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The discovery of live cockroaches, fruit flies and wastewater leaking onto the floor of a basement kitchen at a Near West Side pub led Chicago Department of Public Health inspectors Wednesday to shut the place down, while a North Side restaurant where rat feces was found Tuesday remained closed.

The Beer Bistro, 1061 W. Madison St., also was cited for not having any soap and hand towels at a hand-washing sink designated for food handlers, according to a CDPH press release.

Unpleasant dining conditions were also found on the North Side. On Tuesday, Cy's Crabhouse Sports Bar and Grill at 3819 N. Ashland Ave. was shut down Tuesday when inspectors found food at unsafe temperatures and numerous rat feces throughout the restaurant. It remained closed Wednesday, according to the Department of Public Health.

Wednesday's visit to Beer Bistro by CDPH was a routine, unannounced inspection. The eatery will remain closed until it has corrected all violations and passed re-inspection. Owners are also scheduled to appear at an administrative hearing Aug.20 and face a fine of $1,750.

The enforcement actions were the 117th and 118th times in 2009 that CDPH inspectors have closed an establishment for food safety violations.

Diners who believe a restaurant or other food establishment is operating in an unsafe manner should call 311 or register a complaint at the city's Web site.

We know that, as Mayor Daley has said, you don't want a rat in your sandwich, but a rat with your beer? A rat in the DJ booth? That's no good, either, but that could have been the case had the Mayor's Dumpster Task Force not paid a visit to the Mad River Bar & Grill on Friday.

Inspectors found an active rat infestation at the bar and grill, at 2909-2911 N. Sheffield, "that put customers at risk and required immediate closure," according to a press release from Streets and San.

The Dumpster Task Force got a complaint about uncontained garbage at the Bar & Grill but they found the bigger problem was "the unchecked presence of rats."

They found more than 300 rat droppings over two floors, including in the kitchen area, the DJ and bar areas and also in storage (I don't know what kind of music the DJ plays at the Mad River, but a certain UB40 song about a rat in the kitchen comes to mind).

The inspectors also found numerous holes and openings "that would have given the rats numerous potential sites in which they could nest."

Josie Cruz, the Deputy Commissioner of Streets and San's Bureau of Rodent Control, which operates the task force, said, "We closed the Mad River Bar & Grill for the critical violation of inadequate pest control and also cited them for failing to have a certified food manager on the premises. They will have to clean and rodent proof their business, revamp their pest control and sanitation operations, then request and pass a complete reinspection before we will consider letting them reopen."

There are some things that just warm the hearts of those who love food and drink, such as the mint on your pillow, the olive in your martini and the ... hair in your fried chicken? Unfortunately that last pairing is what one patron an Uptown Popeye's discovered more than a week ago.

According to a release from the Chicago Department of Health, inspectors visited the Popeye's at Broadway and Wilson on April 10 after a customer found a hair in their chicken and called 311. When inspectors got to the restaurant, they found, perhaps not too surprisingly, that none of the establishment's food handlers were wearing hair restraints, as is required. But that wasn't the worst thing they found.

In addition to the unrestrained hair, the city's inspectors found a broken walk-in cooler that, at 49-degrees Fahrenheit, was nine degrees warmer than allowed by the health code, a couple clogged sinks, a clogged toilet that overflowed when flushed, no hot water at any of the sinks and ... rat feces in the basement.

Of course, this brings to mind the classic quote from Mayor Richard M. Daley, that "you'd want to know if there's a rat in your sandwich." In this case, you'd want to know if there are rats in the basement of your Popeye's or hair in your chicken, which, as icky as their work can be, the city's health inspectors have been doing invaluable work uncovering. It's only April, and this is the 72nd time so far this year that Department of Health inspectors have shut down a food establishment because of health code violations. Anyone can search the city Department of Health's Web site to find out if a restaurant has been cited for violations (you can search by exact address or a range of address, such as the 4400 to the 4800 block of a particular street), and this Popeye's has a laundry list of violations.

As of Wednesday night, the Popeye's at Broadway and Wilson remain closed, its license suspended by the city.

About the blog

Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.



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