The whole mess started, as far as we can figure, when somebody walking by Oscar’s Café and Bar noticed the restaurant had posted its recent “C” rating from the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health, as required. He or she took a photo, and then posted it on Facebook.
After that, things got really stupid, really fast.
The picture on Facebook went locally viral, and became the talk of area foodies. It was even posted on a prominent local blog or two.
Then, in a move that would cause any decent journalism-school professor to weep in despair, KMIR News showed up, did a story on the Oscar’s rating, and inexplicably led off a newscast with it.
As a result, Oscar’s—located at 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs—was unfairly maligned. This is not to say that Oscar’s didn’t deserve the “C” rating, or that Oscar’s customers didn’t have a right to know about it. This is also not to say that the Oscar’s manager didn’t make matters worse when, on the three-minute-long KMIR news story, he complained that the county inspectors should have “given us notice that they were coming.”
The problem here is that this stupid, stupid story lacked context—and, as a result, Oscar’s was unfairly singled out.
During the KMIR piece, reporter Julie Buehler mentioned that Oscar’s had “the only C rating in the Coachella Valley.” This statement was both false and contextually bonkers. It was false because Sam’s Sushi, in Rancho Mirage, also had a “C” rating hanging over its figurative head at the time, a fact that was added to the online version of the KMIR story three days later.
Here’s how it was contextually bonkers: According to an analysis of Riverside County Department of Health records by the Independent, at least 13 restaurants in the Coachella Valley received “C” ratings between August 2014 and July 2015. Of course, KMIR didn’t do a story on any of those other “C” ratings—at least not that we could find on the KMIR website.
To show how unfair this kerfuffle was to Oscar’s, know this: Oscar’s was inspected on July 30. Gyoro Gyoro Isakaya Japonaise (a place I adore, by the way), located a very short block away from Oscar’s, at 105 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, was inspected on July 9, just three weeks before Oscar’s was.
Not only did Gyoro Gyoro receive a “C” rating during that inspection; health inspectors closed the restaurant, due to violations including “rodents, insects, birds or animals,” “sewage improperly disposed,” “hot and cold water not adequately available” and “food contact surfaces not cleaned and sanitized.” Gyoro Gyoro would not re-open until a re-inspection five days later, on July 14. Yet this closure received no coverage anywhere that I could find.
According to Health Department records, the other Coachella Valley places that received “C” ratings over the last year are Woody’s Burgers and Beer (June 30), the Cathedral Canyon Golf Club (May 29), Pho Lan (May 27), Two Bunch Palms Bliss (May 19), El Taco Asado (April 3), Aqua Soleil Hotel and Mineral Water Spa (March 12), Four Seasons at Palm Springs (March 20), Las Flores (in Coachella, Jan. 16), Fandango Tacos and Beer (Nov. 25) and O’Leary’s Pub and Grill (Nov. 13).
It’s also worth noting that many dozens of area restaurants, some with very prominent names, received “B” ratings—with a surprising number receiving on-the-cusp-of-C scores of 80.
Any restaurants that get “B” or “C” grades are re-inspected within several days, and eventually given an “A” grade. That means unless you’re doing some pretty serious digging on the Riverside County Department of Health website, or you just happen to be at a restaurant at the right time, it’s hard to know which places initially received less than an “A” grade.
But that doesn’t excuse the unfair treatment Oscar’s received.
SO.PA has opened at the new L’Horizon Resort and Spa Palm Springs, at 1050 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Chef Giacomo Pettinari, who has a Michelin star to his credit, is at the helm. Info at lhorizonpalmsprings.com/sopa-restaurant. … Starting Aug. 30, Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will be offering a drag-queen show during Sunday brunch. Reservations are recommended; rioazulpalmsprings.com. … Summer closures are starting to come to an end! For starters, Vicky’s of Santa Fe, at 45100 Club Drive, in Indian Wells, will reopen Thursday, Sept. 10; www.vickysofsantafe.com. … Asian-fusion joint Kitchen 88 is slated to open in September at Spotlight 29, at 46200 Harrison Place, in Coachella; www.spotlight29.com. … Congrats to Bill’s Pizza, at 119 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs: TripAdvisor recently placed Bill’s on its list of Top 10 pizza joints in the country. Wow!