keith lee effect
Where to eat in Dallas, according to viral food critic Keith Lee
Did you know viral TikTok food critic Keith Lee was in Dallas? If you're online at all, his visit was impossible to miss. He was in DFW all week, eating at local restaurants and spurring headlines, fanfare, and endless social media posts. He came, he ate, he conquered.
In his wake, he left a wave of attention — mostly good, some not as good — for deserving local restaurants.
For the uninitiated, Keith Lee is a social media sensation who visits various food-scene-driven U.S. cities to try food from small, local restaurants. He orders several items online, then a family member will pick up the food to help Lee avoid being recognized (and to prevent being prioritized over other diners).
Dallas is not his first city to visit in the Lone Star State. In November 2023, he and his family toured Houston where his reviews resulted in surges of customer traffic, which has been coined the "Keith Lee Effect" by several restaurants.
One such case is a woman-owned banana pudding shop in Pearland. After posting his review of The Puddery on November 28, which garnered over 26.4 million views and 4.7 million likes, the restaurant had to temporarily limit menu flavors, and pause all shipping and catering services "until further notice" in mid-January.
In the aftermath of his Dallas visit, several restaurants he visited also experienced the Keith Lee Effect, having to close early or enjoying wait times exceeding three hours.
He often seeks out Black-owned restaurants and local businesses, but in Dallas, his efforts were not always met with success. Nearly a dozen restaurants he tried to visit were unfortunately not open at the time of his arrival including Jazzy's Tacos, Cactus Mexican Cuisine, Cake Bar, Key's Chicken Wings & Things, Chef Nate's Wangz n Mo, Gorilla Nutz, Mary's Twisted Kitchen, Niecy Takeout, and Aunt Irene's Kitchen.
The Keith Lee Effect can also have its downside: At least one of the restaurants he visited — the Sweetly Seasoned food truck in Garland — is getting lots of attention, probably unwanted, over a tip he left to staff, and who deserved to get it. (Predictably, there's an explanation from the owner on TikTok, and Lee has also posted his response to the situation.)
Keith Lee had luck at these six restaurants listed below, with the dishes he recommended:
Lee visited this Cajun-Creole brunch spot in Desoto, which is open for pick-up and to-go only.
Recommendations: The catfish and fries platter, and Soul Food Burrito (fried catfish or chicken, mac and cheese, yams, and collard greens wrapped in a jalapeño tortilla).
Lee visited the East Dallas location of this spinoff pizzeria from the Cane Rosso chain.
Recommendations: The buffalo wings and the Connie Detroit-style pizza (double pepperoni cups, bacon, tomato sauce).
Terry Blacks Barbecue
Lee visited the Deep Ellum location of this BBQ concept, which is actually from Austin.
Recommendations: The original sausage, smoked turkey, brisket, and ribs.
Pakistani-TexMex ghost kitchen in Farmers Branch is now prominently featuring Lee's recommendations on their website.
Recommendations: Nihari X birria taco with birria dipping sauce, mango mojito mocktail, paneer tikka taco, and the chipotle kheema taco (declared "the best one" by Lee).
Small family-owned BBQ chain with locations in McKinney and Frisco has earned plenty of press on its own, but Lee seems to favor BBQ.
Recommendations: The Texas Twinkie (a cream cheese-and-brisket-stuffed jalapeño wrapped in bacon), brisket with barbecue sauce, pork ribs, and the peach cobbler.
Absolutely Edible Cakes
Small cake shop in Rowlett was a classic Keith Lee destination.
Recommendations: The Sweet Potato Thang (sweet potato pie with a graham cracker crust) and red velvet cake.
Lee visited this family-run food truck owned by a mother-and-son team.
Recommendations: The pulled pork sandwich, jerk tacos, and banana pudding.