The Health Department's new restaurant grading program began two weeks ago, and already some famous New York City establishments have received less than perfect marks.
Famed brasserie Les Halles has received 20 'violation points,' which translates to a B. Inspectors found roaches and unprotected food in Les Halles' kitchen, both critical violations. Poor plumbing and a lack of vermin-proofing were also listed on the Health Department's Restaurant Inspection Information website.
Di Fara Pizzeria, considered to be one of the city's top pizza restaurants, is just two violation points shy of a C. Three critical violations -- mice, flies, and poor refrigeration or heating equipment -- as well as three other violations brought its grade to 26 violation points.
McSorley's Old Ale House and the Regency Hotel on Park Avenue have both received over 30 violation points. McSorley's, the city's oldest bar, received 38 points, including four critical violations for flies and "tobacco use, eating or drinking...in food preparation , storage, or dishwashing area." And the Regency Hotel, with 44 points, had six critical violations, including improperly sanitized utensils and food preparation surfaces, cross-contamination
Of the 631 restaurants inspected since July 27, ninety-nine, or 16 percent have received As. Three hundred and five, or 48 percent, received Bs, and 227, or 36 percent, have received Cs.
Or rather, these restaurants' scores translate into Bs and Cs, but the grades aren't official yet. Restaurants can contest B and C grades before the Health Department's Administrative Tribunal. The grade assigned at the tribunal is the restaurant's final grade. And some managers plan to defend their kitchens to the end.
"I run one of the cleanest kitchens in the city," the Regency Hotel's executive chef, Stephen Crocker told the New York Post. "You could eat off the floor here." Inspectors will regrade the restaurant on Tuesday.
McSorley's owner also spoke out in his own defense. "They come in on a busy Friday afternoon. What do they expect the place to look like?" owner Matthew Maher told the Post. "We had a few flies in the kitchen. What are you going to do -- chase flies around with a net and keep crowds waiting?"
The first restaurant to receive an A was Sparks Deli in Long Island City on July 28. The Health Department praised the deli and its owners Jose and Antonio Araujo for "performing so well on an unannounced sanitary inspection."
Zero to 13 violations points is an A grade; 14 to 27 is a B, and 28 or more is a C. The city expects most restaurants to receive a B in the first year. When Los Angeles started its restaurant-grading program, 40 percent of restaurants received an A in the first year, but 70 percent received As in the second year, and after four years over 80 percent of the city's restaurants had As.
The Health Department has compiled an online database of restaurant inspections and grades for the public's use that can be found here.