Dirty Dining: Golden Corral shut down in January for live and dead roaches near buffet

TAMPA - Luis Perez enjoys the big buffet at Golden Corral on West Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa at least once a week.

"What do you like about it?" asked ABC Action News anchor Wendy Ryan.

"What do I like about it?  The way you can go about and serve all your food and get your stuff and get whatever you want," Perez said.

So he was shocked to hear food safety inspectors closed the doors recently because of roaches.

"I wish I would have known.  I probably wouldn't have eaten here," Perez admitted.

On January 10, the state found over 35 live and dead roaches under the Asian buffet, cooking station and reach-in cooler.  Roach feces were also found on the buffet legs, equipment and walls, shutting down the restaurant for almost 24 hours.

And roaches have been a problem in the past, seen in October of 2011, too.

So Ryan went inside the restaurant to get some answers.  But the manager on duty had no comment.

However, the state had plenty to say, finding improper temperatures in every inspection over the last 15 months.  

Two weeks ago, guacamole, ham, chicken, eggs, and butter were all between 51 and 61 degrees, well above the minimum 41 degrees, which could make someone sick.

"I've never been sick so I can't say that," Perez said.

Also during that visit, inspectors documented 12 high-priority and intermediate violations and 47 basic violations under their new grading system. A high-priority violation included employees not washing their hands, a repeat violation seen in several reports.

Among the other critical issues written up over the last year?

The salad bar refrigeration unit not turned on with potentially hazardous food too warm that had to be destroyed. And barbecue chicken and pork on the hot buffet line below 135 degrees.

But Perez hopes their practices improve soon.

"Do you think the management should be better on it?" asked Ryan.

"Definitely, I own a place myself and I know what that's all about," Perez responded.

Golden Corral Corporation response:

"Upon learning of the problems reported at this franchise location, Golden Corral Corporation addressed the matter directly with the franchise owner.  We have been assured by the franchisee that the issues have been resolved.  Our first priority is always to provide high-quality food in a safe and family-oriented environment."

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