Mold and rats: University Club and Overton Square restaurant receive low grades from health department

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The latest inspections from the Shelby County Health Department found roaches, mold and potentially dangerous eating conditions at two surprising dining spots: Robata restaurant in Overton Square and the exclusive, members-only University Club on Central Avenue.

The Shelby County Health Department gave Robata a score of 60 out of 100 on June 17, docking the restaurant for multiple critical violations that could put diners' health at risk, like moldy food in storage and refrigerated temperatures as high as 65 degrees for tofu, 54 degrees for chicken and 41 degrees for pork.

WREG went to the restaurant Tuesday to speak with a manager. She said she didn't want to comment and retreated to the kitchen.

Instead, we talked with customers eating lunch.

"We both work in a restaurant down the street, so it's a little concerning," said one customer, who added her restaurant keeps refrigerators set at 38 degrees.

Eventually, WREG did get hold of someone willing to explain the dangerous conditions.

David Lindsey manages multiple restaurants for the Jimmy Ishii group, including Robata.

"We had a broken refrigerator," Lindsey said. "We weren’t using it at all, but the cooks had not cleaned it out.”

Lindsey said they’ve fixed the issues, and the health department promised to come back 10 days later to re-inspect. He said another inspection would prove they resolved the previous issues.

“I don’t make any excuses," he said. "It’s embarrassing, and I certainly apologize to all our customers.”

Health Department officials visited Robata on Tuesdya just after the airing of this story, and they scored Robata a 76. They said food storage temperatures are improved, but there were still sanitation issues like flies and roaches in the food storage area.

Meanwhile across Midtown, the exclusive University Club of Memphis advertises “some of the best cuisine” in town on its website, but the kitchen only earned a 70 out of 100 when the health department came in May.

The inspector found dead roaches in the food-prep area.

We went to the private club Tuesday and talked with a manager. He said he had no comment, as the club's chef is on vacation.

Myra deGersdorff, general manager of the University Club, contacted WREG on Wednesday and said the issues cited by the Health Department were fixed the following day.

She said the restaurant received a score of 95 the previous inspection.

DeGersdorff said Health Department officials were supposed to return for a follow-up inspection in 10 days, but that has not happened yet. She said she is confident the score will rise after the follow-up.

"We have the utmost confidence in our culinary team," deGersdorff said. "This was an anomaly; the kitchen is operated in a healthy and efficient manner and will continue to be so."

We did want to take a look at the other inspection reports before these latest ones to see if there’s a pattern. We tried to get those Tuesday but had to put in an open records request with Shelby County and are still waiting to hear back.

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.