Making the Grade

March 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm in Food & Drink

Last year I was finishing another great meal at Daikokuya, one of my favorite ramen joints in Little Tokyo, when I looked up to see a bright red “C” hanging in the front window.

Gulp.

Now I am no ratings snob. I’ve eaten at roadside shacks in rural Thailand. I’ve consumed sausage from a vending machine in Sweden, and I’ve knowingly dined at plenty of “B” establishments before. However, a “C” rated restaurant in Los Angeles? Never.

As soon as I got home that night I went straight to the Google. That’s where I found something that would continue to haunt me for the next few months: A database of Los Angeles County restaurant ratings, including the reasons for each score.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has a simple web site, lapublichealth.org/rating/, which allows you to search by restaurant or facility name, or you can search all of the restaurants in any given area.

“Information is power!” I thought. Feeling smug and empowered.

Once I found the database, I compulsively searched all of the restaurants that I dine at regularly. When that failed to reveal anything horrifying enough, I searched more. All of the restaurants in my zip code. All of the restaurants in the city. Scanning scores, looking for “C” ratings or below, obsessed with knowing why. Even when I found what I was looking for, I kept searching for more. I finally reached maximum overload when I found the Food Facility Closure List. While some of the establishments on this particular list were closed down for innocent violations like lacking a health permit, many were cited for things like “gross contamination of utensils” and “vermin infestation.” I finally had enough.

“Information can be bad,” I thought. Feeling ashamed of my voracious curiosity.

On a positive note, Daikokuya eventually abated their issues and they are now back to a “B” rating. Also, their infractions are not the kind that bother me. No rats or cockroaches. No food quality issues. As far as I’m concerned, they still make the grade.

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