viral-food-critic-keith-lee-visits-atlanta,-sparks-debate-around-restaurant-culture

Viral Food Critic Keith Lee Visits Atlanta, Sparks Debate Around Restaurant Culture

Lee’s food reviews have helped some restaurants find success and have caused controversy around others.

ATLANTA — Viral food critic Keith Lee traveled to Atlanta to try some of the city’s most coveted food spots — as well as some smaller businesses that could benefit from exposure on his platform. 

Lee’s critiques come just less than a week after Atlanta celebrated five restaurants earning MICHELIN-rated stars. 

Typically, Lee’s review consists of him anonymously ordering food, eating the food outside of the restaurant to maintain anonymity, giving an authentic review as he eats, and rating the restaurant on a scale of 10.

Almost immediately after getting off his plane to Atlanta, Lee and his family went straight to the Atlanta Breakfast Club — located on Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard for their first taste test. 

Overall, Lee expressed how the restaurant’s food and customer service were acceptable, however, he explained he believed the restaurant’s rules were off-putting. 

Initially, when the group arrived, Lee said there was no space for them to order their food and as a result, they had to order outside. Then, Lee said the waitress informed him that she could not take any orders until their entire group was there. In addition, Lee said the restaurant was unable to accommodate add-ons and also required one order for the entire table. 

This sparked a debate about Atlanta’s restaurant culture in the comments of his review.

One user commented, “The rules alone is a huge turn off. It’s almost like they don’t want to accommodate customers.”

Another user said, “I’m so happy he was honest with this review! It shines light on how WE need to do better in our establishments.”

Lee and his family’s second stop was Atlanta rapper Lil Baby’s establishment, The Seafood Menu Restaurant and Takeout — which opened back in July. 

Unfortunately, the shellfish and seafood are not cooked in separate oils and Lee could not indulge due to his shellfish allergy. 

Instead, Lee allowed his wife and sister to taste-test the food. The pair gave a moderate rating due to seasoning and other nuanced aspects such as the catfish being battered too thick and the lemonades being too tart.

Atlanta’s Juci Jerk Restaurant found itself on Lee’s radar. It became the third stop on the tour after the best friend of the owner, Ashleigh Roberts, messaged the critic via Instagram asking him to visit the restaurant.

“One of my best friends lost her father in a bad car accident recently and he left her his restaurant. She’s now the owner and has been working her a– off to keep the doors open,” the message said. “I heard you’re coming to Atlanta so this would mean absolutely everything to get if you were able to stop by and try the food.”

Lee and his family left a stellar review and were more than pleased with not only the food, saying it was tender and well-seasoned, but also praised the customer service. Juci Jerk was also the first restaurant that allowed Lee to call in his order, he said.

At the end of his review, Lee left Roberts a heartfelt message. 

“I appreciate you. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a parent (but) my heart goes out to you, my prayers go out to you,” Lee said. “I think your father would be proud if you ask me and I hope after this you reach your target audience.” 

Lee’s review seemingly helped Roberts’ business reach more clientele. 

One user commented how she tried to go to Juci Jerk but was unable, “Imma wait a week or so and try again because when I went yesterday??? Let’s just say I couldn’t even get in the door. I’m happy for her! I need those ribs though.”

The purpose of Lee’s reviews are to highlight small restaurants, some of which happen to be Black-owned businesses. But this also means bringing fair awareness to each restaurant’s strengths and weaknesses. 

In the case of Lee’s visit to The Real Milk and Honey on Main Street in College Park, the taste test went awry after Lee claimed the staff at Milk and Honey said they couldn’t service Lee’s family due to a deep cleaning — despite the doors being open and other patrons coming to pick up orders.

Shortly thereafter, Lee said that staff recognized him and attempted to service him but he declined due to how his family was treated. Despite this, Lee still encouraged his audience to give the restaurant grace saying that although he had a bad experience, that doesn’t mean others will. 

@keith_lee125

The Real Milk & Honey taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic

♬ original sound – Keith Lee

“The only reason why I’m making this is to show my authentic and real experiences like I always do,” Lee said. “I don’t mean no harm, I don’t have any malicious intent but I always say I’m going to be 100% honest and that comes with the good and the not so good.”

However, The Real Milk and Honey’s response was not as graceful. 

In a now-deleted video, a man who appears to be the CEO condescendingly claims to not know who Keith Lee is despite his staffer attempting to service him on recognition, sending X, formerly known as Twitter, into an uproar. 

So the Owner of The Real Milk & Honey Made a Response To Keith Lee…

He seriously needs to hire a PR team, because wtf was the purpose of this video? It’s only making matters worse for his business. pic.twitter.com/28ESA9Y71p

— 🍬 K Luxx ™😉 (@_duchessk) October 29, 2023

Fortunately, The Real Milk and Honey was not Lee’s last stop on his restaurant tour.

Lee received an email from the son of the owner of The Dining Experience in Fairburn, asking him to come try their food. On arrival, Lee noticed both the parking lot and restaurant were empty. He was determined to find out why.

Lee found that the food exceeded his standards and the customer service was some of the best he’d experienced in a long time. Lee strongly felt the reason behind the emptiness was a lack of marketing and expressed that he hopes his review will help alleviate that in the future.

@keith_lee125

The Dining Experience taste test 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic

♬ original sound – Keith Lee

“This is the best brunch I’ve had since I’ve been here and it’s not even close in my opinion.”

 At the end of this experience, he tipped $1,000 on the bill and gave another $1,000 to the waiter who served his family.

Since his review, many users on social media say they have seen the parking lot at The Dining Experience busier than ever.

The latest review, posted Saturday evening, consists of Lee enjoying The Bodega on Main Street in College Park, calling it “nostalgic fun.”

Although Keith Lee’s tour around Atlanta has put a spotlight on the flaws in Atlanta’s restaurant culture, his reviews have also resulted in significant visibility and new clientele for small businesses around the city who are trying to make their restaurant dreams a reality.

This is a developing story. Check back for more updates on Keith Lee’s food tour around Atlanta.

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