Photo: left Keith Lee / TikTok, right Keith Lee / TikTok

Keith Lee Ranks 8 Food Cities From His 2023 Food Tour. New York's Place May Surprise You

Restaurants + Bars Food + Drink
by Matador Creators Jan 5, 2024

Keith Lee, TikTok-famous food critic and former MMA fighter with more than 15 million followers, did a lot of traveling and a lot of eating in 2023. Like many, he looked back on the year just before the calendars turned and ranked each city on his recent eight-city food tour with his family. Some of his positions on famous food cities surprised his many followers, and led to plenty of heated comments about where certain cities landed.

@keith_lee125 Ranking Our Food Stops Of 2023 💕 would you try it ? 💕 #foodcritic ♬ original sound – Keith Lee

Keith Lee’s food cities in 2023, ranked

  1. New Orleans
  2. Houston
  3. Chicago
  4. Las Vegas
  5. Los Angeles
  6. Detroit
  7. New York
  8. Atlanta

Lee’s influence on individual businesses is well documented — in early 2023, one of his videos was created for saving a pizzeria in Las Vegas (where he’s lives). He has said his goal with his large platform is to highlight quality establishments that don’t have the bandwidth to invest in marketing. He orders the food anonymously (often to-go) and typically does his honest reviews while eating in his car outside of the restaurant.

For the eight-city “Keith Lee and Family Food Tour,” he researched where he ate carefully along with taking recommendations from commenters, restauranteurs, and chefs.

Placing New Orleans at the top likely doesn’t come as a surprise for anyone who travels for food first and foremost. New Orleans is famous for its restaurants, with many chef-led establishments drawing praise for the melting pot of cuisines and flavors found in the city. Lee evaluates the places he goes on the full experience from the food to the service. It was the service that really put New Orleans on top for Lee, who says in the video that he “felt like family” everywhere he went.

Service helped New Orleans restaurants rise above, and it also led Atlanta to dropping to last place. In his experience, it was “hard to get food” at Atlanta restaurants like The Atlanta Breakfast Club, The Seafood Menu, Juci Jerk, The Real Milk and Honey, The Dining Experience Atlanta, The Bodega, Jamaican Jerk Biz, Old Lady Gang and Toast on Lenox. He says would wouldn’t have been able to eat anything if people hadn’t recognized who he is, but when he did eat, it was delicious. A big part of why Atlanta fell so far likely comes in part down to Lee’s preference for to-go orders. The waits for a table at the places he cited as hard to get food were hours-long and take-out options limited or non existent.

One big surprise on Lee’s list? New York City coming in second-to-last. His reasoning shows the limitations of eating in a city one isn’t fully familiar with through first-hand experience or research on what to order and where to go. He mentions in the video that he doesn’t think he got the “New York experience.” A salmon chopped cheese that a follower suggested he try was the killer for Lee’s evaluation of one of the most famous dining cities in the world. Salmon, as chopped cheese fans know, is far from a typical ingredient in the sandwich — one commenter noted, “As a New Yorker I’ve never heard of that a day in my life.”

Lee emphasizes at the start of his video that his ranking and opinions are his alone and don’t necessarily reflect what every person’s experience would be. Still, judging by the huge response, it’s clear people are listening, watching, and following his advice.

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