TBL: First Look At Hartford Restaurants' Health Inspection Results

Coach's lost 12 points alone for three hand-washing-facilities violations and four more for "proper internal cooking/consumer advisory posted."

On its next inspection, Coach's rebounded with an 89, a B that was one point from an A despite having a garbage area the inspector called filthy, dirty drying racks and unlabeled liquids.

Coach's management did not return multiple messages left by TBL.

Not far away, near Union Station, where the Black Bear Saloon proudly displays its A notification (a 94 score), manager Jen MacDonald gives the city's initiative a thumbs-up.

"I do think it would affect how I think about the place," she says, "but it would not make me not go in. I like it. Well, we got an A. So I like it. If we got a B, we'd be upset."

Or worse. In early January, the Black Bear flunked its first test with a 68 score that included a four-point demerit for inaccessible hand-washing facilities — a sink for bar workers was filled with soaking equipment — ice bins on the floor, raw food stored over "ready to eat" food, a melted spatula, inaccurate or poorly placed thermometers in coolers and uncovered rubbish in a unisex bathroom.

None of these details, initial test results or scores, however, will be revealed on the restaurant-window notice. The only way to get the actual inspection reports is to file a Freedom of Information request and pay for the printed copies, as TBL did.

"I don't even remember that [inspection]," says MacDonald. "I feel like it might have been a fill-in manager. I don't know. The other managers have been through it more and have run other restaurants."

Remember, these inspections are only a snapshot of a restaurant on a particular day at a particular time. A high numerical score, even a letter-grade A, can still include some nauseating offenses.

"The health department shows up randomly, whenever they want," says Keller. "It's a little nerve-wracking if they show up in the middle of a serving shift or if they show up immediately after a busy lunch. Most of the health inspectors are pretty good — they'll usually do their inspections first thing in the morning because they also understand."

When a city health inspector arrived at Dish in early January, he found a dirty wall behind an ice machine, dusty fans, scoops in a flour bin and not much else. The score: 94.

"I was more than happy to see my inspector come in and slap an A on my window," says Keller. "I've had a number of clients comment, 'Isn't that that nice that you have an A sitting in your front window.'"

<b>SEARCH: Hartford Restaurant Inspections Database</b>

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