Reporting Pam Zekman
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CHICAGO (CBS)– Chicago has become one of the top restaurant cities in the world. So, the 2 Investigators wondered just how safe it is to eat at the fanciest of these restaurants.
CBS 2’s Pam Zekman used restaurant guides to select 26 of the city’s priciest restaurants and then pulled their health inspection records from the past two years. Helping review them was food safety expert Kantha Shelke.
“Any establishment that serves food, particularly at the prices that these restaurants do, they have to take their business seriously and make sure the food is safe,” she says.
The most common critical violations found: temperature violations that could make customers sick. The regulations require that potentially hazardous food be stored at 40 degrees or less.
At Rosebud Prime, 1 S. Dearborn, inspectors found clam soup stored at 62.3 degrees and cooked pork at 52.8 in a walk-in cooler. The food was discarded.
And inspectors found that both faucets at a large three-compartment sink were not working properly. Employees were “going on their knees” to reach valves under the sink to turn the water on and off, records said.
All of those factors resulted in a failed inspection.
“That tells me the owner of the restaurant really doesn’t understand the value of running water and the right temperatures,” Shelke says.
A Rosebud Prime spokeswoman offered this written response to CBS 2: “We take every precaution to ensure the safety of our guests. For nearly 40 years, Rosebud restaurants have given Chicagoans and visitors alike an outstanding dining experience.”
At The Everest Room, 440 S. LaSalle, there were also critical temperature violations this year. Inspectors found dressing, melon and eggs stored at 52.3 degrees in the reach-in cooler. It all had to be thrown out.
“That food could have been served to many people and could have potentially made them sick,” Shelke says.
A spokeswoman for Everest pointed out the restaurant passed the inspection “with restrictions relating to a single cooler.” She said the cooler was repaired within hours and was re-inspected and approved the next business day by the inspector.
Last year, Everest failed an inspection after failing to correct previous minor violations. They were corrected.
“Our commitment is to do our best to maintain the highest standards for food and service for our guests,” the spokeswoman said.
Zed 451, at 729-743 N. Clark St., has an impressive array of cold and cooked food. But after a recent failed inspection, the restaurant received critical violations for storing cheese fondue in a cooler at 53 degrees and mashed potatoes at 46 degrees — unsafe temperatures.
Their dishwasher was cited for not being hot enough to kill bacteria.
A spokeswoman said restaurant staff discovered the dishwashing machine problem the day before and used another machine to sanitize dishes that night. A repairman was there the next morning when inspectors arrived, and until a new booster heater could be installed, he hooked the machine up to a chemical sanitizer.
As for the food temperature problem, the spokeswoman said “the proper cooling methods were not followed” by the Zed staff at closing. The food was placed in a pan that was “too deep.” She said staff would have caught the problem the next day, but city inspectors came before staff had a chance to catch it.
“That food definitely would have been thrown away which was done during the inspection,” she said. “The health and safety of our customers is obviously paramount to us, and we take it very seriously.”
Il Mulino, 1150 N. Dearborn, failed inspections last year and this year.
In 2010, inspectors found milk, eggs, cream and cheese all stored in a walk-in cooler with an ambient air temperature of 48.5 degrees. It was all discarded.
Inspectors went back to Il Mulino this year after receiving a complaint from someone who said they “saw rats going in and out of (the) back door.”
The city inspectors did not find any evidence of rats, but they did see live cockroaches on the wall, floor and equipment in the prep area. They also found mold growth in the ice machine, and the dishwashing machine was not getting hot enough to sanitize dishes.
It took three more follow-up inspections this year for Il Mulino to get their insect problem under control.
“For every fly and roach there probably (is) another 100 that we did not see,” Shelke says.
A spokesman for Il Mulino said all of the violations have been corrected and the restaurant is in compliance with city regulations.
“We regularly cooperate with the city health department to maintain food safety. We take our responsibility seriously to prevent food-borne disease,” the spokesman said.