OAKLAND, Calif. - Acclaimed TikTok food critic Keith Lee abruptly ended the Bay Area leg of his national tour and said that visiting the region didn't live up to the hype.
Lee had been in the Bay Area for several days as part of his Keith Lee and Family Food Tour, making stops at various eateries, including Luxurious Cuisine, Mama T's, and Chef Green in Oakland as well as Double Decker in San Francisco.
Lee announced the sudden end of his time in the Bay Area on — where else? — social media. Despite feeling embraced by people in the region, he was compelled to conclude his trip prematurely for several reasons, citing rampant homelessness and an underwhelming dining scene as factors that made him hit the road.
"I truly want to say from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate every single bit of love. The people of the Bay were absolutely amazing, and I'll never forget the hospitality and the loved that ya'll showed me," the restaurant critic said in a recorded video.
But he said the area is not good for visitors these days, saying that he was disturbed by the sight of the homelessness epidemic. On top of that, he said that the Bay Area's food scene did not meet his expectations.
"I truly don't believe the Bay is for tourists right now," he explained. "The people in the Bay are just focused on surviving, that business owners, the locals. The amount of tents and living structures and burned-up cars that we saw people living in was shocking, to say the least."
Prior warnings about crime and car break-ins in the Bay Area, also known regionally as "bipping," didn't deter the Detroit native from his visit. However, he got a firsthand look at both the beauty and the struggles of life in the Bay Area.
"As an outsider, I wish the city would step in. I don't know if they have. I don't know if they've been trying, but just from an outsider looking in, it don't look like there was much city interference," he said, without specifying the city he was referring to.
Beyond that, Lee admitted he wasn't overly impressed by the food he sampled.
"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," Lee said. He chose not to post the critiques because he didn't want his opinions to tear down any businesses. "I want to stress that it is not normal for us to go to restaurants, not like it and not post it. Any other time we ran into this situation, I've always had some kind of constructive thing to say. This is just different."
The tipping point for Lee was a visit to the hospital for an allergic reaction to shellfish from one of the meals he had. He said the unnamed restaurant serves a variety of meats, including shellfish, that are all prepared on the same grill. Despite assurances that the grill would be cleaned, he still had an allergic reaction.
"The second I ate it, I blew up like a balloon," he shared.
Despite the challenges encountered during his short visit, Lee highlighted that his arrival brought positive attention to some small restaurant owners.