COLUMBUS, OH—The Columbus Health Department closed the Mexican fast food restaurant Burrito Max on Monday after it failed a routine inspection, completely neglecting to take into account the fact that the popular, conveniently located establishment was a perfectly good burrito place that served kick-ass burritos at a totally cheap price.
"The food there was just fine," said bike messenger Seth Sherwood, 25, adding that he "almost never got sick" after eating at Burrito Max. "This is bullshit. I bet those health guys have never even tried one of their Grande Texas Chili Extremes."
According to a report filed by city food-safety inspector Dan Griffith, Burrito Max, a cheap, no-frills eatery that never aspired to be anything it wasn't, had a handful of very small, practically insignificant health-code violations, such as vermin on the premises, a persistent foul odor, traces of E. coli, and unsanitary food-contact surfaces and equipment—like what restaurant in this city doesn't.
The report, however, did not mention the restaurant's free drink refills and the signature chili-cheese fries, which, according to restaurant regulars, were "awesome."
"If those guys got a bad burrito, they should have just asked for another one instead of writing the place up like a bunch of little bitches," said Ohio State University sophomore Greg Hall, 19, who, like a lot of customers, didn't absolutely love the food, but found it more than serviceable, especially during lunch, after bar time, or when he was craving a burrito. "If they really want to help me out, here's an idea: They could open up another burrito place, keep it open until 4 a.m., and call it Burrito Max."
Though the report cited the employees' habit of not wearing hairnets or shirts and showing up to work "in a generally unhygienic state," it overlooked the fact that the heavily pierced and tattooed staff added to the authentic, laid-back atmosphere of Burrito Max. Most importantly, the place served solid, hearty, burritos fast and hot, something most burrito joints in the area do not. In addition, the line to order was never too long.
"I didn't go to Burrito Max because it was clean," copy shop assistant Rachael Grimaldi, 26, said. "I went because my friends worked there, the tofu burrito was cheap, and they had a bike rack outside the front entrance."
Had health department officials bothered to interview Burrito Max's patrons, they would have learned these things, rather than just dwelling on the dirty floors—which people don't eat off of, last time anyone checked—and the consistently out-of-order bathroom with the hilarious "Fuck You" carved into the "Employees Must Wash Hands" sign.
"I'm sure the risk of food-borne illnesses wasn't as big a deal as they made it out to be," said 24-year-old legal assistant Deirdre Sarnoff upon hearing that the restaurant's poultry and beef were stored at improper temperatures. "It's not like I ever bit into a cockroach or anything. Where am I supposed to eat now, some overpriced corporate burrito chain like Chipotle?"
"Christ," Sarnoff added. "It seems like every time I find a cheap place that's open past midnight the stupid city comes along and shuts it down."
Burrito Max is not the only local eatery to be unfairly shuttered by the Health Department in recent months. In March, Cecilia's Pizza was shut down for rat feces and a lack of properly covered waste receptacles, despite its sweet $3.99 deal that included two slices of cheese pizza and a medium drink. Two weeks ago, the Indian Buffet, located in the basement of an apartment building on 595 Commonwealth Ave., was closed for unsanitary conditions, though, according to patrons, the food quality was "still pretty decent" even after the big grease fire they had there last August.