Vanessa’s Dumplings Shutdown Signals Further Industry Issues

George Campbell
Vanessa’s Dumpling on East 14th Street reopened on April 20, with a pending health grade following a health inspection discovering mice, filth and flies on the premises.

Vanessa’s Dumpling House on East 14th Street — a go-to spot for cheap dumplings — has recently been serving up more than just discounts.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found mice, filth and flies on the premises during a routine health inspection April 11, and immediately ordered the establishment to shut down.

As of April 20, Vanessa’s has reopened with a pending health grade. A “Grade Pending” health rating means that Vanessa’s has been allowed to reopen provisionally before the health department makes a secondary inspection. It does not mean that they have fixed any of the violations they were cited for. You should be wary of any restaurant with a “Grade Pending” rating; it is the mark of a restaurant with a history of violating health codes.

Specifically, according to its website, the health department found, “evidence of mice or live mice present in [the] facility’s food and/or non-food areas” as well as, “filth flies or food/refuse/sewage-associated [FRSA] flies present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas.” Officials also observed that a “food worker [did] not use proper utensil[s] to eliminate bare hand contact with food that will not receive adequate additional heat treatment.”

These are only a few of the violations identified by the health department. Multiple other infractions — from poor plumbing to facilities that do not allow for proper kitchen upkeep — also contributed to Vanessa’s closing.

The sudden shutting has startled some students, who say the 14th Street dumpling joint is one  of the last holdouts offering affordable food near NYU.

CAS sophomore Jae Thomas was greatly disappointed by the news.

“Me and my friends literally had a group chat about Vanessa’s closing,” Thomas said. “We used to order Vanessa’s to eat during class … It was cheap, it was good. I’m really sad to hear about all the health violations.”

The city grades restaurants using a point-based system with three levels of violations: general violations that carry a minimum of two points, critical violations that carry a minimum of five and public health hazards, the most serious of violations that carry a minimum of seven points.

To earn an ‘A,’ a restaurant must receive fewer than 13 points; for a ‘B,’ between 14 and 27; and for a ‘C,’ above 28.

Vanessa’s was awarded a whopping 44 points during its most recent inspection, far above the threshold for acceptable restaurant hygiene.

As worrying as Vanessa’s violations may seem, there are many more eateries that stay open while violating similar health codes, if not in the same quantity.

Following an inspection conducted on Jan. 30, 2018, Palladium Dining Hall received an ‘A’ despite the Department of Health finding evidence of mice in the facility, a critical violation. Weinstein Dining Hall also received an ‘A’ following an inspection on Dec. 6, 2017 even though employees are not provided access to proper hand-washing facilities another critical violation.

These violations are all a matter of public record, which can be easily accessed through the New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

A multi-state E. coli outbreak originating from romaine lettuce grown in Arizona has recently drawn national attention to food safety, but the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s solution — throwing out store bought romaine lettuce — will not protect anyone from poor safety practices on behalf of restaurants.

If there is a lesson to be learned from the closing of Vanessa’s Dumpling House, it’s this: just because a restaurant has an ‘A’ today, does not mean it will be open tomorrow nor should it be.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, April 23 print edition. Email George Campbell at [email protected]

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