By: Don Shaw email: (570) 543-2961

La Cueva Restaurant in Hazleton bombs restaurant inspection, 11 violations, 3rd failure since September 2018

La Cueva Restaurant in Hazleton bombs restaurant inspection, 11 violations, 3rd failure since September 2018

Hazelton, PA;


La Cueva Restaurant

666 Alter Street
Hazleton, PA 18201
(570) 861-8041

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Food Safety and Laboratory Services conducted an unannounced retail food inspection on September 25, 2019. As a result of that inspection, and due to the severity of the specific violations La Cueva Restaurant was cited as being, “Out of Compliance” with Pennsylvania’s food safety regulations.

This latest inspections makes the third failure for the restaurant since September 2018.  On September 10, 2018, inspectors cited the eatery with 12 violations. In a required “Type 2 Follow-up Inspection” on October 10, 2018, the restaurant was, again, hit as being, “Out of Compliance.”

The inspector made the following comments in support of the violations found during the inspection:

  • The Person in Charge does not have adequate knowledge of food safety in this food facility as evidenced by this non-compliant inspection.
  • Observed a bucket containing squeeze bottle use for salad dressings/condiments stored in a bucket underneath the hand wash sink in the prep area. The sink drain trap was leaking into the bucket of bottles. The bottles were placed into the 3 bay sink to be cleaned and sanitized during this inspection.
  • Food facility is reusing common shopping bags, which are intended to be a single-service or single-use article, to store food items in the freezers. The person in charge was instructed that they need use food grade bags/containers for storage of food items.
  • Observed in-use knives and /or cleavers stored between table edges or between tables, an area not easily cleanable & sanitized.
  • Common plastic container without a handle was stored inside of bulk rice and bean containers. The containers were discarded during this inspection. (Food handlers may not touch food with bare hands)
  • Person in charge continues to use the kitchen reach in refrigerator that is not capable of maintaining 41 *F for storage of time temperature control for safety foods. (dangerous temperature for some foods)
  • Raw Chicken , Raw Beef, raw pork, Chicken stock, potato salad, tripe was held at 53 to 63 * F, in the double door reach-in refrigeration unit. The person in charge stated that the food items were prepped/seasoned and place into the refrigeration unit at 6 am today. The facility moved the food items to a freezer unit to chill during this inspection. Before leaving the food items were between 37 and 41* F. The owner made an adjustment to the thermostat on the refrigeration unit. The refrigerator temperature has fallen to 41 to 44 degrees dependent on where the ambient temperature is taken in the unit. The facility has agreed not to use the refrigeration unit to store temperature control for safety foods until the unit is maintaining a temperature of 41* F or below.
  • Reheated food (beef) was observed sitting on counter and the temperature was 122*F. The food employee was educated of need to reheat food items to 165*F for 15 seconds and then place into hot hold and maintain temperature at 135* F or above. The food employee reheated the food item to 165*F during this inspection.
  • Plumbing system not maintained in good repair – observed drain trap leaking in to a bucket under the hand wash sink in the prep area.
  • Eggs foods are served raw or under cooked to the customer’s request; however, a written consumer advisory (on the menu, table tent, or placard) is not provided to the consumer. The facility posted a placard during this inspection
  • Loose rubber lid gasket and broken ceiling surface of the chest freezer with exposed insulation.
  • One ceiling tile missing and several others that are water stained in the dining area, and need replaced.
  • Several ceiling tiles missing in the dry storage area, and need replaced. The owner stated that the landlord is to replace them.



If you have concerns about a restaurant, grocery store or any, “retail food establishment” you can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture when you click or tap now

There are over 26,000 eating and drinking establishments in Pennsylvania, and thousands more convenience stores,  grocery stores and schools required to be inspected by the Department of Agriculture and, in some cases, local government entities at least once a year. Out of more than 2,000 inspections each month only about 150 are found to be, “Out of Compliance.”

Violations leading to the Out of Compliance designation are more critical violations. Establishments can score a number of lower level violations without achieving the Out of Compliance designation.

About The Author

Don Shaw

Don Shaw journalist covering local news for The Pennsylvania Chronicle (717) 461-2107