Which restaurants have the worst health inspection scores in Chatham County?


Chatham County has a variety of restaurants, some that have been established in the community for years. We decided to dig into the health inspection records of all food-serving establishments in Chatham County — out of almost 300 restaurants, the average inspection score of 2018 is 97.74. Of course, there are always a few outliers, which is why we’ve curated this list of the worst health inspection scores in Chatham. Spoiler alert: not all of the worst inspection scores have been assigned to fast-food joints or cheap diners.

North Carolina has a lengthy manual detailing their regulations for sanitation and proper practices in food establishments, and this is the code that Chatham County’s restaurants must abide by. When a health inspection is conducted, the restaurant begins the inspection with a full 100. For each infraction that the health inspector finds, the establishment is deducted a certain amount of points depending on the type of violation and the severity. According to NC’s regulations, if a restaurant receives a score below 70 percent, their permit to serve food is immediately revoked. However, anything above that is still open for business — and restaurants can rack up a serious number of health code violations before they fall beneath 70 percent. Restaurants like La Jalisco in Siler City can score above an 80 even with moldy food in the kitchen.

Let’s go more in-depth with a detailed list of the worst inspection scores in Chatham from 2018.

1. La Jalisco #1, 402 N. 2nd Avenue, Siler City – 80.5

The last inspection on Nov. 5 of this year revealed a long list of violations. The sinks did not have soap; salsa and green peppers were covered in mold and spoiled; meats were spoiled and stored next to tortillas; foods were being held at improper temperatures; fly traps were being kept above food prep surfaces; and the bathrooms both had excessive debris on the floor and a strong urine smell, according to the inspection report. La Jalisco has a long history of scores below 90 on health inspections — the establishment has scored a B (between 80 and 90) on seven out of 10 of its health inspections since July 2016.

2. Waffle House, 65 Lowes Drive, Pittsboro – 85.5 

Waffle House was cited for 15 violations on March 8 with the inspector generally stating that the establishment was “dirty and in disrepair.” Prominent violations included rotting food in the coolers; unsanitized dishes; as well as a “kitchen area littered with food debris and trash,” a floor drain full of food, and bugs in the light shields. The restaurant has cleaned up its act and scored a 96.5 in a more recent inspection on Oct. 30.

3. Subway, 12500 US 15-501 North, Pittsboro – 85 

An inspection of this fast-food chain in early March revealed multiple health code violations including: no soap at the sink; food scoops with food debris and residue; more than 15 food containers that were wet and at risk of growing bacteria; and floors, cabinets and a cooktop that was covered with food debris. After fixing these violations, the restaurant received an inspection score of 100 on June 6.

4. Papa John’s, 50010 Governors Drive, Chapel Hill – 89

Another popular chain, this particular location was subject to several health code violations during an inspection in early March. The health inspector noted that employees did not wash their hands properly and had no hair restraints; moldy gaskets were observed in the cooler; and the bathrooms were unsanitary. It hasn’t been inspected again since March.

5. Fearrington House, 2000 Fearrington Village Center, Pittsboro – 90

Despite being attached to the award-winning Fearrington House Inn, which has been dubbed a AAA Five Diamond Relais & Chateux property, the Fearrington House restaurant struggled in its last health inspection on Sept. 21. The health inspector reported a half-eaten pastry on a prep table; a bag of tomato paste with mold; raw rabbit stored near ready-to-eat foods; mold on the ice scoop and ice scoop holder; food held at improper temperatures; prescription pills stored with personal chef tools; and a tray of pastries was observed sitting on top of a trash can. The inspector also saw a multitude of broken equipment, including broken spatulas, a cracked blender, and stained/dirty/torn mats.

This map shows the health inspection scores of restaurants in Chatham County that have scored a 90 or below in the past three years.

Which health code violations are the most common?

According to the Chatham County department of Environmental Health, there are several health code requirements for restaurants that are violated the most. The first most commonly violated requirement, with 438 total violations since 2015, is “keeping physical facilities installed, maintained, and cleaned.” This includes making sure floors and cooking surfaces are free of debris and ensuring that equipment is in good, working condition. The other most commonly violated health code requirements include having food-contact and non-food-contact surfaces clean; having cleanable, properly designed, constructed and used equipment; and personal cleanliness, each of which have been violated by Chatham County restaurants more than 200 times in the past three years.

What other questions do you have about restaurant health inspections in Chatham County? Ask us. You can check out the detailed reports of restaurant health inspections for all registered establishments in Chatham County in this searchable database. 

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