Food-o-File

Austin eats dirty, drinks hard, and welcomes the new Frisco Shop and Tolbert family chili

In the off-with-our-heads department – in last week's glowing review of Roy's (340 E. Second, 391-1500), Wes Marshall listed Executive Chef Lawrence Kocurek's alma mater as the Culinary Institute of America, when instead the Austin native is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City. We regret the error... Austin's hospitality industry was hit with a couple of bombshells late last week. While I'm not exactly sure how seriously either ranking will impact business locally, they do merit a mention. The nonprofit nutrition and food-safety watchdog group the Center for Science in the Public Interest published a study last week entitled "Dirty Dining" (www.cspinet.org/dirtydining) based on their analysis of restaurant inspection data from 539 restaurants in 20 cities around the country. The article advocates that all the nation's restaurants be rated with a food-safety letter grade and be required to post that information. The provocatively titled piece named Austin and Boston as the dirtiest dining cities in the country based on the center's analysis of the inspection reports of 30 restaurants in each city. The center requested reports on a broad spectrum of Austin restaurants, everywhere from Jeffrey's and the Driskill Grill to Chick-fil-A and Arby's. Of the 30 Austin eateries mentioned, at least two are already closed (although not due to health department infractions), and several are franchise chain outlets with no mention of specific locations. The report asserts that Austin had more violations than any other city profiled in the areas of improper holding temperatures and contaminated food-contact surfaces and concludes that this "could signify either a very diligent inspection force or restaurants with a worse-than-average record for cleanliness." That's a very important distinction that the study is not equipped to address. I have to question the scientific validity of study results comparing inspection scores that were not the result of uniform inspection procedures, and it seems unlikely that a uniform, national restaurant-inspection code is in the offing. Once again, an announcement from the Center for Science in the Public Interest seems geared more toward shocking headlines rather than useful scientific information. The food-safety scores of all Austin area restaurants and food-service establishments are always available online at www.cityofaustin.org/health/restaurant/default.htm... Meanwhile, Forbes magazine named Austin as the hardest-drinking city in the country in an article last week. For some reason, this designation did not seem to strike the same nerve as the CSPI report... The Frisco Shop (6801 Burnet Rd., 459-6279, www.thefriscoshop.com) is back! Longtime customers turned out in droves to celebrate the reopening of the local landmark last week. The new location offers both expanded seating and a much bigger kitchen, but the menu, staff, and warm hospitality remain the same... Few names are more revered in the history and lore of Texas chili than that of the late Dallas journalist/historian/restaurateur Frank X. Tolbert. He was one of the instigators of the legendary chili cook-offs in Terlingua and the author of the seminal work on Texas chili, A Bowl of Red (Texas A&M University Press, $19.95). The Tolbert name is back in the news these days because his son, Houston artist Frank X. Tolbert 2, is promoting a new frozen chili product, based on a treasured family recipe, that is available exclusively at Whole Foods Market. Tolbert will be sampling his chili at Whole Foods stores in Austin this weekend. Drop by the flagship store (525 N. Lamar) between noon and 5pm on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 15-16, or the Gateway store (9607 Research) during the same hours on Sunday, Aug. 17, to give it a try.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Roy's Restaurant, Lawrence Kocurek, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Dirty Dining, CSPI, The Frisco Shop, Frank X. Tolbert 2, Terlingua, A Bowl of Red

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