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?