TikTok food influencer Keith Lee abruptly ends Bay Area restaurant tour, shares harsh views

TikTok food influencer cuts Bay Area visit short

OAKLAND -- TikTok star Keith Lee came to the Bay Area and made an early exit. The food reviewer was critical of the state of the Bay Area as well as some of the restaurants.

On the corner of 14th Avenue and East 21st in Oakland sits the Luxe Box, a mom-and-daughter family restaurant that got its start with the two cooking meals out of their home kitchen.

Alysse Williams calls her 16-year-old daughter the backbone of her business. They've worked extremely hard to get to where they are today. Now they've experienced what a Keith Lee review can do to their business.

"Today I didn't even post the menu and all these people are here. It's five o'clock. We're supposed to sell out at seven but we're done," Williams said.

Lee didn't have many good things to say about some of the restaurants he tried in the Bay Area but he called the Luxe Box the highlight of his trip and left a $2.500 tip.

"They had jerk lamb, yams, macaroni, cornbread," Williams reported.

While she's not complaining about the positive review, she was a bit concerned. She worried she didn't have enough inventory and staff to handle the extra business Lee's review brought in.

"He came to mom-and-pop small businesses. We're all making mistakes. His exposure was supposed to bring us business so we have to learn from our mistakes. It's hard to learn how to run a business properly and handle large volumes from the customers if we don't have the practice," Williams added.

Lee highlighted some of the issues plaguing the Bay Area, calling the number of homeless encampments shocking.

"I was glad he brought awareness to it so it can grab the attention of people that can actually help us," Williams said.

One Luxe Box loyal customer agreed. Ken Davis was raised in Oakland and wants city leaders to take action.

"It's not safe like it used to be. It's so bad that now pretty soon you're going to have to, like, have a big gun. Protect your family and your home. It's just like that," Davis said.

Davis remembers a time when Oakland was a destination for tourists.

"The best tourist spot. The best entertainment. The best music. Everything. Now it's like Beirut. Gotta fight to live," he said.

Alysse Williams thinks Lee's visit to the Bay Area was a good test for local restaurants. She is always working to get better and hopes to one day expand into a franchise. She has been astonished by the response to Lee's review.

"I'm an introverted person so I tend to mind my own business so it's a lot. A lot of attention and a lot of people DM-ing me. Overwhelming but I'm grateful for the exposure." 

Williams is also grateful for Lee's generous tip. The family will be taking its first vacation in three years to Hawaii.

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