LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The pride of those working at Fresh and Less market is matched by the loyalty of its customers.
"We need this business for our community," explains Margretta Mendose-Dixon, who's been in charge of getting things back on track at Fresh and Less.
For many who shop in the area of Owens Avenue and J Street, Fresh and Less is the only nearby market.
"And they care about the conditions, they care about the quality of the food and they reach out to us and ask us for help when they don't see what they expect," said 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears.
"Yes. Understandable," said Mendose-Dixon. "They do me the same way."
Mendose-Dixon is a chef by trade who says he's worked in many casinos on the Strip and restaurants on the west side.
For the last four months, he's been in charge of keeping things clean at Fresh and Less, where the bakery is a Dirty Dining repeat offender.
It was first on in December for a multi-generational cockroach infestation.
On April 28, it was shut down again for the same imminent health hazard. And that was after an intervention training inspectors held at the market two days prior.
"It's not acceptable," said Mendose-Dixon. "Because we're feeding customers. You don't want to get them sick. You don't want to get a lawsuit. You're responsible."
Inspectors found cockroaches in the kitchen and so did we as a baby roach ran up the wall while Margretta was showing us around.
Health inspectors actually saw several different pests on food and throughout the facility.
The report describes fruit flies inside a container of dough, and “excessive unidentifiable insects" that had invaded bulk containers of flour and oats.
There also bugs on multiple boxes of food, clean dishes, walls, and equipment.
Mendose-Dixon calls it, "A lack of training, a lack of responsibility and not caring about your position where you are. If I was over here or in the kitchen, it would never have been done that way."
He explains that the bakery is rented out and independently operated, and says the tenant decided to leave after the latest health inspection.
"Just because it's rented out doesn't mean that the market doesn't have some responsibility," Spears pointed out.
"We do have some responsibility because it affects us also. If we have to come over here and do our own inspections when the next business people come in here, that's what I will do."
Bottom line, he says it should be easy to keep an "A" grade.
"You just have to follow the rules and regulations. If you know what you're doing, if you're in that business, you should know your business."
Inspectors also found expired cream cheese in the bakery fridge and eggs left out at room temperature.
Dishes and utensils in clean storage were dirty with excessive old food.
Frozen meat was stored in plastic grocery bags.
And they were re-using a metal can with holes punctured in it as a spice shaker.
"It's a shame it's gotta come to this point," said Mendose-Dixon, adding that he can't change the past, "But I can oversee and make sure the next people that come in here follow the protocol so we can establish our business with better and higher quality for the customers and for the neighborhood."
Pho Saigon 8 is another repeat offender, shut down this time for a multi-generational cockroach infestation.
But when the Health District notified the restaurant that they were being shut down for that imminent health hazard, the restaurant decided it would temporarily stay closed in order to remodel the kitchen and re-brand the restaurant.
Pho Saigon 8 on Rainbow Boulevard near the 215 Beltway was shut down on April 27.
It also got 37 demerits.
Inspectors saw live and dead German roaches throughout the facility along with gross, unsanitary conditions.
Pre-packaged meatloaf had to be thrown out because the manager couldn’t identify where it came from.
They were adding lemon grass essential oil, which not a food grade product, as an additive in spicy soup.
The soup ladle was in contact with the trash can and food products were stored in a dirty cardboard box.
There was also excessive old food and grease under equipment.
We were unable to reach anyone for comment.
Our third repeat offender is Las Pupusas on Eastern and Tropicana avenues.
The place has been plagued by plumbing issues, which first landed them on Dirty Dining at the beginning of this year.
Inspectors visited again on April 28 to follow up on a customer complaint about a “very strong sewage smell."
They found Las Pupusas had self-closed its dining room due to a sewage backup from the restrooms but employees were still preparing food for to-go orders.
There were human feces and toilet paper near an open pipe on the ground outside the kitchen’s back door.
The owner told inspectors raw sewage was actively overflowing from the pipe the day before.
With a 31-demerit “C” grade, Las Pupusas subsequently self-closed the entire facility due to hot water issues discovered during the inspection.
Other violations included expired milk in the cooler that was 10 days past its best-by date, a meat grinder dirty with old food, and dirty walls and floors.
The phone number at the restaurant is no longer valid.
Employees at another Las Pupusas say the Tropicana and Eastern restaurant is permanently closed.
Pollos Culiacan #3, a food truck on Rancho and Vegas drives, was shut down on April 27 for no potable water.
It also got 24 demerits.
Inspectors found the clean water used for food prep and hand washing was cross connected to the swamp cooler that was attached to a large container of dirty water used for automotive purposes at a tire shop across the parking lot.
Pollos Culiacan was ordered to cease and desist storing food and beverages in a shipping storage container.
Multiple to-go containers already filled with ready-to-eat beans had to be thrown out due to unsafe temperatures.
The in-use cutting board was grooved and riddled with black stains.
And there was no soap or toilet paper in the restroom used by employees.
Manager Armando Ruiz said the water situation was a misunderstanding between them and the Health District.
He said they were just using that water to wash dishes, not for the food which is prepared at the commissary at Antojitos Sinaloa on 2000 E. Charleston Boulevard.
As for the cutting board, he says that's used for chicken and since the meat is grilled, there were black spots from charred skin, but the board wasn’t stained. He added that they wash it every 30 minutes.
When asked about the beans in the temperature danger zone, he said they thought bean temperature was fine and proper within the cooling process, but that an employee gave inspectors the wrong answer about how long they'd been cooling due to a language barrier.
Ruiz said his food truck employees share a restroom with the nearby tire shop, and they bring own soap and toilet paper each time they use the restroom.
He said they've been operating there for 2 1/2 years and have never had issues like this with the Health District.
"We will try to learn from this experience and do everything the Health District says, making sure all employees are trained in all the health regulations," he said. "We invite everyone back and assure you that the food is great!"
Pollos Culiacan was re-inspected on April 28 and received a 3-demerit "A" grade.
Nuevo Vallarta #3 food truck got a 38-demerit "C" grade on its April 27 inspection.
The unit was found operating in a dirt lot with no restroom access at the corner of Blue Diamond and Fort Apache roads.
Inspectors wrote up multiple handwashing violations and found open pans of beans soaking next to the sink used for washing dirty dishes.
Pans of cooked peppers and cooked meat had to be thrown out due to unsafe temperatures. So did multiple pans of deli meat, cheese and other foods.
Raw beef and eggs were stored over deli meat and lettuce.
The woman who answered Nuevo Vallarta's phone hung up on us when we asked for a comment about the violations.
It was re-inspected on April 28 and received an 8-demerit "A" grade.
Click here to see the health report for Nuevo Vallarta #3 Mobile.
Click here to see the health report for Pho Saigon 8.
Click here to see the health report for Pollos Culiacan #3.
Click here to see the health report for Fresh & Less Bakery.
Click here to see the health report for Las Pupusas Restaurant #2.
Click here to see the survey report for Las Pupusas Restaurant #2.
Click here to see the complaint for Las Pupusas Restaurant #2.
Click here to see the second complaint for Las Pupusas Restaurant #2.