Co-owner Yana Baumblit, a kindly woman who has been in the food-service business for decades, was near tears when we visited with her. “They come every year,” she says. “We never had violations!” This year’s nitpicking has her completely baffled. It included citations for lack of an effective hair restraint (“my guys all have hats!”), wiping cloths not stored in sanitizing solution (“it was, she didn’t even look!”), and pastrami defrosting on a counter instead of a refrigerator (“it would take a week … !”). Baumblit estimates that replacing the sink alone could cost $3,000, given that they operate in a union building.
“They’re under a lot of pressure,” a sympathetic customer said, referring to the DOH’s overreaction to all the recent rat-related bad press. Personally, we’d rather eat in an Inhouse Nosh Café with 110 points than in an Au Bon Pain that was as spotless as a scientific clean room. But given that the place is a small and marginal operation, and how much work may be required to address every niggling violation point, we might never get the chance to choose again. Oh, rats!