A food influencer on TikTok whom the Chronicle went so far as to call "the internet's most famous food critic" decided to make a trip to the Bay Area despite fans telling him it's a hellhole. He made a show of wanting to give a down-and-out place some attention, but then he had a shitty time here and he's left already.
This story feels too dumb to report, but in an age when people of self-proclaimed authority on TikTok can have Guy Fieri-sized impacts on humble small businesses, it is, maybe, newsworthy.
MMA fighter turned TikTok food critic Keith Lee, 27, who has some very particular taste about fried food and pizza and has been touring the country leaving multiple cities with zero-star-style takedowns, just aborted his trip to the Bay Area after a few days. Lee was hailed as some kind of hero last week when, after being warned about crime and "bipping" in the Bay Area ahead of an announced visit here, he made a point of saying he wanted to come here even more.
"I heard a lot of people call the Bay, ‘Gotham City,’ and the way my mind works, is that’s even more reason for me to come," Lee said.
And, as he has in videos past, he seems to celebrate "mom-and-pop" businesses and hole-in-the-wall finds in un-fancy places.
But fast-forward a few days, and the Las Vegas-based Lee seems to have quickly soured on the Bay Area, contradicting himself a bit by calling out tents that he saw while driving around and "burnt up cars" which he refers to, somewhat over-dramatically, as "shocking to say the least."
In a video posted late Thursday night, Lee announced that he and his family had decided to cut their Bay tour short, and he enumerated several reasons after saying that "The people of the bay were absolutely amazing, and I’ll never forget the hospitality and the love that y’all showed me."
The first reason Lee gives, unfortunately for tourism — or the extent to which tourism may be impacted by TikTok — is, "I actually don't believe the Bay is a place for tourists right now. And that's what I was, a tourist."
Lee goes on to say, "The people in the Bay are just focused on surviving," and then he goes on to talk about tents and "living structures" he saw, but he did not include video of "out of concern for the privacy of people living in that situation."
As for the food, Lee says, "We went to a lot of restaurants, popular restaurants, not popular restaurants, mom-and-pop shops... and this is the first city where I have over six videos that I don't feel comfortable posting because nothing about my experience was constructive and nothing I said was constructive."
It should be noted that Lee has made similar, blanket statements about entire cities that he doesn't seem very familiar with, including his recent scorched-earth tour of Atlanta, and he called New York's pizza scene "underwhelming" last month after visiting three pizza spots.
Lee did manage to post a couple of videos earlier this week, including one, seen below, in which he was eating tacos in his car from Chef Green, a stand in West Oakland. He mentions in the video that both meat and shellfish were being prepared on the same grill, and he is very allergic to shellfish, but they assured him they were cleaning the grill.
But, whether it was at this taco stand or somewhere else, Lee was apparently given some food that gave him an allergic reaction that required him to go to the hospital.
"The second I ate it I blew up like a balloon," Lee said in the later video, noting that the establishment likely hadn't properly cleaned their utensils or grill — and he was quickly saved by a shot of allergy medicine.
One of the only other places that Lee posted videos about were humble Hayes Valley burger place Double Decker — which he went to because someone emailed him about it — which receives the review "I'm not mad at it" but "it's just a basic burger" with "fresh ingredients."
That video has gotten 4.6 million views, just for some perspective.
The other review Lee posted was for Mama T's in Oakland, which was recommended for its fried fish sandwich, and which Lee didn't sound impressed by — he was also annoyed that Mama T kept random hours, and they waited an hour for food because she went on a break.
So, to recap, we know Lee ate two burgers in San Francisco, a fried fish sandwich and some tacos in Oakland, had a shellfish allergy reaction, saw some tents, and gave the Bay Area a blanket, irresponsibly general, middling review that is frankly kind of meaningless. But he hates New York and Atlanta too, so whatever.