Nightmare Galley

Over the past month, a number of the Valley's better-known restaurants have failed health inspections, with dismal scores ranging from 60 to 70. While it's no surprise to find unsanitary conditions at a no-name dive, it's unsettling when these fancy or corporate-controlled restaurants slip up so stupendously.

Peter's European Cafe is a boutique bistro serving gourmet crepes in Old Town Scottsdale. Yet it earned a score of 60 for violations including employees' improper hand sanitation, a wood plank being used to cover a floor drain, employees washing dishes with no sanitizer, dirty knives and broken steam tables.

Le Peep Grill, at Via de Ventura and Hayden in Scottsdale, is better known for its omelets than the oversights that landed the restaurant a score of 65. Offenses included a cook running his hands through his hair; cream, chicken, beef and eggs held at too-warm temperatures; and a gallon of egg whites found thawing in standing water.

Hooters restaurant has never been celebrated for its food, really, but even the bustiest waitress can't distract from a 64 score. The sports bar and grill at Arizona Center was written up after inspectors discovered moldy onions, a dirty ice machine interior, a beer tap draining into a bucket, and hot bacon being stored at 97 degrees instead of the required 140 degrees.

Ruffino Italian Cuisine at 48th Street and Warner in Ahwatukee, meanwhile, landed a 70 after an employee was seen killing a roach with his hand before preparing pasta (one of several live and dead roaches noted). McCormick Ranch Restaurant in Scottsdale received a stunning 60 for multiple instances of food stored improperly, broken equipment and dirty work areas. May West Restaurant in Tempe deserves better than its 61 tally, if only for the creativity of its employees, found using a tin can to cut biscuits and utilizing a homemade wooden stirrer. China Gate in Mesa also won a 61, for "ineffective hair restraints" -- involving employee armpits. And Kyoto Bowl in Tempe earned a 70 when an employee was found sleeping on a shelf under a table in the kitchen.

While it's surprising to have so many well-known restaurants failing at the same time, it's mere coincidence, says David Ludwig, manager of Maricopa County's Environmental Health Division. "If staff is not trained properly or is not monitored routinely, bad habits can result in critical violations and thus a low score," he notes. "With the average staff turnover rates in the industry of 200 percent or more, you can see that training staff is a constant challenge."

With scores like these, so is eating out.

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Carey Sweet
Contact: Carey Sweet