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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Ew, What Is That: Dirty Dining

A couple of weeks ago I met a friend at Chilli Duck, a Thai restaurant in Boston’s Back Bay. Chilli Duck had been one of my favorite places to go to in that area for cheap eats and fast service. On this particular evening, I got the tried and true basil-fried rice with chicken. I was about half way finished when I noticed something on my plate that was – lets say – not supposed to be there. At first, I thought it was a bamboo shoot but on closer inspection I realized that the bamboo shoot had eyes… and legs, and antennea. There was an entire cooked grasshopper sitting on my plate looking up at me. Now, I know that in some countries people eat grasshoppers. Perhaps, they do in Thailand. But I had not ordered basil- fried rice with grasshopper and I almost lost my lunch when I saw those tragic, fried bug eyes. Needless to say, I had the plate taken away and the entire process was treated as if it was a conspiracy. The waitress and I were in on something that the other patrons could not know about. I spent the rest of my day feeling vaguely ill and wondering how many bugs I had eaten in the past without knowing.

My etymological culinary adventure got me thinking about just what goes on in restaurant kitchens around Boston. I remembered my friend who had once found a band aid in her swordfish dinner at the Deville Lounge and my other friend who had a rat run by her while she was dining at Cactus Club. And than there was the grilled cheese ala pube that I had consumed at a Friendly’s several years ago, of which I am still traumatized by. Truth is, when dining out one never knows the conditions their food is being cooked in – with the slight exception of open kitchens. A clean dining room does not equal an equally clean kitchen. Not willing to accept such a truth, I decided to take things into my own hands and do a little online snooping to get the dirt on Boston’s dirtiest restaurants.

Back Bay, the place where fashion and its victims collide is no stranger to run ins of a furrier nature and I don’t mean fuzzy boots. Rats frequent the filled in waterfront with more regularity than bridge-and- tunnelers. While, it is safe to assume that most restaurants in the area have their share of rodent problems, what about the high end establishments? Abe and Louie’s, long known for its quality steaks, in a January health inspection was cited for seven health code violations, among them evidence of vermin. Also on the list was poorly stored food, chemicals kept near food, and a dishwasher with a final rinse below sanitary standards. Makes you think twice about that thirty dollar steak, doesn’t it? Of all the places I searched in the area, surprisingly Abe and Louie’s did the worst, rating below even that of McDonald’s on Mass Ave. I was not surprised to find that one of the most regular violations among restaurants around Back Bay was unproperly washed produce. Alas, all the poor grasshoppers.

Gladly, we no longer have to wait until after we eat to find out if we got bad food. As of 2003 Boston has been posting health inspections online. While the web site can be as difficult to navigate as the Pentagon’s and there are some dining establishments that are suspiciously not listed, it does provide the consumer with much needed information. Though we can’t control everything that may hop onto our plates at least we know what we’re getting ourselves into.

To find out how your local restaurants measure up check out www.Mayorsfoodcourt.com or go to www.cityofboston.gov