CHICAGO — High-end grocer Fox & Obel shut down abruptly Monday after it failed to correct several health code violations — including cockroach and fruit fly infestations.
The Chicago Department of Health inspected the Streeterville retailer, 401 E. Illinois St., on July 5 after a suspected case of food poisoning, according to a department report.
Investigators found more than 200 live fruit flies on the walls, ceiling and equipment. There were also about 30 live cockroaches near cooking equipment and in the bakery, the report said.
At least two dozen customers stopped by the food market between 7 and 8 p.m. Monday night, including Lona Harris and Margo Light, who have been visiting the city in July for 30 years and have been Fox & Obel customers since it opened in 2001.
"So it wasn't a death in the family or anything like that?" Harris asked after reading the sign on the store's side door that read: "Due to an emergency, Fox & Obel will be closed the remainder of July 15, 2013. We apologize for any inconveniences."
"We just paid a lot for parking, and now we don't know where to go," she said. "They had the best cinnamon rolls I've ever had."
Investigators ordered Fox & Obel to replace stained cutting boards, clean cooking equipment covered with "food debris and grease," replace a missing door from the pastry display case, "regrout the floors in the dish wash area, prep line, mop sink and bakery area," and replace "badly stained" ceiling tiles.
Fox & Obel was given 10 days to comply, the report said. On Monday, the grocery store and restaurant failed reinspection.
Barbara Presti has lived in the area since the 1980s and has also been eating at Fox & Obel almost daily since it opened.
"Now I feel sick," she said with a laugh. "I hope I haven't eaten any bugs."
Presti was forgiving of the lapse in health standards and said she'll return to the food market when it reopens, but Beth Hallwerck, another longtime patron, wasn't as forgiving.
"It isn't the same market [since a change in management]," she said. "It's not up to par."
Hallwerck said she's had to return vegetables due to lack of quality. Both Hallwerck and Presti said they've "never seen a bug" in the store during their visits, but speculated that recent interior remodeling may have "kicked something up."
Fox & Obel said via email that it is "in the process of complying with the Health Department of Chicago and will reopen as soon as possible," Crain's Chicago Business reported.
Fox & Obel is known as the most expensive grocer in Chicago. Its jamon Iberico de Bellota (acorn-fed Iberian ham) retails for about $200 per pound.