(image taken from SF Photorama)

“Though their imperial rolls are exquisite,”  SFist’s Brock Keeling calls 6th & Market’s venerable Tu Lan Vietnamese, “a dank shit hole wrapped in rice paper and wafting piss fumes”.   It’s also one of the great cheap eating experiences in Northern California or anywhere else, but the SOMA fixture’s very existence is threatened this week by the overzealous food-gestapo calling themselves the San Francisco Health Department.  From the San Francisco Chronicle’s Craig Lee :

Health department inspectors found that Tu Lan, the famous and sometimes infamous establishment nestled in the gritty Sixth Street neighborhood south of Market Street, stored food at improper temperatures, didn’t have proper hand-washing stations, was crawling with cockroaches and mice and wasn’t bleaching its cleaning cloths.

Hungry customers calling for $5 lunch takeout Monday instead reached an answering machine message that said the restaurant had closed for a month and asked them to call back after Aug. 20 for an update.

A notice of violation dated Friday was taped to the front of the restaurant and said that Tu Lan’s permit had been suspended due to “serious or repeated” health violations and that the restaurant was closed until further notice.

Health-violation shutdowns are old news at Tu Lan, said Stephanie Cushing, a city health inspector. Tu Lan was shut down for a day or two at a time in January 2011, September 2011, April 2012 and on Friday.

Each time, inspectors found different combinations of the same health violations, including live mice and cockroaches in the cooking areas, standing water in the kitchen, improper refrigeration and unsanitary food handling.

“They had eggs sitting out for three days, four days,” Cushing said. Workers “weren’t washing their hands – they were scratching themselves and handling food.”