Keith Lee’s TikTok food reviews exposed Atlanta’s odd dining rules

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Keith Lee, a well-liked meals critic on TikTok, lately visited a number of Black-owned eating places in Atlanta and — as traditional — shared what he referred to as his “good and not-so-good” experiences. The response from viewers, nonetheless, set town’s meals scene ablaze, prompting Black diners to debate their grievances in regards to the hurdles of making an attempt to eat within the ATL, public responses from the eating places Lee visited, and a few alternative phrases from Cardi B.

Lee, recognized for his mild-mannered supply in his video critiques, shortly expanded his platform on TikTok late final yr, after his optimistic critiques of struggling Las Vegas-area eating places went viral. Now he has greater than 14 million followers, and his affect — which might ship droves of shoppers to a small enterprise with the publish of a TikTok — has been coined the “Keith Lee Impact,” or being “Keith Lee’d.”

In Atlanta final month for a sequence of style checks together with his household, Lee stated he went to eating places that invited him to overview their meals or that locals in Atlanta repeatedly really useful. His expertise echoed the unsavory facets of Atlanta eating tradition, equivalent to gown codes, that residents and guests have stated they’ve despised for years and that solely well-known figures may be capable to bypass. Diners have lengthy complained that among the space’s Black restaurant house owners are extra involved with chasing “clout from distinguished names than offering one of the best eating expertise for all.

“Right here’s why it’s laborious to get [Lee] to overview your meals good,” content material creator Kevin “KevOnStage” Fredericks stated in a video on X, previously Twitter, referencing Lee’s tactic of utilizing members of the family to order meals or request a desk to keep away from particular remedy. “As a way to deal with him properly,” he stated, “you would need to deal with each buyer properly, and properly that’s simply going to take an excessive amount of doggone time.”

Lee’s first cease after touchdown within the Massive Peach was Atlanta Breakfast Membership, the place he described the service as “fascinating.” “Whereas the folks have been good,” he stated, “the foundations they’d set have been very distinctive to me.”

He and his household have been advised they’d must order and wait outdoors in the event that they have been going to get takeout as they’d deliberate. After they selected to dine in as an alternative, Lee stated, the waiter advised them their whole social gathering needed to be seated to be served something, even water — and the group was solely allowed to order as soon as.

Whereas Lee gave middle-of-the-road scores for the French toast, breakfast bowl, biscuit and salmon croquettes he tried, he was shocked to listen to from a member of the family that the restaurant prices $1 for butter. “The butter a greenback? At a breakfast place?” Lee stated earlier than evident into the digital camera.

The most important social media uproar started after Lee left the Actual Milk & Honey empty-handed, regardless of him pleading with viewers to not ship unfavorable feedback to the restaurant. When he referred to as to position a to-go order, he stated, he was greeted by a message machine that stated the restaurant accepts to-go orders solely by DoorDash. On DoorDash, the restaurant was listed as closed to orders at 4 p.m. — one hour earlier than the restaurant’s marketed closing time. When Lee’s household determined to stroll in with out him, they have been advised it was closing early for a deep cleansing. When Lee later walked in himself, the workers acknowledged him and supplied him a desk, however he declined.

“Often when celebrities are available in, they need to be handled like that,” he later defined in a TikTok publish. “I’m not a celeb. I’m a traditional individual. … I’m simply not the target market for that sort of remedy.”

The Actual Milk & Honey’s preliminary response to Lee’s video — a skit wherein restaurant workers pretended to not know who Lee was and disregarded his critique — drew huge backlash.

In a Tuesday assertion posted to its social media, the restaurant wrote: “As we speak, we lengthen our apologies to all as we tackle a latest incident that highlighted a overview from a excessive profile meals blogger. By no means have been we making an attempt to discredit anybody, if the feedback got here throughout as such, kindly settle for our apologies. It’s essential to all the time take suggestions and make enhancements for the success of our enterprise, and our group. We’ve taken time to mirror on the incident and have began inner corrective actions with our crew relating to communication kinds.”

The restaurant amended its home guidelines, which have been circulated on-line amid the widespread criticism. The Actual Milk & Honey lifted its ban on events of 5 or extra, but it surely nonetheless doesn’t take reservations, has no ready space and doesn’t enable customizations when ordering. Milk and Honey Brunch Eating places, additionally in Atlanta, clarified that it isn’t affiliated with the Actual Milk & Honey after the restaurant stated managers and staffers acquired threats.

At Previous Girl Gang, a restaurant owned by singer and reality-TV star Kandi Burruss, Lee encountered comparable points. The restaurant doesn’t take to-go orders or reservations on weekends, so Lee’s members of the family have been advised they’d be ready for as much as an hour and a half for seats. Moments later, Lee walked in and was supplied a five-minute look forward to a desk after the hostess stated these on the wait listing forward of him didn’t decide up when she referred to as. He advised Previous Girl Gang he would eat elsewhere.

Burruss addressed Lee’s go to in an Instagram video: “I do admire Keith Lee for stopping by our restaurant and making an attempt to indicate us love. It is rather unlucky that we couldn’t serve him and his household. We might have cherished to, okay?” she stated. “However he’s proper: We don’t take to-go orders on the weekends. … We don’t need to overwhelm our kitchen.”

She additionally defended the hostess who supplied Lee a a lot shorter wait time, saying the restaurant tries to look out for its supporters.

Criticism of Atlanta’s restaurant scene shortly unfold from Lee’s remark part to throughout X, TikTok and Instagram.

“They create all of those home guidelines in an effort to really feel unique and bourgeoisie,” stated Atlanta TikToker Voodoo Bae. “They upsell and overprice all the things in an effort to really feel costly. Nonetheless, very often, the meals and the service don’t match the worth.”

Cardi B stated in an Instagram Reside that she feels dangerous for Atlanta residents due to the effort and restrictions at among the metropolis’s eating places, together with a scarcity of pickup or supply choices, unpredictable hours — in the event that they’re open in any respect on a given day — and lengthy wait instances.

“I really feel like Atlanta eating places — they don’t wish to make cash. They don’t like folks. They don’t like they prospects,” she stated. “They deal with you want they was doing you a favor.”

The rapper stated she’s advised folks choosing up her meals to name-drop her to get higher service.

A number of smaller Atlanta companies that locals love, equivalent to Juci Jerk, the Eating Expertise and the Bodega, received Lee over throughout his visits, regardless of not figuring out beforehand they have been serving the household of a well-liked meals TikToker. After Lee praised the eating places’ customer support and jerk hen, Rasta pasta and nachos in his movies, they proudly confirmed off their “Keith Lee Accredited” statuses and elevated enterprise in social media posts.

Lee was so impressed by Jamaican Jerk Biz, which stayed open late for his household, he matched the enterprise’s gross sales for the day, tipping almost $3,000. “You stayed late, and also you had no thought it was us,” he stated in his video. “I admire you.”

Jamaican Jerk Biz’s proprietor, who burst into tears when Lee walked by the door, stated on social media that she was full of hope after his go to: “His Presence Alone Has Modified Me & I Will For Ever Be Grateful .. His Type Phrases Of Encouragement Was So Wanted .. I Will Proceed To Dream & Dream Massive.”

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