UPTOWN — Sun Wah BBQ co-owner Kelly Cheng and her employees were at the shuttered Hong Kong-style barbecue joint Tuesday afternoon working to whip the place into shape after the Chicago Department of Health closed it Monday because of various health violations.
Cheng came to the door of the restaurant and briefly spoke with DNAinfo Chicago about the status of her popular business, which is known for rolling out and carving up roasted duck table-side for patrons.
"We have nothing to say other than the city inspectors are doing their job, and we just weren't vigilant enough," Cheng said.
On Nov. 25, a city inspector found more than 10 live roaches on the floor inside the restaurant's heater room, "litter and dead insects" inside employees' lockers, and 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 report said that the unannounced inspection was spurred by a complaint from a person who said they ordered barbecue at Sun Wah for a party of 11 on Sept. 28. Nine people who ate the barbecue suffered two days of diarrhea, while two people who didn't eat barbecue "were fine," the complaint said.
Eighteen pounds of food valued at $126 were discarded after the inspection when meat was found stored at improper temperatures, according to the city.
Cheng said Sun Wah place would be opened "soon," and that most violations had been addressed. The restaurant will have to be inspected again and earn a passing grade before reopening. Co-owner Laura Cheng told the blog Eater Chicago that she hoped the restaurant could reopen by Friday. That depends on how soon city inspectors can return to Sun Wah, which has a history of health violations.
It's been inspected by the city 11 times since 2010 and failed five of those inspections, according to the department of health.
The restaurant was also shuttered in 2010 for health code violations.
Despite the news about Sun Wah, 5039 N. Broadway, some fans of the restaurant said they haven't lost faith in its food and would give it another shot.
Jill Johnson, 33, of Logan Square, has been a fan of Sun Wah for a while but went back there on Sunday "for the first time in years," with a party of 12, she said.
"I'm not aware of anybody in our posse getting sick," she said.
Asked if she would be going back once it was open again, she answered without hesitation: "Oh yeah, definitely."
"I can't believe I went so long without going there, I want to go back," Johnson said.
There are places in the city that have never been closed down but have gotten people sick, and vice versa, so she isn't worried, Johnson said.
Paul Newman, a 27-year-old Uptown resident, said he has gotten "the chills," from looking at the dead ducks strung up in the front of the restaurant and joked, "It always smells like carcasses in there," but said otherwise, "everything has always been good for me," at Sun Wah. He has been there several times, and on each occasion has "been pleasantly surprised."
"I've never actually gotten sick there, so I'll go back until I do," Newman said.
Some people, however, said they were scared away by news of health violations at Sun Wah — particularly people who have never set foot there.
Linberg Askew, a 31-year-old Beverly resident, was in Uptown Tuesday afternoon waiting for a friend of his who lives in the area, has raved about the quality of food at Sun Wah and had invited him to have lunch at the restaurant.
"I was actually looking forward to trying it out for the first time. I've seen great reviews about [Sun Wah] and was going to go today, but I saw something on Twitter saying it was closed down," Askew said. "I had no idea about the problems before, but I think it falls on the ownership and management. They should definitely tighten the ship up."
A local man who was smoking a cigarette on the sidewalk outside an office building near the closed restaurant said he had never been there before, "but now that I see they have health code violations, I probably won't."