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Just a week after it was closed for 19 violations of the D.C. food code, Breadline was back in business today. To the naked eye, the sandwich shop didn’t look so different from its “excessive live fruit fly” phase. I did notice meticulous, hand-written expiration dates on the lemonade drinks and that the bread rack behind the cash register was gone, an apparent victim of a D.C. Health Department inspector who thought consumers might contaminate the loaves. But almost everything else looked the same.
I don’t mean to imply that Breadline remains as dirty as when the inspector tagged it as a menace to society. What I do mean to say is that I (and probably you) wouldn’t know a health hazard if it bit me (or you) on the ass — at least not from the serving line at this downtown sandwich shop. Could I have known that food was stored at the wrong temperature? Or that there was excessive grease under the hood? Or that dough was rising on the walk-in floor? Or that Breadline was operating without a restaurant license?
Nope, I couldn’t.
What I do know is that Breadline has aggressively tackled the problems in the days since the Health Department pointed them out. The restaurant managers have scrubbed the place clean, to the point that it not only passed re-inspection but it also impressed Breadline founder Mark Furstenberg, a man not known for an easy compliment.
Where am I going with this? I’m saying that if you liked Breadline in the past, when it was apparently a haven for the city’s fruit fly population, then you should like it now, when it’s as clean as an operating room. Health inspections are designed to protect you from harm, not harm a business — though that’s sometimes the unfortunate consequence.
When I stopped by for lunch, I noticed that the patio was packed with patrons, but inside, a good number of tables were empty. As I paid for my salami and cheese sandwich, lemonade, and chips, I asked the cashier how Breadline was faring on its first day back. She said it was “better than expected.”
I was going to leave it at that but just couldn’t. So I asked her if that meant business was down from pre-inspection times. The cashier smiled and nodded.
As I was about to leave, I stopped and looked at the pastry display case and noticed it was virtually empty. A manager-looking guy asked if he could help me and then promptly directed me to a housemade whoopie pie, which I purchased. I asked him how business was, and he, as you might expect, was more optimistic. He said it was “good.”
But as he handed me my whoopie pie, he said something that said everything: “Thanks for coming in.”
He said in a way that made me feel as if I were a brave pilgrim venturing into untamed lands.