It’s What’s For Dinner: Feces and Fruit Flies

The other night, I visited Front Street’s Catahoula for some food and drink. The duck jambalaya, crawfish boil, and Gouda grits were all quite tasty, and I suggest you give them a try. The ice cold shrimp remoulade was also good, assuming you don’t mind eating those black intestinal tracts, which were not removed from the crustaceans. I must admit to eating a few. My companion declined. Then he pointed out the fruit fly gathering behind me.

On the small portion of wall immediately to my rear (I was sitting in the corner by the bar), I counted no fewer than 30 instances of Drosophila melanogaster (pictured), which is a pretty awesome name for the common fruit fly, don’t you think?

I brought the insects to the attention of my server, asking him if the restaurant was trying to do anything to rectify the problem. “It’s the season,” he replied. “And, you know, they add to that New Orleans flavor.” (He added that the sous chef explained that feces-filled shrimp veins were common on plates in New Orleans.)

“It’s pretty bad, I know,” said a manager I spoke with on the phone this afternoon, referring to the flies, not the shrimp. “Once they get in, they’re kind of in.” She says that they’ve had an exterminator come in multiple times to spray. But two restaurateurs I spoke with today — both of whom have had fruit flies in the past (as has pretty much every restaurant) — say that exterminators are not the answer. “If you’re creating an environment where they can breed, you can spray all you want,” says one. He identifies the biggest culprits as yeast buildup from beer drips and spills, the floor drains, and the scum lines of ice bins. “Anything like that not properly cleaned, fruit flies will lay eggs in it.”

Fruit flies aren’t terrifying like roaches. And they certainly aren’t rodents, like the ones at Cosi, Ted’s Montana Grill, and Ishkabibble’s in that Inside Edition report from a couple of weeks ago. But they’re still bugs that can carry harmful bacteria. And they’re on the radar of the Health Department, which issues violations for fruit fly infestation. In fact, one fruit fly variety is causing such a clamor in Florida that officials have declared a quarantine on 47 square miles of Broward County.

Still, I finished most of my food, except for the neutron star-dense “hushpuppies” and shrimp. But should I have? Or should I have left?

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

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  • Willie

    All restaurants at some time or another have fruit flies. It is, as the post states, often a bar-related problem. You need to cover your bottles in plastic wrap at the end of the night & scrub out all the drains daily. They can be eradicated. If the management of Catahoula is taking a “there’s not much we can do about it” approach they’re dead wrong.
    The shrimp thing is just gross. Sounds like they’re going cheap trying to cut labor. Clean the damn shrimp.

    I’ll stick with Khyber for my cajun fix.

  • Joe K

    I agree 100% with Willie on this one. There’s no excuse for either of those.

  • Dan

    This is unfortunate. It sounds like a place on its last legs. I did enjoy a meal their once, but that was shortly after they opened. I wondered why the place was so empty. Now they have even more comeptition with Kennett and Village Belle in the area, I hope that they heed your advice and turn it around.

  • Dan

    oh and obviously I mean *there* – for the troll word nazis out there

  • barryg

    I dunno I went there for the first time a couple weeks ago and I loved it. I didn’t try any shrimp though the smoke gouda grits are one of the best things I’ve eaten recently. The place is tiny and on a weeknight it was full of what seemed like regulars. They have a real nice patio that ought to be opening so I think spring business will be good. A lot of popular places are dirty.

  • Catahoula

    Thanks for using Catahoula as a vehicle for this insightful new poll. Stop back in a day or two when we get everything squared away, Vic, we’d love to see you again!

  • miguel aguilar

    This place is great, been there at least over a dozen times, always satisfied with the food and the drinks. Oh great service, and patronage.

  • Ralph

    Great food, great service and one of our favorite places to go for brunch on the weekends.

  • kbor

    Doubt I would stop eating at Catahoula if you found a dead body in the walk in freezer.

  • John

    Anyone badmouthing Catahoula has clearly never eaten there. Great place!

  • Jflo

    The worst thing about having Philadelphia magazine take over FooBooz is having Victor Fiorillo posting on the site. I find him so mean spirited and at the same time very smug. I used to just read every post on this site and enjoy the insights on food and drinks and the city I love. Now I will be sure to check the byline first so as to avoid Mr. Fiorillo’s vitriol.

  • Joe K

    @Catahoula and everyone else sticking up for the place — why haven’t any of you addressed the fruit fly issue? It’s just not acceptable to say “oh well, it happens”. This stuff is clearly fixable, and for the management to have the attitude that it’s not really something you can do anything about, is just absurd. And I know the board of health would absolutely agree. And I don’t see anyone saying that there isn’t a problem, so it would appear Victor is being pretty honest about the situation. Instead of gathering people to come over here and post positive comments about the place, how about you just fix the problem?

  • Willie

    And clean the damn shrimp!! These are simple problems to remedy, instead of being smug about it, just fix it.

  • Tyler

    I was there a few weeks back, eating at the bar and loved it — I’m sure they will get this squared away soon.

    To the author, its a pretty dick move to call the manager and then make a post like this without even giving them a chance to remedy the issue. They are obviously aware of it and will try to get it fixed.

  • Tex

    Is Foobooz now run by Fox News?

  • Willie

    Tyler, since the manager Victor spoke to at Catahoula gave the “there’s not much we can do about it, once they’re in, they’re in” defense, and since the sous chef seemed to think that shit veins in the shrimp is somehow authentic, what makes you thin any of this would have been remedied without stirring the pot a little??

  • kbor

    Maybe it’s my love for Catahoula talking, but this post just rubbed me the wrong way. I feel like this isn’t the kind of stuff Foobooz has traditionally included in it’s blog. Seems more like a personal vendetta. Now I’m not calling Victor a liar, but I’ve never seen an insect (unless crawfish count?) in about 4-5 trips to Catahoula.

  • NL

    I frequent Catahoula and have never experienced these issues and even so – I’m not sure that warrants this post. This and Fiorillo is one more reason why Foobooz is going down hill since Philly Mag took over.
    Sheehan may be another…

  • GrowlerKing

    ARTHUR: Take back your blog, man! I wanna hear about the great Philly food scene, not mudslinging over fruit flies.

  • Snake

    Anything other than glowing praise on restaurants is a new thing here in Philly. It may take some time getting used to.

  • John

    It’s ridiculous for a food writer to be so grossed out over shrimp that haven’t been deveined. Have you ever eaten shrimp anywhere besides red lobster?
    Have you ever had a whole shrimp? Or a crawfish or any mollusks? All have guts, are they icky too?
    If you are too much of a wuss to eat real food maybe you should take up writing about chemistry or physics. No icky things to worry about there and apparently anyone can get a job writing about anything.

  • Sara

    C’mon, Snake. No one here is saying that a negative review is a bad thing, but these restaurant “expose” posts are just a little reminiscent of your typical local TV news puff pieces.

    I’ve heard on good authority that the kitchen at a Well-Known French Restaurant was not immune to critters every so often. Add that to the list of realities of living in a dense urban area. My home kitchen is immaculate, but if our neighbors next door don’t clean up after themselves, we might see the occasional mouse or two who’s on the hunt for things in our house. Unpleasant, but a reality.

    All in all, it really depends on what you’re willing to stomach. The most sanitary of kitchens can be exposed to the elements, human or otherwise – and if it bugs you out too much, simply refrain from going out.

  • Snake

    Sara, he’s a food blogger. He went to a restaurant and talked about his experience there. I agree with you though that a fly or 2 wouldn’t be a dealbreaker for me in going back to a restaurant.

  • CEF

    Being visual folks, I think more people have an issue with the giant BEAST FLY that sits as the crown on the post than anything else. It looks as though he’s big enough to pull up a stool next to you at the bar. Although, if he ordered a good beer, I would probably strike up a convo with him.

  • kbor

    The fly in the picture of the post was also used in a post on about the effect of light on insects or something like that. Not sure if this is a coincidence, but I’m guessing no.

  • Willie

    It’s not the fact that they had a monsterous fruit fly infestation (as descibed by VF) or that they didn’t clean their shrimp, it’s the attitude described of “oh, there’s nothing we can do about it” or the cutesy “oh, that’s how they serve shrimp in New Orleans”.

    Catahoula, you’re on here. Own up. yes, we have a fruit fly problem but instead of having the exterminator spray for it (which I know for a gaddamn fact doesn’t do shit) we are going to get dirty and clean the beer taps & the floor drains every freakin’ day until they have been eradicated and, yes, it might cost us an extra $20 a day in labor but we will clean our shrimp from now on.

    I’m a restaurant guy. I am also a guy who has gone to Catahoula twice and loved it. It’s not the details of the problem that Victor reported that bothers me, it’s the attitude of management that he reported that bothers me. Just say mea culpa and get it done.

  • “Server”

    [While describing the “neutron star” denseness of the hushpuppies tableside…]

    VF: They’re just really hard. Do you want me to throw them at you and see what happens?
    ME: Do you want to throw them at me and see what happens?
    VF: No…
    ME: Great! I’ll take ’em back to the kitchen and throw them at the chef.

    [He was actually right and we comped the dish, but that didn’t happen to make the “review”… until now]

  • Willie

    No one makes hush puppies right here. Upthread I expressed my preference for Khyber’s brand of cajun, but their hush puppies are hard too. I ate at Catahoula twice but didn’t have their hush puppies.

    BTW, just finished off a plate of Beck’s jambalaya from the RTM – don’t love all their food but the jambalaya is moist & correct.

  • Catahoula Management

    I wasn’t planning to respond to what was clearly a title that wanted to grab a reader thru shock effect. Yes, as I told Victor we’ve had a recent issue with fruit flies which we’ve been working to determine the cause & exterminate – Besides relaying what we had done so far to try resolve I informed him during our conversation Wednesday (the afternoon after his only visit) that I had people coming to address & resolve the issue today. I can only assume he rushed to post his piece because “they used to have a fruit fly problem’ would not have been so catchy.

  • Willie

    From experience I can tell you no one is going to “address & resolve” a fruit fly infestation in one visit. It takes daily attention to scrubbing all floor, bar & ice drains and wrapping liquor bottles overnight in addition to regular professional service. Anyone who is telling you otherwise is blowing smoke up your ass. And when are you going to start cleaning the shit out of your shrimp?

  • smarty pants

    foobooz people as an occational reader-I came across this post- You people have issues- who are you? the restaurant police- Apparrently you all got your fix- wierdos

  • tim

    Catahoula is awesome. the food, the service, the small but rotating beer selection. I’ll keep going back.

  • victoria floriania

    man. vicky f on this site? really?!

    hes the danielle steele of food bloggers (food writer is too gracious for him).

    im happy you got a good financial deal with philly mag, but i cant say anyone is happy this clown is now contributing here.

    he justs writes nonsense and has no pedigree whatsover. in fact the south philly review is better than him.

  • Rick

    Some guys will go to any lengths to make sure they can get an open table.

    Anyone who has been to Catahoula knows the deal: clean place, great staff, nice atmosphere and really awesome food but few tables.

    BTW, my Army buddy from Louisiana never deveined shrimp and when I asked him why he said that’s the way his grandmother made it. If you want authentic go to Catahoula. If you don’t then pick up a frozen package of Mrs Paul’s at the Acme.

  • Amy Abird

    i like how real this review is. whether they’ll be shit in my shrimp is exactly the kind of thing i want to know before i go to a place. i’m not even saying it’s necessarily a bad thing (although i think it is). i don’t even think victor fiorillo makes it sound like a bad place – but anything short of perfection seems to offend quite a few people here. all of us love places that aren’t perfect, that’s nothing new.