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Health Dept. Inspectors Barred From Examining Restaurants at Seneca Casino

By Mike Hudson

The beef on weck sandwich at Swiston’s Beef and Keg in Tonawanda might just be the best in all of Western New York and they mix a dynamite vodka tonic as well, but did you know there were several tiles missing from the kitchen wall above the three-bay sink they use to rinse dishes?

Shocking? Perhaps.

And, while most of us have enjoyed a splendid meal at Michael’s Restaurant on Pine Avenue in Niagara Falls, the fact that cases of liquor and soda pop were stored directly on the floor of the storage area may have eluded us.

Not that it would have made any difference if we had known.

Up in Lewiston, at the great Cayuga Street pizzeria Favorites, a front-counter worker used bare hands to pull two pieces of pizza apart that were to be served to customer, cutting boards in kitchen displayed deep cuts, and temperatures had not been taken on pizzas that were provided for sale.

Who knew you had to take a pizza’s temperature? It probably wasn’t even sick.

But if you’re anything like us, you find the "Restaurant Inspections" column published every Sunday in the Niagara Gazette to be alone worth the cost of the paper.

Just kidding about that, of course. The $1.50 the Gazette charges for its Sunday offering could be put to better use by spending it on, well, anything else. But fortunately, the sometimes amusing Restaurant Inspections column is available free online.

The petty regulations of the county Health Department inspectors whose job it is to uncover these ridiculously niggling "violations" are laughable, but the realization that many Niagara County eateries are exempt from the inspections is anything but.

To read it every week, it would be easy that the many restaurants, bars and food stands housed in and around the Seneca Niagara Casino in downtown Niagara Falls are the cleanest and best kept up in the county.

And that may even be true. But we can never know, since the places owned or operated by the Seneca Nation are all off-limits for Health Department workers.

That’s right, the inspectors can’t even legally go in there. So we don’t know whether kitchen counters at the Western Door are being degreased using spray bottles of Clorox cleaning solution, as one Niagara County restaurant was cited for recently, or whether the eggs at the Thunder Falls Buffet are being stored on refrigerator shelves above those containing meat and vegetables or underneath, as called for under Health Department code.

While the Harris Farm Market on Ridge Road in Hartland was forced to endure the humiliation of having the fact that a crate of ice cram cone shells was stored directly on the floor of its kitchen trumpeted by the Gazette, the fate of the cones at Tim Horton’s Stone Cold Creamery at the casino remains a mystery hidden behind a curtain as thick and impenetrable as a Navajo rug.

They don’t have to pay property taxes, they don’t have to collect sales taxes and they don’t have to adhere to the 21st Century health standards required of every non-Native American restaurant operator in the county.

They’re your friendly neighbors, the Seneca Nation of Indians. The ones Gov. Andrew Cuomo just granted an extension to that excluded any local input, an extension that will allow our Indian friends to dominate the hospitality industry in Niagara Falls for another decade to come.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

SEP 03, 2013