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SF won't let restaurant owner sell grasshopper tacos

June 7, 2011 6:29:10 PM PDT
A San Francisco restaurant owner had a hit on his hands until the health department stepped in and said he can no longer sell his special grasshopper tacos or any other insect-inspired entrees. But Harry Persaud and his loyal customers are hoping to change their minds.

At one Mission Street Mexican restaurant, grasshopper tacos are the most talked-about food on the menu. They have earned it write-ups in local newspapers and even earned La Oaxaque?a Bakery and Restaurant the title of "Best New Mexican Hole-In-The-Wall. But now, they are gone.

"The health department came out and they told us we can't do it anymore," owner Harry Persaud said.

Persaud says grasshoppers are a traditional food in his native Oaxaca.

"They're eaten on every street corner in Oaxaca, they're sold in all the markets and they've been doing that for decades," Persaud said.

In fact, Persaud says he gets the grasshoppers straight from Oaxaca, along with the mole and the tortillas, to make his food as authentic as possible.

But it is that very effort to be authentic that got harry in trouble with the local health department. They said they do not have a problem with Persaud serving grasshoppers or crickets or even tarantulas in his restaurant, their problem is where the bugs come from.

"They want us to get grasshoppers from here, United States," Persaud said.

Even though Persaud has a permit to import the grasshoppers, the health department says the place he is buying them is not FDA approved. In fact, they said they do not know of any federally approved source for grasshoppers.

"There's a lot of disappointment right now," Persaud said.

Disappointment, Persaud says, because his restaurant is one of the only places to buy cooked grasshoppers in the United States.

"All over the country, we sell to people from Hawaii, New York, even from Canada order from us," he said.

For now, customers will have to settle for such mundane foods as steak and chicken.

Persaud wants to work something out with the health department. If he can't, he says he might consider raising his own grasshoppers.


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