Towers Cafe and Pie Factory receive lowest health scores

The Commons’ Chick-fil-A stand is near completion. The GUC food court could lose 30 percent in revenue to new eateries, said Sodexo Director Alan Kinkead.

How clean is the restaurant you are eating at?

It is an important question, and one I set out to answer for UNA students. I discovered the three cleanest and three least clean places to eat on campus and downtown, according to the standard of The Alabama Department of Public Health.

The ADPH requires restaurants to be scored a minimum of three times each year, according to their website.

Restaurants in the Commons building, Guillot University Center and Towers Café all had between an 85 and a 100.

If restaurants score between an 85 and a 100, then they “are considered to be in satisfactory compliance and are inspected on routine schedule,” according to the ADPH website.

Chick-fil-A and Frostbite tied with a 99 for cleanliness, while Starbucks is next in line with a 96.

The bottom three are Mein Bowl, 91, WOW Café and Wingery, 92 and Towers Café, 85.

The cafeteria lost points for improper temperature of cold holding areas, drainage of sinks and improperly washing their hands, according to Towers’ inspection report.

While campus health scores were high, I discovered a variation downtown. First, I checked out the ADPH website to see which scores were the highest and lowest. Then, I went to the unlisted restaurants to find their scores.

Rosie’s Mexican Cantina received the best score, 99. City Hardware is next with a 96. Both received their scores in December. Jimmy John’s, Odette, On The Rocks and Wildwood Tavern tied with a 95, according to the ADPH website. Jimmy John’s and Odette received their scores in February. Wildwood Tavern received its score in December and On The Rocks received its score in November, according to the website.

The lowest downtown restaurant scores were Pie Factory, 78, Ricatoni’s, 80, and Dish Café, 82. The ADPH did not list these scores on their website.

Two of the Pie Factory owners, Nick Franks and Mike Alonso, sat down to discuss their score with me.

“We don’t feel (the health score) truly reflects the cleanliness of this establishment,” Franks said.

A new health inspector scored the restaurant, Alonso said.

“We went from a 99, which is what we’re used to, to a 78,” he said.

The restaurant lost points for two mice droppings found in a cabinet behind the hostess stand, the owners said.

The inspector did not find the droppings in a food prep, dining or kitchen area, Franks said.

“(The droppings were found) where you would put your purse, you know, if you were waiting tables,” Franks said.

Other deducted points included a problem with a drain and a cooler.

“All of the other items, literally everything on the list, was fixed that day,” Franks said.

The owners said the health department will rescore them in about two weeks. They said they are prepared to earn a better score.

“To be fair, we take full responsibility for (the health score),” Franks said. “It’s not like (the health inspector) came up with standards that were completely new.”

The second lowest score belonged to Ricatoni’s with an 80.

When I walked into the restaurant to look at their health score, I discovered it partially covered in a locked glass box on the wall. I asked the hostess if someone could take it out for me to look at. She returned and said, “Yeah, they said they’ve already told (The Flor-Ala) no, so I guess that’s from the owner.”

However, the official notice of violation from the ADPH posted indicated the restaurant lost points for employees improperly washing their hands and improperly chilling food in cold holding areas.

The inspection report also indicated the restaurant lost points for improperly storing dispensing material, however

The ADPH requires foods in cold holding areas maintain a temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Inspection Reports and permits are required to be posted in conspicuous view within the establishment,” according to the ADPH website.

With an 82, Dish Café had the third lowest score of the downtown restaurants. When I walked in, I could not find their health score. When I asked the woman behind the counter if I could see it, she took it down from the wall behind the counter.

The restaurant lost points for improper hand washing and not storing food in the correct areas of the restaurant.