Health Concerns

Will Letter Grades Hit Ethnic Restaurants Hardest?

Big trouble in Chinatown.
Big trouble in Chinatown. Photo: Daniel Maurer

Now that the Health Department has redesigned its website, it’s finally possible to find out which types of restaurants received C-worthy scores most often. We pulled up all 755 restaurants that received 28 or more demerits on their most recent inspection (i.e. restaurants where Bloomberg wouldn’t eat) and were able to sort them by cuisine in order to determine that “American” restaurants are by far the worst offenders. Unfortunately, the category doesn’t mean anything (nor does another category, “Other”) because it includes things like Le Trapeze (a swinger’s club with a buffet); lots of bars and clubs that don’t serve food (Lit, etc.); and blatantly miscategorized spots like Delicias Manabitas (Ecuadorian), Paradou (French), Cabrito (Mexican), and so on. How someone describes places with names like Brasil 46 and En of Africa as “American” is beyond us, but apparently health inspectors (or their colleagues in the tech department) are every bit as sloppy as the folks they fine! So anyway, which non-“American” restaurants get hit the hardest by inspectors?

You guessed it: No fewer than 78 Chinese restaurants received C-worthy grades (and those are just the ones in the “Chinese” category, not the ones mistakenly lumped into others), and the number goes up to 113 when you consider Asian restaurants in general. Next are Latin American and Mexican restaurants, plus the restaurants that the Health Department bizarrely labels as “Spanish” (apparently meaning Hispanic). The rest of the breakdown is below.

Does all this indicate a bias toward Latin and Asian restaurants? Hard to say without knowing what percentage of the overall restaurants visited were in these categories, but according to a Gotham Gazette piece, immigrants are definitely worried they’re going to be hit hard by letter grading. City Councilmember Peter Koo of Flushing says, “There are a lot of insensitivities among the inspectors, especially if you don’t speak English,” and the owner of El Pollito Mexicano, Ricky Nacipucha, tells the familiar tale (among immigrants and non-immigrants alike) that inspectors will “give violations for no reason.” He recently got four out of seven fines dismissed and a $3,800 fine reduced to $1,000, in part because he takes photos of inspectors.

American: 215
Asian/Japanese/Thai/Chinese: 113
Latin/Mexican/“Spanish”/Tex-Mex: 75
Pizza/Italian: 53
Café/Tea/Coffee: 32
Chicken: 20
Bakeries: 18
Caribbean: 18
Hamburgers (mostly McDonald’s): 13
Seafood: 13
Deli: 12
Indian: 12
Doughnuts (mostly Dunkin’ Donuts): 10
Sandwiches (Subway, etc.): 10
Bagels/Pretzels: 6
French: 6
Jewish/Kosher: 6
Juice/Smoothies: 4
Soups: 3
Steak: 3
German: 2
Ice Cream: 2
Russian: 2
Turkish: 2
Hawaiian: 1
Irish: 1
Middle Eastern: 1
Polish: 1
Tapas: 1

Ethnic Restaurants Worry They Won’t Make the Grade [Gotham Gazette]
Restaurant Inspection Information Results: Restaurants with violation points range in >=28 or Closed [NYC]

Will Letter Grades Hit Ethnic Restaurants Hardest?