UPTOWN — Sun Wah BBQ, a culinary anchor of the Argyle Street area in Uptown that attracts people from across the city, has been shut down by the city for health code violations.
A green sign from the Chicago Department of Health on the front doors of the restaurant at 5039 N. Broadway says that its license has been suspended since Monday.
The popular Hong Kong-style barbecue joint enjoys a steady stream of customers, especially large groups of people on Friday and Saturday nights who come for affordable dishes and one of the restaurant's main attractions — whole roasted Peking duck that employees carve up tableside.
An unnanounced inspection on Nov. 25, based on a customer's complaint, led to the closure of the restaurant, according to the city. The customer alleged that out of their party of 11 people, nine ate barbecue at the restaurant and suffered two days of diarrhea, while two people didn't eat the meat and were fine.
An inspector found foods such as cooked tongue, intestines, pork ears and barbecued pork, "held at improper temperatures," lower than recommended to ensure consumers' safety, according to the inspector's report.
The inspector also observed more than 10 live roaches on the floor inside the restaurant's heater room, and found "litter and dead insects" inside employees' lockers, according to the report.
The restaurant's owners were not immediately available for comment early Tuesday.
Sun Wah has been inspected by the city 11 times since 2010 and failed five of those inspections, according to city data. The restaurant, according to city inspectors, has been cited multiple times for failing to keep hot foods at 140 degrees or higher, and cold foods at 40 degrees or lower.
Failing to keep foods at proper temperatures increases the risk of foodborne illness caused by bacteria that multiply in improperly stored food.
In May, a city inspector who gave the restaurant a failing grade also found "waste water backing up," from a floor drain under a food preparation area.
And a 2010 inspection found "evidence of rodent infestation throughout the premises."