Nearly every restaurant in Bismarck received at least a couple of food-safety violations during the past four years, but city inspectors uncovered a pattern of carelessness at several restaurants that was beyond the norm.
Hong Kong Restaurant, New Fortune Cookie Restaurant, Golden Corral, Chinatown Buffet and Grizzly’s Grill and Saloon each received at least 25 critical violations since the beginning of 2009. No other restaurant in Bismarck received as many critical violations during that time.
Each of those five restaurants is highlighted below, along with a brief description of the practices that led to the high number of violations.
Hong Kong Restaurant
Address: 1055 East Interstate Ave.
33 critical violations
41 non-critical violations
74 total violations
Food-safety inspectors handed out 10 critical violations during the past four years to Hong Kong Restaurant for storing or serving food at temperatures in which bacteria thrives. Almost two-dozen additional critical violations were tallied for serving food at potentially dangerous temperatures and other unsafe practices.
In all, Hong Kong Restaurant racked up 33 critical violations during 11 inspections since the beginning of 2009. It was the highest number of critical violations by any restaurant in Bismarck during that period.
In addition to the routine, twice-yearly inspections, food-safety specialists conducted three follow-up inspections at the restaurant after reporting a high number of critical violations and receiving a written complaint from customers who claimed they became ill after eating at the restaurant.
A man and a woman filed a joint complaint April 12, 2011, noting they experienced abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue and dizziness after eating pork chow mein, fried rice, General Tsao’s chicken and egg rolls at Hong Kong Restaurant.
Later that day, inspectors visited the restaurant and discovered egg rolls were being cooked to 120-degrees, instead of the required 165-degrees. Two previous inspections had uncovered partially cooked egg rolls on the service line.
Several other critical violations were repeated.
During an inspection in 2010, a food-safety inspector noticed liquid from raw chicken was dripping into a flour container. A year later, the inspector found raw chicken was being stored above open containers of sweet and sour sauce and red pepper sauce. In 2012, raw foods were located above a container of ready-to-eat egg rolls.
Wayne Shiu, the owner of Hong Kong Restaurant, said many of the violations were for minor issues. He said all critical violations have been corrected.
New Fortune Cookie Restaurant
Location: Kirkwood Mall
32 critical violations
25 non-critical violations
57 total violations
After getting tagged with 29 critical violations from 2009 through 2011, New Fortune Cookie Restaurant had much better outcomes from two inspections this year when the restaurant was docked for only three critical violations.
Still, the restaurant’s 32 critical violations during the past four years was the second-highest total of all restaurants in Bismarck during that period.
Inspection records show a pattern of storing uncovered food in coolers, storing food without expiration dates and allowing food to set at potentially unsafe temperatures.
Food was stored uncovered and vulnerable to contamination seven times during the restaurant’s nine most recent inspections. Another seven critical violations were for storing food without labels to determine when the food would expire.
At least six other critical violations came when inspectors noticed food was either stored or served at potentially dangerous temperatures. An inspection in 2010 revealed that food had been left setting out overnight at room temperature.
An inspection on June 17, 2010, showed a critical violation for employees failing to wash their hands in a sink designated for that purpose. It was the restaurant’s fifth violation for that particular infraction.
New Fortune Cookie Restaurant also received several non-critical violations for failing to enforce proper employee hygiene. Four violations came when inspectors noticed employees with long hair were not wearing hair restraints, and another four violations were for employees wearing dirty uniforms or aprons.
Perhaps the strangest critical violation in the restaurant’s record came on Dec. 23, 2009, when inspectors found employees preparing food in the dining area where customers eat their meals.
The owner of the New Fortune Cookie Restaurant was not available for comment, and a phone message was not returned.
Address: 3420 North 14th St.
28 critical violations
56 non-critical violations
84 total violations
The Golden Corral holds the undesirable distinction of receiving more violations than any other restaurant in Bismarck during the past four years. One-third of the 84 violations were deemed critical.
The restaurant received nine critical violations for using unclean kitchen equipment. The broiler and other equipment needed cleaning on seven different occasions when food-safety inspectors visited the restaurant. Two inspections showed food was being stored in unclean containers.
Six critical violations were for storing or serving food at potentially unsafe temperatures. Grilled pork, pot roast, cream puffs and meatballs on the buffet were found to be at temperatures that allow bacteria to spread rapidly. Another time, ham and chicken were kept at potentially unsafe temperatures on the food preparation table. And, on several occasions, inspectors found food in the kitchen and on the buffet lacking a time stamp to show when it should be discarded.
Food inspector Dan Mattern sent a letter to the Golden Corral on July 19, 2010, stating that two samples from the restaurant’s frozen-desert machine showed high bacteria counts. Mattern noted bacteria levels must be kept to a minimum or the machine would have to be removed.
Dale Maxfield, regional vice president of operations for Golden Corral, said the restaurant was owned by a franchisee until the license was revoked in November. The restaurant was re-opened by the corporation in April, and new employees were hired to run the establishment.
“So the fact that the franchisee had difficulties, there’s nothing I could do about that. I don’t work with the franchise restaurants at all,” he said. “But since we re-opened the restaurant, we’ve had no issues with the local health department.”
Address: 2700 State Street
25 critical violations
47 non-critical violations
72 total violations
Chinatown Buffet has racked up an average of eight violations in every food-safety inspection during the past four years. During one inspection in 2009, the restaurant tallied 14 violations – six critical and eight non-critical.
At least 15 different types of critical violations were recorded at Chinatown Buffet since the beginning of 2009. Food storage containers and a microwave were dirty, raw eggs and raw chicken were setting out at room temperature, hand-washing sinks were inaccessible because they were being used for storage, and toxic cleaning products were stored near food preparation areas.
Several of the critical violations were repeated over and over.
Six inspections revealed that food on the buffet was either at temperatures vulnerable to bacteria or was left out for undeterminable periods of time. Fruit on the buffet was too warm during an inspection in 2011. Food that was supposed to be served hot was 45-degrees cooler than the required minimum temperature during two inspections in 2010. And, during four inspections, food on the buffet lacked a time stamp to show when it should be discarded.
Food without expiration dates was found stored in the cooler during five different inspections.
Employee beverages were found uncovered near food preparation stations during two inspections.
A dishwasher was failing to dispense sanitizer during back-to-back inspections in 2009 and 2010.
A man who indicated he was the owner of Chinatown Buffet said the employees work hard to make sure the restaurant is clean and the food is properly prepared. He said many of the restaurant’s violations were for “minor things.” He refused to provide his name.
Grizzly’s Grill and Saloon
Location: Kirkwood Mall
25 critical violations
41 non-critical violations
66 total violations
Grizzly’s Grill and Saloon had two nearly flawless inspections in 2009, but then went on a spree that led to an average of six violations in each inspection during the following three years.
The restaurant tallied 29 violations in 2010, 13 violations in 2011 and 21 violations in 2012.
Three recent inspections revealed a need to clean the ice machine from which servers scoop ice chunks for customer drinks. Mold buildup was found on the machine during two consecutive inspections this year, and it was in need of cleaning when inspectors visited the restaurant in 2011.
Mold wasn’t an entirely new problem for Grizzly’s. An inspection in 2010 uncovered “black mold” on a cooler used for food storage.
The restaurant had an array of additional critical violations. Chicken, soup and salad were kept at potentially unsafe temperatures. Toxic cleaning chemicals were stored above items served to customers. The employee hand-washing sink was used as a storage bin. The cooler was not properly refrigerating stored food. The dishwasher in the bar was not sanitizing properly. And expired food was found in the kitchen.
Employees contributed to the violation count by leaving their personal drinks uncovered near food preparation areas during several inspections. Another violation came employees were caught eating or drinking in food preparation areas and at wait stations.
Two non-critical violations involved insects. An excessive number of flies were found in the kitchen during an inspection on Aug. 25, 2010. During the same inspection, two dead flies were found in the wiping cloths used to clean restaurant equipment.
The owner and manager of Grizzly’s were unavailable for comment, and a phone message was not returned.
-Matt Bunk is publisher of the Great Plains Examiner.