In San Diego, food poisoning is everywhere. The taco shop food poisoning illness scene is so rampant in San Diego that many locals pride themselves on their iron stomachs and ability to continue to eat at places known for getting patrons sick. Here are some tips I have used to keep away from foodborne illnesses, since getting a food poisoning lawyer to fight a little taco shop in San Diego is pretty much a waste of your time.
Tip 1: Usually, stick with the chains.
Most of the San Diego taco shop chains have a set of standards that they require their locations to follow. This is not to say that this is foolproof, or that chain taco shops are better, but it can be a good first step in choosing a taco shop for the entirely unfamiliar.
Tip 2: Check out the salsa bar. Is it refrigerated?
If the salsa bar is not refrigerated and the sauces are at room temperature, do not eat them. Also, consider that this is a sign that the taco shop in question does not properly store their food, since the salsa bar is right in front of customers and should, for all intents and purposes, be the picture of proper food storage. If the salsa isn’t iced down, you never know what has been growing in it. All in all, it’s likely the back room, kitchen and freezer are even worse.
Tip 3: Pick a place with an open kitchen.
A good number of Las Vegas taco shops have a great big window that lets you see right into the kitchen. If you can’t see the state of the kitchen or what the workers are doing to your food, consider going elsewhere.
Tip 4: Follow what your nose tells you outside the restaurant.
Some taco shops have plumbing problems that back up raw sewage into their sinks and make it impossible for them to properly clean their equipment. This may sound gross, but it’s absolutely true. If the outside of the taco shop smells like backed up sewage, run like the wind.
Tip 5: Check the reviews.
Taco shop patrons are passionate folk, and will write up their experiences all over the web. Websites like Citysearch and Yelp offer a good selection of honest reviews by taco shop patrons. Look for a taco shop with no complaints of food poisoning. They are out there. If a shop has one complaint about getting people sick, that’s one thing, but if there are two, or several complaints, realize the countless numbers of people who might have gotten ill and not complained. Look for specific complaints about specific dishes and specific times; vague claims of illness can be intentional smears from workers or owners of competing taco shops in San Diego.
Tip 6: Don’t always believe what you read
As a former San Diego resident and worker in the restaurant industry down there, I can tell you that a Grade A in the window at a San Diego taco shop does not necessarily mean you won’t end up with a nasty case of food poisoning. Generally, a Grade A in the window means that the shop was able to pull its kitchen up to snuff with warning of an inspection or after correcting problems; it does not mean that the kitchen is always clean. In that town, I would put no more weight on a Grade A in the window than I would a Grade C. Seriously.
Tip 7: Look for a line.
Busy taco shops move a lot of meat and make enough money to keep the kitchen clean…usually. Look for a place with a lunch line out the door and you will probably be okay. A line out the door at 2 a.m. does not count; many drunken patrons will eat anything open at that hour, so the 2 a.m. line indicates little more than the presence of bars and a demand for late night food in the immediate area.
Above all, when avoiding food poisoning at taco shops, go with your gut. If the place stinks like rancid oil, the bathroom reeks or the cooking and eating areas look unclean, opt out of the food. And don’t let your San Diego friends pressure you into eating taco shop food that may give you food poisoning, even if they say it’s their favorite.