, I don’t expect three- or five-star quality. Maybe two,” Stricklin said. “Also, I hear a lot about it from my other local friends. Like, someone is not washing their hands or stuff like that.”
The state of Ohio doesn’t require restaurant owners to post scores in their establishments, but the results are available on the city-county health department’s website.
Kaitlyn Howard, a 22-year-old Ohio University student and worker at Bagel Street Deli, said she’s always considered the deli’s sanitation to be solid.
"I've been working here for four years, and I've been living in Athens for awhile now," Howard said. "I know we try really hard to keep the standard high in terms of cleanliness, and I believe other restaurants are the same way because I never thought or heard of restaurants in Uptown being dirty.”
Without clear scores posted at restaurants, Howard admitted, she thinks the deli’s patrons won’t have the full picture.
"But I don't think it will be a terrible idea to have something that says grade A or grade B to put up on restaurants, if that will ease people's mind a little more," she said.