The blog of Richard Thompson, caricaturist, creator of "Cul de Sac," and winner of the 2011 Reuben Award for Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Restaurant Closings

Like many newspapers, the Washington Post runs a column listing various health code violations for the week. Each entry describes the circumstances leading to a closure of a food establishment by the investigating health department. Here's a sample of a recent column:
Hollywood Bistro
1800 G St. NW
Closed Friday for operating without a certified food manager.
Lucky Corner Market
5433 Georgia Ave. NW
Closed April 19 for operating without a license, gross unsanitary conditions and operating without a certified food manager. Reopened April 23.
Mid-City Deli
1418 14th St. NW
Closed Friday for failure to minimize vermin, circumstances that might endanger public health and improper food holding temperatures.

It's buried in the Local Living type section along with another column equally enjoyable, the Animal Watch, listing those run ins with animals, wild and domesticated, that've required the intervention of a vested authority. (Its probably-untoppable apex was reached years ago with a report about a squirrel found racing around inside a single-family residence. Two policemen showed up after the homeowner called 911 and quickly isolated the rodent in the living room curtains, but the squirrel broke free and dove into a grand piano. One officer, thinking quickly, played a few bars of something by Toad the Wet Sprocket and the squirrel shot out of the piano and disappeared out the front door.)

These columns appeal to me for all kinds of reasons: the poker faced style, the easily graspable nature of the incidents and, in the case of the health code violations, the fact that restaurants are  fun to draw. When I was doing the Poor Almanac (1997-2009) and was looking for an idea (always) I could usually scare up enough jokes to fill out the cartoon without the desperation being too apparent. Because restaurants are not only fun to draw; they're inherently funny.

Here's one of only 4 or 5 in color, from c. 2000. Lugubrio's is based on a place near Dupont Circle where the lights were so low the waiters were disembodied voices and you ate by feel, often off another's plate.

Note the local cuisine reference, another sore point in DC as it has so few recognizable traits to call its own.


Sherm said...

Marvelous, chuckle-worthy and most beautiful :)

Neil J Murphy said...

Two questions:

1. Does "gross unsanitary conditions" mean there were 144 of them?

2. Is it just me, or does "failure to minimize vermin" make you think they were allowed to keep a few? Shouldn't the Health Department mandate that you eliminate the vermin?

Washington Cube said...

I used to love going to Anna Maria's Restaurant at Dupont Circle. Anna had already fled back to Rome, but the walls were covered with her, her wonky eye and her laquered "do," posing with Dean Martin, Walter Washington or my personal favorite Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee (a known anorexic.) They had turquoise booths and the whole place seemed frozen in 1962.

FrankFay said...

My favorite restaurants in DC were Scholl's Cafeterias...which shows you how many decades ago I lived there.

Brian Floca said...

These are fantastic. And I, too, wanted to call out the phrase "failure to minimize vermin." It makes me appreciate the desirability of very small rats. It also makes me wonder if vermin can be maximized.