Resentment is at the heart of San Francisco’s roiling culture war — resentment, in particular, over the sleek corporate shuttle buses that let their riders drive up real estate prices in the city while spending most of their waking hours in Mountain View or Menlo Park, enjoying discounted massages and free gourmet meals on green campuses.
But life’s not perfect, even for the pampered princes and princesses of Silicon Valley. The food may be free, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea to eat it.
Even in the poshest cafeterias, with their whimsical names and sustainably sourced ingredients, their Wagyu beef sliders and kombucha bars, stuff happens. Sneeze guards get installed wrong. Soap dispensers break. Hummus sits around. And, sometimes, people get sick because of it — just like in the real world.
Like restaurants, corporate cafeterias are subject to periodic inspections by the local health department. Santa Clara County (home to Google, Apple and Yahoo), San Mateo County (home to Facebook) and San Francisco County (home to Twitter and Zynga) all post the results of those inspections online. So I looked them up to see which tech cafeterias received clean bills of health — and which ones you might want to avoid next time you visit.
One thing to note: As Bryce Druzin pointed out in a recent piece on cafeteria safety for the San Jose Business Journal, health violations are a function not just of how clean and well-maintained a facility is but also of the complexity of its menu and the raw size of its operation. That may be why the cafeterias he looked at (which didn’t include Facebook’s or Twitter’s) had a violation rate of double the countywide average. It’s hard to make gourmet omelets for 15,000 people without breaking a few eggs and discarding the shells in the wrong receptacle.
In addition to a bowling alley, a climbing wall, seven fitness centers and a life-sized tyrannosaurus skeleton replica, Google also has more than 25 cafeterias on its Mountain View campus, plus another one at its office in San Francisco. Here’s a map:
One of those is the Steam Cafe, which, upon its last inspection in July 2013, was cited for “improper cooling methods,” a major violation. “EGG PLANT SOUP AND PASTA COOKED THE PREVIOUS DAY MEASURED AT 50F-53F” reads the inspector’s note. That resulted in an “Enforcement Action: Voluntary Condemnation and Destruction.”
That sounds more extreme than it is, though. Basically, they had to throw the soup out. Steam Cafe is still very much up and running, serving tasty looking dishes like this fried chicken on creamy polenta with srirachi honey butter.
Major violations were also recorded on recent inspections of the Tetsuwon Atom Cafe (improper hot & cold holding temperatures), Moma 2.0 (improper cooking time & temperatures) and the Masa Cafe (hot & cold running water not available; improper hot & cold holding temperatures).
If you want to eat somewhere that made it through its last inspection without incident, try Cafe Blaze.
Of the many minor violations handed out, the most curious, perhaps, was the one slapped on Coffee Kiosk B for food “misbranded and not honestly presented.” ”Any food is misbranded if its labeling is false or misleading, if it is offered for sale under the name of another food, or if it is an imitation of another food for which a definition and standard of identity has been established by regulation,” reads the explanation.
Are they selling knockoff food at Apple? I smell a patent lawsuit.
If you eat at Beantrees, maybe sniff the milk before adding it to your coffee? In April 2013, the health inspector dinged that eatery after finding milk stored at 53 degrees Fahrenheit rather than the proper 40 degrees or so. That triggered another scary sounding “ENFORCEMENT ACTION: EMBARGO/SEIZE/IMPOUND.” Ie., they poured it out.
Yahoo’s Bon Appetit Cafe got a perfect score on its last inspection in October, so feel free to eat there — as long as you’re not bothered by what happened six months earlier, when the inspector observed “vermin: rodents (rats/mic), cockroaches [or] flies” and food stored at the wrong temperature.
Headquarted in Menlo Park, Facebook resides in San Mateo County, whose health department’s website is lamentably terse when compared with nearby Santa Clara. Of the eight food facilities at One Hacker Way, two received “fair” ratings, indicating “at least one major violation that might cause a foodborne illness.” One was for inadequate water temperature; the other was for an empty paper towel dispenser. The other eateries rated from good to excellent.
Inspectors from San Francisco’s Department of Environmental Health checked out Twitter’s Bon Appetit Cafe (we can be a little more creative with the naming, can’t we?) last summer and found a variety of “moderate risk” violations and one “high risk” one, “improper cooling methods.”
Visiting in September 2013, inspectors discovered improper reheating of food (a high risk violation) and “wiping cloths not clean or properly stored or inadequate sanitizer,” a low-risk offense.