Gator Grill: New Management, Old Problems UPDATED

gator grill kabobs.jpg
Photo by Alexandra Leon
Gator Grill 192's gator and pineapple kabobs.
Gator Grill's new owners Sal and Elsa DeVito have taken the grease out of the menu -- and off a few window panes as well.

At the end of June, the DeVito's took over the Homestead establishment after the Bronx-bred chef Nino took off. The couple changed the name of the restaurant to Gator Grill 192 and removed fried items from the menu to keep it healthier.

"We've cleaned it up and we're looking for our new clientele. I have great expectations for this," said Sal.

The restaurants windows and wood paneling were pressure cleaned to remove grease residue. "You couldn't see to the outside," Elsa added.

Yet, a look in health records shows that a July 14 inspection turned up 13 violations.

Ten were deemed "critical" - a classification that in some cases is an exaggeration. At Gator Grill, the violations included thawing potentially hazardous food in standing water, handling food and equipment without washing hands, touching ready-to-eat food with bare hands, and not displaying Food Manager Certification. Other violations range from lack of hair restraints to unwrapped utensils.

The place wasn't closed down and Beth Frady, deputy communications director at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, called the results "satisfactory," meaning they did not warrant a follow-up visit to ensure correction.

When we visited Gator Grill after the inspection, the DeVitos prepared a few plates of gator tacos, gator kabobs, and frog legs. Everything was grilled right in front of us. The plates were garnished with the DeVitos' signature grilled starfruit, and each dish incorporated pineapple in some way.

Their platanos maduros, Elsa's specialty, were perfectly cooked and topped with a delicious cilantro pineapple mayo. The meat seemed a little chewy, but that may have been due to the nature of the meat.

One customer during our visit did express concern the frog legs were undercooked. Sal insisted it was cooked just right, attributing the texture to the tenderness of the frog legs.

Despite repeated calls after our meal there, the DeVitos were unavailable for comment on the health report. While their food was unique and inventive, we hope they sort out their issues before we take another trip down south.

Update: According to Sal, the violations were minor and have been corrected. He says they have since taken the necessary food safety classes and the notations on the report were due to the fact that it was their first routine inspection. "If it comes down to it, they were very miscellaneous type things."

Gator Grill 192
36650 SW 192nd Ave., Homestead
786-243-0620.


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3 comments
Jackson Rip Holmes
Jackson Rip Holmes

Dear Miami New Times Readers:

Yesterday, I phoned the State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and spoke with one of their very gifted communications officials, Mary Alford.

Ms. Alford said that the State of Florida is not concerned about any health problems at Gator Grill.

She said that if the State of Florida has a health concern when it inspects a restaurant, it will require either: 1) a followup inspection, and/or, 2) it will temporarily shut down the restaurant, pending corrective repairs.

In the case of Gator Grill, State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Office Alford said they passed Gator Grill on the first try, without requiring a followup inspection, and without any temporary shutdown, and this is the measure of whether or not there is a health concern at Gator Grill.

It is possible the Miami New Times uses "Health Hazard" as a leading subtitle, per above, freely, even with the best restaurants, for some reason which is not apparent.  I will try to research this.

In any event, the characterizations by reporter Leon in this article, trying to imply there is a health concern at Gator Grill restaurant, are contradicted by the governing authority, the State of Florida.

Sincerely,

Jackson Rip Holmes920 Sevilla Avenue, # 206Coral Gables, Florida  33134P. 305-338-5000E. holmesrip2@aol.com

Gator Grill Fan
Gator Grill Fan

 If you are a restaurant owner I would not allow this woman to dine in your establishment. 

Alexandra Leon should be removed from her position at Miami New Times or maybe not offered a position since she is only an intern.I have been eating at the Gator Grill for years. I have seen the restaurant pass through several owners. I have to say Sal and Elsa have done a wonderful job creating new dishes to jazz up the menu. They have taken Gator and Frog legs to a whole new level. I normally would not eat Gator or Frog legs but after Sal has created two unique dishes your mouth will be watering for more. The Gator taco is amazing.

There were plenty of other items for her to try. Their burger beats any burger joint in Dade County. They also have an eggplant veggie sandwich that is to die for.

Alexandra Leon should take some classes on cuisine to expand her palate. If you are going to be a food critic you should be experienced with food and should not comment on something you have not eaten or know nothing about.

As a personal friend of Sal and Elsa I know the interview was very misleading. They were very excited to have the new times out to review the restaurant after their first article was so positive. 

I wish Sal and Elsa the best with their new business venture and will be sure to encourage more people to dine there.

Jackson Rip Holmes
Jackson Rip Holmes

Dear Miami New Times Readers:

BEWARE OF REPORTER ALEXANDRA LEON!  SHE HAS DEFAMED GATOR GRILL RESTAURANT!

I am a fan of Gator Grill restaurant, and I accompanied her on her recent visit there.  At all times, she gave me the impression she liked the restaurant, its food, and its owners.

Without warning, to me, nor apparently to the owners, Reporter Leon, and/or her Supervisor at Miami New Times, dug up a Health Inspection, and mischaracterized it with the defamatory article above.

READERS OF MIAMI NEW TIMES, I AM MARRIED TO A NATIVE AMERICAN INDIAN, AND I HAVE NEVER TASTED BETTER EVERGLADES AND ALLIGATOR CUISINE IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, THAN AT GATOR GRILL, OPERATED BY SAL AND ELSA DEVITO.

Sal tells me the State Health Inspector only cited minor violations, and more importantly:

1.  The State Health Inspector, Adonis de la Cruz, approved Gator Grill to serve the public on the very same day of the Inspection.

2.  Inspector De La Cruz told Sal and Elsa DeVito their restaurant was as clean as any he'd ever seen.  And

3.  Inspector de la Cruz "toasted" the successful, passing, Inspection of Gator Grill, drinking ice water with Gator Grill's Sal and Elsa DeVito, on his same-day approval of the restaurant to serve the public.

My impression is that young Ms. Leon, only an Intern at Miami New Times, cannot relate to Everglades cuisine -- e.g. she refused to try the frog's legs, which she ABSOLUTELY FALSELY attributed a non-existent quote about -- and, because this cuisine does not appeal to her, decided to defame the food and the restaurant ala the mischaracterization of the Health Inspection.

Reporter Leon, and possibly her supervisor at the Miami New Times, owe the public an apology for implying there are any health concerns, whatsoever, with the ABSOLUTELY SUPERLATIVE, BEST IN A LIFETIME, GATOR GRILL RESTAURANT.

Sincerely,

Jackson Rip Holmes920 Sevilla Avenue, # 206Coral Gables, FL  33134Ph. 305-338-5000E-mail:  holmesrip2@aol.com

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