Atlanta just found out how Keith Lee’s TikTok reviews can make or break a restaurant’s rep.
If you don’t follow TikTok food influencers, or keep up with the Atlanta food scene, chances are you’ve still scrolled past some of the drama that’s unfolded over the last week involving this prominent social media restaurant reviewer. Lee, 27, ventured from Las Vegas to Atlanta last week to head fork first into the local food scene. He documented the endeavor via TikTok to his 14.5 million followers and dropped some stellar reviews, as well as some that exposed the less savory sides of dining — and attempting to dine, to no avail — in Georgia’s capital.
While searching for a place to get some grub, Lee received an email from a fan asking him to come try his mom’s restaurant, the Dining Experience, so Keith stopped in and noticed the place was completely dead compared with other restaurants in the Atlanta area. He tried the food while in his the car, as he often does so he’s not seen by the restaurant staff, and gave the place rave reviews. After he tasted the chicken and waffles, salmon eggrolls and cheesy salmon grits, he joined his family inside and ultimately tipped the staff $1,000. He also slipped his server $1,000 to keep for himself. Days after Lee posted the video, replies flooded the comments section telling the influencer the joint had been packed ever since his visit and the restaurant was now hiring for all positions.
This is the power that a Lee review packs. So when Lee exposed some of Atlanta’s most popular digs for customer service flubs, ridiculously long wait times, arbitrary rules around ordering and misleading information about service hours — the internet had thoughts.
The eatery of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kandi Burruss, Old Lady Gang, took a hit to its reputation when, according to Lee, restaurant staff wouldn’t answer the phone and food was unavailable for takeout via DoorDash. Most problematic, though, they told Lee’s family — who attempted to get service while he waited in the car — there would be a wait of more than an hour, and they could not order take-out. But as soon as Lee walked through the door, the restaurant staff scurried to get them a table, which Lee declined on principle.
Burruss posted a video defending her restaurant. She said that, according to the restaurant’s hostess, a table was suddenly available for Lee because the previous patrons on the wait list were no-shows — besides, she said, it’s OK if the hostess did find a table for the reviewer when other people were told they’d have to wait: “We try to look out for our people who come and support us.”
The TikTok food critic’s most contentious review involved Atlanta’s the Real Milk and Honey. Lee’s review began with him showing he’d left the restaurant empty-handed after he couldn’t place a to-go order, and then when his family went inside they said they’d closed the restaurant for deep cleaning despite other patrons walking in to get food. The restaurant said that they had “rules.” When Lee walked in, they recognized him and tried to assist him, but he “respectfully declined.”
“I’m a normal person,” Lee said in his review. “I pay for my food like everybody else. … We are all normal people. Respectfully, if you’re not gonna do it then, don’t do it now.”
According to Lee, the owners of a different restaurant, called Milk and Honey — not the Real Milk and Honey, which Lee visited in Atlanta — reached out to him and said they’d received death threats in the wake of that negative review.
“I am absolutely, 100% not with that,” Lee stated in another video addressing the situation. “Regardless of my opinion of any restaurant … we don’t do that. Under any circumstances, that’s not OK in my eyes.”
“Bodak Yellow” rapper Cardi B caught wind of all the talk over Lee’s trip to Atlanta and weighed in via a since-expired Instagram live story. “Everybody talking about this guy called Keith, that he does restaurant reviews, and I’m like, who is that? I know that being a restaurant owner is a lot of hard work. And so many people have invested money in their restaurants. [For] people, this is their everything,” she said. “But I always find this eating in Atlanta: It is such an event. You could barely order in Atlanta restaurants. They don’t do no pickup orders, they don’t do deliveries.”
Cardi B said she’d even had to name-drop just to get food from restaurants in Atlanta and, even being famous, “it’s a hassle!”
She did end her video by noting that the food in Atlanta is especially delicious, particularly the chicken wings. “There ain’t no place in the world that make better chicken wings than in f— Atlanta.”