What do you get when you combine one of the most beloved food reviewers on TikTok, Keith Lee, with a burgeoning restaurant scene that is famous for its fresh takes on southern food made by talented young chefs? Chaos apparently. Things got a little wild after Keith Lee rolled through ATL, Georgia, and had a less-than-stellar experience at a number of restaurants. Lee has made a career out of reviewing food spots primarily in Las Vegas, where he’s based, but since he continues to grow a following (currently he has nearly 15 million followers on TikTok) he’s started to branch out to other cities including New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, and New York.
Generally, Keith Lee coming to your city is good for business — once Lee runs through and highlights a restaurant, his fans follow, resulting in an explosion of business. But after a few negative experiences at Atlanta hotspots like the Atlanta Breakfast Club and The Real Milk and Honey, the city of Atlanta, Lee’s fans, Lee himself, and random people across the internet are up in arms about Atlanta’s dining culture.
Here is what happened.
What Happened When Keith Lee Visited Atlanta?
As is typical of Lee, he talked about each establishment he visited exuding good vibes — even when he wasn’t a fan of the customer service. Lee’s journey through Atlanta began at the Atlanta Breakfast Club, where the reviewer was first introduced to the “unique” rules of the Atlanta dining scene.
Atlanta Breakfast Club taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic
“The customer service was interesting,” begins Lee, “while the people were nice the rules that they had set were very unique to me.” Those rules included needing the entire party to be sitting (two people from Lee’s party had stepped out) before any orders could be placed, including receiving water, and only one single order for the whole table could be placed at one time, meaning if the party decided at a later time to add anything additional it literally couldn’t be done.
Lee was also charged $1 for butter, which got many in the comments talking.
“I understand that those are their rules. Unique to me, but it is what it is,” says Lee.
For the most part, Lee’s review of the Atlanta Breakfast Club leans positive and at that point, he seemed genuinely excited to explore what else Atlanta had to offer. By the time Lee had visited another Atlanta hotspot, The Real Milk & Honey, the real drama started to develop.
The Real Milk & Honey taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic
To keep himself anonymous, Lee sometimes sends his family to a restaurant to pick up an order for him, but at The Real Milk & Honey, his family was turned away at the door by the restaurant citing “deep cleaning” as a reason for closing early, despite several diners still being inside and picking up food.
After Lee himself walked in, The Real Milk & Honey recognized him and offered to feed him and his family, to which Lee “respectfully declined.”
“I’m a normal person. I pay for my food like everybody else, I walk in spots like everybody else. We are all normal people. Respectfully if you not going to do it then, don’t do it now, god bless you,” says Lee in his review.
As you might imagine, this led to a flood of negative reviews on The Real Milk & Honey’s Yelp page, presumably from Lee fans who took it upon themselves to criticize the restaurant they had never been to. To be fair, this wasn’t Lee’s intention, and in the video itself, he states:
I am going to make this very clear… I do no support, condone, or agree with tearing down these businesses. While we personally may not have the best customer service experience, that does not mean you will have the same experience. That also does not mean go on Twitter and tear these businesses down… The only reason I’m even making this is to share my authentic and real experience like I always do, I don’t mean no harm, I don’t have no malicious intent, but I always say I’m going to be 100% honest and that comes with the good and the not so good.
Later, Lee attempted to eat at Kandi Burruss’ Old Lady Gang restaurant.
Old Lady Gang taste test 💕 would you try it 💕 #foodcritic
Again, Lee sent his family in to order food only for them to be told the wait time would be over an hour. A few minutes later when Lee entered the restaurant, he was greeted and told they could sit him in five minutes. Once again, Lee respectfully declined. This once again led to a flood of negative reviews.
Eventually, all this negativity came back around to Lee and his family, who began receiving death threats in response to the bad press some of these Atlanta restaurants were receiving, with some accusing Lee of trying to tear down businesses. This led to a response video from Lee:
“Me and my family will postpone touring in other cities if it’s going to be like this. Every review not going to be the best, I’m going to be 100% honest. If you want me to come, please understand I will be honest,” says Lee, noting that the positive experiences he had in Atlanta were greatly overshadowed by all the negativity.
One of the voices accusing Lee of bringing negativity to Atlanta came from former wide receiver Chad Johnson, aka Chad OchoCinco, on his popular sports podcast “Nightcap with Unc & Ocho.”
In a debate over Lee’s visit with Shannon Sharpe, Ocho remarked “I don’t like the fact of what he’s doing… you know how hard it is for us to even get in the food industry and to have our own restaurants? … It’s hard enough for us as it is.” And remarked that he himself had never experienced bad service in Atlanta.
This led to a detailed response video from Lee, where the reviewer defended his brand.
“You said I should only give positive reviews. The reason I don’t believe that will work is because it would be inauthentic… If I was to be inauthentic and you waited in a three-hour wait time and you got to the front and the food was trash, who were you gonna be mad at?” Concluding with “This is my last time speaking on anything that has to do with Atlanta. I want to get back to the fun, get back to eating, get back to touring, get back to going to good restaurants.”
What This Means For The Atlanta Dining Scene
Lee’s experience had many people pointing to the faults of the Atlanta food scene. From regular diners:
I think the fact that his tour didn’t get this negative until he visited Atlanta should tell us everything we need to know about that place. https://t.co/0rbUnTL9FX
— Scottie🥇 (@Issa_Scottie) November 1, 2023
Keith Lee has been peacefully doing his reviews this whole time, but left Atlanta with death threats.🙃 This city is becoming harder and harder to defend 😭
— Zaynah Bear 🇹🇹 (@zaynahbear) November 1, 2023
To celebrities like Cardi B, who took to her Instagram Live to talk about the event:
“I feel like Atlanta restaurants, they don’t like to make money… I feel bad for Atlanta residents. Thank you, Jesus, I’m famous, but even me being famous, it’s like a hassle.”
Still, Lee’s presence in Atlanta has some restaurants rethinking the way they do business, with The Real Milk & Honey posting an update to their rules on their personal Instagram account.
While it seems like Lee’s presence in Atlanta was unfortunately negative for everyone involved, it’ll be interesting to see if things in the Atlanta dining scene change.