West Seattle restaurants: Saigon Boat Café closed by health inspector

January 7, 2014 at 9:53 am | In Health, West Seattle news, West Seattle restaurants | 51 Comments

9:53 AM: Just in from King County Public Health:

Saigon Boat Café, located at 2632 Alki Ave SW, Seattle, WA 98116, was closed by a Public Health food inspector on January 6, 2014 at 5:00 pm for the following food safety violations:

Potentially hazardous foods at unsafe temperatures
Improper cooling of potentially hazardous food
Foods not protected from cross-contamination
Poor personal hygiene practices: handwashing
Equipment/utensils not properly sanitized
Handwashing facilities inaccessible and not working

The establishment will be reopened once the inspector confirms that all issues have been resolved.

We’ll check back, and you can also watch its status at the county website.

(Side note – the restaurant is located in a building set for replacement by a development project that goes to Design Review next month.)

ADDED 11:30 AM: A commenter reminded us that this is not the first time a Public Health inspector has closed Saigon Boat Café – the closure in February 2010 was attributed to a lack of proper permits/plans; the restaurant reopened two months later.

51 Comments

  1. Thanks to the Health Department for this kind of action. I hate to see a business closed temporarily, but I also want to be protected from dangerous business practices.

    Comment by Mike — 10:10 am January 7, 2014 #

  2. Gross. They depend on the locals in the off-season and this is how they treat us? Total disrespect. Disgusting.

    Comment by Jack — 10:15 am January 7, 2014 #

  3. I am so glad that the health department got involved with this restaurant – I know more than 2 people that have gone there and became violently ill for days because of their food. Poor service, and more importantly poor food quality!

    Comment by M — 10:21 am January 7, 2014 #

  4. thank gosh I never went to this place. and never will.

    Comment by themightrabbit — 10:24 am January 7, 2014 #

  5. I won’t be going back there. Even after the problems are fixed I won’t trust them to be doing the right thing. Sad, I live around the corner from them. Disgusting and disrespectful to those of us supporting them, especially in the off season.

    Comment by Bespeza — 10:39 am January 7, 2014 #

  6. Wasn’t this place closed right when they first opened for similar violations?

    Comment by JoeMamma — 11:10 am January 7, 2014 #

  7. Never went there, never will.

    Comment by T Rex — 11:10 am January 7, 2014 #

  8. Hope this is a “wake up call” and they get it all straightened out. We like that restaurant and enjoy sitting out on their patio in the summer.

    Comment by Chris — 11:11 am January 7, 2014 #

  9. Joe – our archives show that Public Health did close them four years ago, but it was not “for similar violations” – it was listed as a need for proper permits/plans:
    .
    http://westseattleblog.com/2010/02/king-county-public-health-closes-alkis-saigon-boat-cafe/
    .
    It did not reopen for two months: http://westseattleblog.com/2010/04/west-seattle-restaurant-news-saigon-boat-cafe-about-to-reopen
    .
    Adding this to the story above – Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 11:15 am January 7, 2014 #

  10. I went there on Saturday for a Banh Mi…Will not be returning even if it is just a few blocks away. This is sickening!

    Comment by TiAg E92 — 11:16 am January 7, 2014 #

  11. I am totally grossed out now! Even if they reopen I will not be going there again. That’s really a shame the owners let their restaurant fail because of cleanliness issues. I did eat here on occasion and never got sick but it did seem like the quality of the food has decreased over the years.

    Comment by Alki resident — 11:31 am January 7, 2014 #

  12. Also let this be an eye opener for all of the other Alki restaurants. We are the ones who support you during the off-season. Lets hope this is an isolated incident.

    Comment by Alki resident — 11:34 am January 7, 2014 #

  13. confirming my opinion that it was the most authentic pho in the city.

    Comment by ToddGack — 11:51 am January 7, 2014 #

  14. Look at the past inspection records…
    I challenge you to find any restaurant that has no major violations. For example, even a place like Salty’s on Alki had basically the same violations http://1.usa.gov/1iPTJly

    Comment by marco — 11:53 am January 7, 2014 #

  15. Never went there because I remembered the first closing.

    Comment by Bonnie — 12:09 pm January 7, 2014 #

  16. Marco’s point is a good one. However, just a note, we report ANY AND EVERY West Seattle/White Center establishment closure – we have subscribed to the e-mail list for years now – and this is the ONLY restaurant shut down by Public Health in West Seattle since its prior shutdown four years ago. (If anyone knows of one that was somehow not announced, let us know and we’ll ask KCPH – editor@westseattleblog.com )
    .
    More on KCPH’s reasons for closing an establishment:
    .
    http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/ehs/foodsafety/inspections/whyclose.aspx

    Comment by WSB — 12:10 pm January 7, 2014 #

  17. It would be nice if we had posted grading scores from the Health Department like they do in many other states. In the south they post right as you walk in the passing grade, A, B, C, D, F and the percentile they received on the inspection.

    Comment by coffee — 12:18 pm January 7, 2014 #

  18. I want to just note that KCPH is incredibly responsive if you ever witness unsanitary practices in good handling and will do an educational visit and check. In my old neighborhood not West Sea, I went to 7-11 late with friends to get a Slurpee. The flavor was not the one that was marked when I took the first sip so I threw it away and took a new cup instead of dumping it all over the machine drip tray. Well as we were perusing the snack aisle we saw the clerk take the cup out of the trash into the back room dump it out, rinse it off and stack it on the clean cups!! I was the last to ring up and my friends waited outside so the clerk screamed at me never to take a new cup. I was scared when I left and immediately emailed KCPH and they visited the 7-11 which is now on record.

    Comment by trickycoolj — 12:24 pm January 7, 2014 #

  19. I challenge you to find any restaurant that has no major violations.
    .
    Mashiko.
    .
    True, most of the restaurants I go to West Seattle have earned themselves a major violation at least once. But this is kind of a whole other level. I’ve eaten at places where I know for a fact the building has a rat problem that have managed to avoid being shut down. That’s a whole other level of messed up.

    Comment by datamuse — 12:38 pm January 7, 2014 #

  20. I’ve been searching the restaurants I frequent since seeing marco’s post. A few won’t get my business again.

    http://info.kingcounty.gov/health/ehs/foodsafety/inspections/search.aspx

    Comment by JK — 12:45 pm January 7, 2014 #

  21. “confirming my opinion that it was the most authentic pho in the city”
    ~
    I was thinking along same lines; is it not possibly cultural based? restaurants in the ID get this a lot, and I’m guessing much comes from practices from their Asian countries where they often have food carts out in the streets with zero hand washing facitlities; didn’t this restaurant also get caught a few years back taking sand from Alki beach for their courtyard; many seemed aghast; I figured that’s just how it’s done in their native cultures; also, with language barriers it could be hard for them to keep up; I’m born in US, highly educated, obsessed with politics, and still find it challenging to keep up with all the local laws
    ~
    and yet, partly because my 1st 20 yr career was in restaurants (so I know what can go on behind the scenes) and because I have no health insurance or paid sick days, I’m obsessed with being very careful about exposure to germs or any unhealthy conditions; so, as much as I absolutely LOVE all Asian food, I also recognize cultural differences in practices that could make some Asian restaurants not the safest places to eat; is there any kind of easily accessible coding system to look up the safest restaurants to eat?
    ~
    btw, unhealthy practices occur everywhere; I was at city hall for the inauguration and grossed out to see a well-dressed white dude lick his fork and then use it to scoop up some cake off the catering tray; this, at a time when it seems half my friends are dropping like flies from the flu; gotta be careful everywhere

    Comment by Diane — 12:49 pm January 7, 2014 #

  22. This is completely unacceptable behavior. I won’t ever come back to that establishment.

    Comment by alki resident — 1:09 pm January 7, 2014 #

  23. wow datamuse, you weren’t kidding. (mashiko’s clean record)

    I checked some other places I frequent (in the junction and also a tasty pizza place in white center), just to see a taste of what can come up.
    there’s always things that need to be corrected- at least usually it’s not rodents, though the ‘not keeping food cold enough’ has a chance to make you quite sick too.

    Comment by sam-c — 1:11 pm January 7, 2014 #

  24. Damned socialist Health Department going around keeping people from getting sick! Can’t the wealthy afford food-tasters anymore? Clearly they need more tax cuts so we can eliminate this awful government waste!

    Comment by Fiwa Jcbbb — 1:12 pm January 7, 2014 #

  25. Oh crap. I love this place! I don’t know if I can trust them again.

    Comment by Ken — 1:42 pm January 7, 2014 #

  26. Thanks for proving me wrong, datamuse!

    I just sent Mashiko a congratulatory note ;)

    Comment by marco — 2:59 pm January 7, 2014 #

  27. You people are funny. I think if you ever peeked into the kitchen of any “Ethnic” restaurant you would probably never go back.

    Some of my favorite Asian places are not perfect, and I have never gotten sick off of food there.

    Fast food places is another story.

    Comment by smokeycretin9 — 3:30 pm January 7, 2014 #

  28. Before eating anywhere check King county Restaurant inspection. Every establishments history is there and you can see for yourself what their issues are.

    Comment by SmartGirl — 4:20 pm January 7, 2014 #

  29. Folks, you’re dining out, what do you expect? Seriously, have you looked inside most restaurant kitchens, especially when they are busy? It’s just the nature of the beast.

    Comment by G — 5:52 pm January 7, 2014 #

  30. I had a delicious sardine and tomato sandwich there a few days ago. It was so hot (pepper and vinegar) that I doubt any germ could survive!

    Comment by Christopher — 6:19 pm January 7, 2014 #

  31. To the other Alki Resident, please change your name,Ive been AR for 7 yrs now. Thank you

    Comment by alki resident — 6:24 pm January 7, 2014 #

  32. As someone who’s worked in lots of restaurants from fast food to ethnic to diners and high-end establishments, I know that these health code “violations” occur in almost EVERY restaurant. It’s just that some get caught.

    Comment by WSLocal — 8:00 pm January 7, 2014 #

  33. To calm some nerves, here is what I know from working in the food industry.

    The wiping cloth issue: the inspector actually dips a test strip in your bleach bucket. The strip reads if there is too much or not enough bleach. So you could potentially get a ding for using more than a capful of bleach per gallon of water.

    Adequate hand washing station: a violation can occur if the inspector walks in and the soap dispenser is empty.

    Accurate thermometer provided: every single fridge and freezer is supposed to have its own. So if one breaks and the employees just transfer the same one from fridge to fridge this could be a violation.

    Food worker permit issues: employees have to take a test online at a computer with a working printer. If the printer fails they have to repay another $10 and do it again. Some employees choose to drag this out because they don’t have access to a printer or don’t gave a debit or credit card to pay online.

    Comment by Res3 — 8:22 pm January 7, 2014 #

  34. Will the real Alki resident please stand up!

    Comment by CJ — 9:17 pm January 7, 2014 #

  35. Well, I’ve been an Alki Resident going on 2 years if people are counting.

    And I’ve eaten there about 60 times. So, I guess I’ve had the cook’s fingers in my mouth 600 times if my math is correct. Pass the Listerine!

    Comment by Jack — 10:08 pm January 7, 2014 #

  36. Wait, I thought the 7-yr-toting “Alki Resident” resides 4 miles from “Alki” … ? Guess proximity resolves this dispute.

    Comment by ANON — 12:37 am January 8, 2014 #

  37. I just checked, and over the almost-8 years since the very first comment was posted on WSB, the handle “Alki Resident” has been used by more than a few people; consistently by the claimer’s e-mail address, 4 years. That said, we deliberately do not require log-ins/registration for commenting here, unlike the WSB Forum, which uses software that requires registration (though the usernames there are contained to the forum only and don’t automatically cross over to the news site here). Most of the time when someone uses a handle that somebody else has long used, it’s because they’re “new” and didn’t know, and AR is welcome to have made the request they made. There was a brief conflict recently, at which time a commenter who had long used her initials and suddenly noticed someone else using the same initials, re-dubbed herself instead The Original (Initials). Only way to totally avoid a conflict is to use your own real name voluntarily (unless it’s fairly generic and then we’re right back to where we started from) … Tracy

    Comment by WSB — 1:14 am January 8, 2014 #

  38. @alki resident; that’s funny; I’ve been Diane on here for 7+ yrs; in fact it’s my real name; I’ve been Diane for my whole life; I’ve seen others post on here as Diane, and never occurred to me to tell them to change their name

    Comment by Diane — 1:54 am January 8, 2014 #

  39. I’m having a harder time going places to eat out lately …
    over the last month I’ve been in a restroom to wash my hands before eating, when a worker came out of the toilet …. and walked right out the door to “serve” my food! All 3 in West Seattle! 2 fastfood, 1 high priced … no, I didn’t say anything I just left … guess I should say something but to who?

    Comment by rita pelley — 6:32 am January 8, 2014 #

  40. Stuff happens. They now have an opportunity to remedy the problems.

    Comment by heather — 8:09 am January 8, 2014 #

  41. Rita, you should have told someone. There is usually a floor manager at most restaurants, especially ones with table service. Your walking out after telling the manager would have really driven the point home.
    To be fair, the server may have gone right into the kitchen and washed, thinking that was good enough (despite a customer in the restroom with them! I’m not suggesting though that proper behavior should be contingent on wether or not someone is watching you).
    It isn’t good enough, of course, and any KCHD inspector who would have witnessed that behavior would have written up the restaurant.

    Comment by dawsonct — 10:04 am January 8, 2014 #

  42. What do I expect when I eat out? That I not be hospitalized with food poisoning, projectile vomiting, or nuclear poo. (Which happened to me a couple of years ago, setting off a chain of health problems that took me months to overcome.)
    .
    Once again Seattle shows its acceptance of mediocrity. Demand not only better food but actual hygiene standards, mmmmkay?

    Comment by Kayleigh — 10:25 am January 8, 2014 #

  43. When the health dept shuts down a restaurant, that’s definitely NOT an acceptance of mediocrity. mmmmmmmmkay?

    Comment by lisa — 12:58 pm January 8, 2014 #

  44. My daughter and I were eating at a WS Chinese food restaurant and saw a cockroach walking on the wall behind our table. She won’t go back after that. Is seeing one cockroach an indication of terrible kitchen conditions?

    Comment by Junction resident — 5:43 pm January 8, 2014 #

  45. Of note – not enough for a separate story, and there is nothing new to report, still listed on the Health Department page as “closed” – it appears the proprietor has opened a new business in Renton (found it by accident during a Web search) – http://www.rentonreporter.com/business/238661401.html

    Comment by WSB — 1:57 am January 9, 2014 #

  46. Thank you, Health Dept.

    Comment by phil dirt — 7:15 am January 9, 2014 #

  47. I’ve eaten here too many times to count and have never gotten sick. The food is good, affordable and the service is great. I’ll go back as soon as they’re open again.

    Comment by AlkiGrl — 8:24 am January 9, 2014 #

  48. If you enjoy your meats at improper temperatures and the staff not washing their hands, go ahead and go back here. There are too many other good Vietnamese places out there with safe practices that I will visit instead.

    Comment by Ryan — 10:38 pm January 9, 2014 #

  49. What disgusts me is that these are not equipment problems. These are user errors that simply should not happen. You can fix a sink. Can you adequately fix someone’s thinking?

    Comment by Lee — 4:26 pm January 10, 2014 #

  50. They cannot use the excuse that there is a language barrier here! If they are smart enough to run a business they are smart enough to run it in a healthy clean way!! Plus this is not a long time business in a run down bldg. This is a fairly newish business! Ugh!!

    Comment by WS Mom — 11:17 pm January 10, 2014 #

  51. This makes me so sad as it was my favorite!! The pho there was perfect, and I have had pho all across the city. The spot was so great on a stormy winter day. But I will not be going back. That is too many violations!

    Comment by ellenater — 10:54 am January 11, 2014 #

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