You’ve heard of pizza rat, but how about soup rat? A New York City couple claims that they found a rodent in the soup they ordered via a food delivery app. While the restaurant refutes it, the couple has filed a lawsuit, a copy of which was supplied to Eater; the restaurant is exploring its own legal recourse.
Customer Eunice Lucero-Lee said that she and her husband, Jason Lee, have patronized the restaurant in question, Gammeeok, for almost a decade, and over the years have only told friends positive things about it. Then, on March 11, they were surprised to find what they are claiming to be a dead rat in their sogogi gukbap.
“At first my husband thought it was a vegetable, but then we noticed the tail,” she said in an interview, adding that they were already eating through their portions before noticing anything off. Lucero-Lee shares that they placed an order through UberEats for delivery. Eater was provided with what appears to be a copy of a receipt.
The restaurant wrote a statement in the comment section of Lucero-Lee’s Instagram post that it refuted the presence of vermin in the couple’s order (comments were subsequently disabled by Lucero-Lee after the lawsuit was filed):
“Hi. This is Gammeeok. We are sorry for this situation. What is posted on SNS is not the truth. We have been regularly inspected every two weeks by a disinfection company for several years, and there have been no traces of mice. They demanded money and threatened, and since we refused, they are attacking us through social media. Therefore, we plan to take legal action.” In a text message provided to Eater the restaurant added, “When we transferred the soup, we served it four times with a ladle while the staff watched it with their eyes. If there was a mouse that big, there’s no way I wouldn’t [sic] have missed it. There is also a video recording of the recording process. We checked the whole process of making the soup, but we couldn’t find any problems.” As of March 15, a video was posted on the Gammeeok Instagram, but it is unclear whether it matches time stamps related to the alleged incident or what it purports to show. Eater reached out with follow-up questions.
Lucero-Lee alleges that she and her husband vomited and then visited urgent care where they were prescribed doxycycline medication. When Eater inquired with Lucero-Lee’s and her husband’s lawyer about injuries, his response was that “[t]he future litigation will speak for itself. We have no further comment.”
Over the course of March 11 and March 12, the couple claims that the restaurant initially offered the duo a refund as well as $100, which the couple rejected. Lucero-Lee claims that the restaurant offered $5,000, which the couple also rejected. Gammeeok concedes it agreed to pay a $100 coupon to be used at their restaurant, plus a refund “in the spirit of always treating customer complaints and in [sic] keeping a low profile” but denies they agreed to anything more substantial.
An Instagram post from earlier this week that is gaining traction shows what appears to be pictures of the alleged rodent floating in the soup. An exterminator that services restaurants and that Eater shared a photo of the soup with, stated they, though hard to tell, thought it could be a mouse rather than a rat. Lucero-Lee claims they threw out the specimen.
According to an inspection from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene on January 18, 2023, at Gammeeok’s Manhattan location (there is another in New Jersey): “Establishment is not free of harborage or conditions conducive to rodents, insects or other pests,” among several other violations, and received 79 points and, at some point, a C letter grade, per a document supplied to Eater by Lucero-Lee and Lee’s legal team. The restaurant claims that any issues related to that inspection “are now completely fixed” and would’ve been by the time of the order in March. When reached for comment, DOHMH told Eater it was investigating the situation but did not respond with more information regarding the January inspection and the status of inspections at the restaurant at the time of publication.
In a city that’s in the midst of appointing a “rat czar,” rodents in restaurants are not unheard of. However, Lucero-Lee, who is Asian, says the one thing she hopes New Yorkers take away from her story is that she does not want to stoke further anti-Asian bias. On Instagram, she writes that “...We are otherwise supporters of Asian cuisine and culture. This incident is in no way to be used to fuel race-based hate or prejudice.” There are financial losses potentially at stake for Gammeeok as another alleged rat-in-soup incident abroad demonstrated.
Records show a complaint against the restaurant filed on March 13 with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene alleging rodent infestation at the restaurant, and Lucero-Lee and Lee claim to have initiated that complaint. Robert L. Astrachan, a lawyer from Carrion Accident & Injury Attorneys, representing Lucero-Lee and her husband, filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County, against the restaurant on March 15 on the couple’s behalf.
“The public deserves to feel safe when they order food for their families,” Dennis Carrion, another attorney at the law firm, said via email. “The only way to guarantee this is to hold bad actors accountable.”