Sunday, June 3, 2007


On my morning commute it's usually me and my mp3 player, which is fully loaded with all the latest Lonely Planet, travel and euro news podcasts. I don't know what ever possessed me to take the Boston Now newspaper handed to me at the station. I knew it was a new morning giveaway meant to compete with the popular Metro newspaper. Out of curiosity I thumbed through the paper handed to me by the eager morning hawker.

Well, what immediately caught my eye has apparently done the same with thousands of other readers and has become the buzz of Boston with fellow foodies and restaurant insiders. It's their new column entitled "Health Code Violations", done in police blotter style reportage, a triumph of journalism for gossip-mongers everywhere. What it is, of course, is a public report on health department restaurant violations. They are now printing every lurid detail, including who's got rodent holes and droppings, filthy ice makers, rotten food, leaky pipes and sinks and no soap in the hand washing dispensers!

On the one hand it's great to know how strenuous and detailed these inspections actually are. On the other, it turns my stomach to think what's going on in some of the city's more trendy and finer establishments. Of course, anyone who's worked in a restaurant knows it's a dirty business and when it's hectic and busy almost no one is a neat pin but, come on, wash your damn hands! I have always found that the place is as clean as the owner dictates. The culture of some eateries is nothing less than scrupulously clean will do and others are, well, apparently more casual. The open kitchen concept, I believe, helps and I have always been a proponent of peeking into the kitchen if it is, in fact, open, as everyone should. They are the best and usually run by very hands on owners with exacting standards. Perhaps the lax attitude is a by product of the new corporate ownership of high end eateries.

I can't help but wonder, though: why hasn't anyone thought of this before? I am sure the public relations firms that represent these places are having some sleepless nights and the hotels that house some of them must be cringing but I think it's a great public service myself. What will be really interesting to see is if this will actually affect the patronage of these establishments. In the meantime, I am sure everyone is now on guard as the trend may grow. I say: great job Boston Now!

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