How to spot a dirty restaurant in under 10 minutes

By Crystal Chen - Assignment editor/reporter

NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. - When you're trying out a restaurant for the first time, it isn't always easy to tell if your meal is coming from a clean kitchen. 

But you don't have to walk into the kitchen to find out.

According to a local expert on food safety, four clues can tell you all you need to know about the restaurant in under 10 minutes. 

As a former health inspector with years of experience, Jessica Tyree knows exactly what to look for when she first walks in to a restaurant. She's the owner of Restaurant Compliance Solutions and sets up mock inspections for restaurants.

North Beach Fish Camp in Neptune Beach invited News4Jax inside this week, and Tyree's first suggestion was to check out the bathroom.

1. Restroom cleanliness

"When you use the restroom, if it's dirty, it's a good indication of what the kitchen might look like," Tyree said. "If there's a bad odor, that's already a bad sign. Check the floors and check in the corners, around the baseboards, and make sure there isn't a lot of dirt and grime buildup."

At the sink, check to see if the soap and paper towel dispensers are fully stocked. Take note if the trash is overflowing.

2. Dining table

When you're sitting down, your dining table will hold some more clues -- starting with your silverware. 

"If I see dirty silverware, people should be encouraged to not only tell the server, but also let the manager know. The server will just get you another set, but the manager should know, too, because there might be something wrong with the dishwasher that requires maintenance," said Tyree.

Next, look at the menu and check the condiments to make sure they're not sticky.

"Look for cleanliness," Tyree said. "Take the lids off and check the cleanliness of the bottles or if there's any grime built up on the lids."

3. Server appearance

Your server's appearance is another good indicator of what the kitchen might look like.

"If they are clean and well-groomed, that's a good indication of the expectations and standards of the restaurant," Tyree said.

4. Open kitchen organization

If you're in a restaurant with an open kitchen, don't be afraid to look into the kitchen.

Check for organization and if staff are properly using gloves. According to Tyree, they don't need to wear gloves if they're using utensils like tongs or spatulas. Gloves are required if they're directly touching food.

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