Action 9 exposes Central Florida's dirtiest restaurants

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ORLANDO, Fla. - Action 9 identified the top offenders during an investigation into restaurants that have repeatedly failed state food safety inspections.

This year, the list includes many well-known restaurants.

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Todd Ulrich and a retired inspector, Paul Cook, went behind kitchen doors to find critical violations that could still put consumers’ health at risk.

Photos: List of  top 20 dirty restaurants in Central Florida

At Buffet Village in Titusville, Action 9 found a glaring violation: uncovered shrimp thawing on the floor in stagnant water at a risky temperature.

“This could be a big problem?” asked Ulrich.

“Yeah, big one,” replied Cook.  

Many flies were visible throughout the kitchen. The screen door was propped wide open.

Cook spotted a badly stained cooking board and said the refrigerator was a mess. Cook said the refrigerator was not cold and uncovered raw chicken was stored under a dirty fan.

“There's a very good chance this could make someone ill,” said Cook.

A manager kicked the Action 9 news crew out of the kitchen.

“Are you the manager here?” asked Ulrich. 

“Can we talk outside please?” a manager said.

“You've failed every routine inspection in the past two years,” said Ulrich. 

“Yeah. This is under new ownership, sir,” said the manager.

The restaurant name and license is the same, but a new owner signed on two months ago. But since then, it flunked four inspections in just six weeks.

Cook said he was very concerned with the condition of the kitchen.

“On my scale, I would give that an F because of a lot of critical violations,” Cook said.

Action 9 reviewed 50,000 inspections in two years to identify top violators.

Some well-known restaurants are on the list, including a big favorite in Cocoa Village.

State records show Cafe Margaux failed seven inspections in just one year. The restaurant was cited for roaches, flies and no running water at a hand wash sink.

DOCUMENT: Response from Cafe Margaux

Also new on the list is Schumann's Jäger Haus, in Orlando, a Steak and Shake in Kissimmee and Vietriver, in Titusville.

Inside Vietriver, Ulrich and Cook saw a plumbing leak wrapped in plastic, and a busted out-out window where the food is stored. Both are critical food safety violations.

“Insects, flies, anything can get into here,” said Cook, pointing to the broken window.

But Action 9’s inspection also found improving food temperatures and a cleaner kitchen.

“Are you changing things here?” asked Ulrich.

“Oh, definitely.  We learn from our mistakes,” replied the manager.

Cafe Margaux's owner blamed his record on a disgruntled employee who complained to the state and triggered frequent inspections.

Schumann’s said major renovations have eliminated past kitchen problems.

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