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Seriously, How Much Longer Is Keith Lee Going to Be Reviewing DFW Food?

His latest, for CeeZoos Dallas, got one of his lowest ratings ever

Over the weekend, TikTok food critic Keith Lee ate at Terry Black’s Barbecue and Thunderbird Pies.
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Courtney E. Smith is the editor of Eater Dallas. She's a journalist of 20 years who was born and raised in Texas, with bylines in Pitchfork, Wired, Esquire, Yahoo!, Salon, Refinery29, and more. When she's not writing about food, she co-hosts the podcast Songs My Ex Ruined.

Keith Lee is making his way through the DFW dining scene and he finally found some spots he liked. All he had to do was leave Dallas.

Late in the evening of Tuesday, February 7, Lee dropped a partner video sponsored by DoorDash for a restaurant that is apparently not currently on DoorDash. Wait, it gets better (and by better, we mean worse). The family-owned South Dallas restaurant, CeeZoos, reached out to solicit a review from Lee, promising the best brunch in the city.

After noting he spend just shy of $75 on food and that the restaurant was selected because it’s not well known to locals, Lee notes that the customer service was good and the restaurant was pretty empty during brunch when he went. He also says that the crowd there were older, and he felt his family “stuck out like a sore thumb.”

After the video failed to record, Lee shared he order chicken and waffles with chicken that was good but clumped with syrup on some of the coating which he did not like. Overall he liked the dish. The rest of the meal didn’t fare so well. The lamb chops were pronounced overcooked and lacking in flavor (editor’s note: I have never seen anyone order lamp chops to go and eat them in a car before). The cheesy rice was not to his taste, although he noted he wasn’t even sure which dish it accompanied. The salmon breakfast patties with grits were determined to be “too fishy” and “just grits,” respectively and garnered a 1 out of 10.

@keith_lee125

#doordashpartner CeeZoos Bar & Lounge taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

At this point, Lee’s videos from Dallas have become sporadic and have an element of sponcon. So, how much longer is this going to go on?

On Saturday, February 3, Lee shared a video review of Brunchaholics in DeSoto. Brunch is one of the top most beloved meals (and contact sports) in town, and was on the top of our list of must-try Dallas experiences. Brunchaholics is a soul food place with Cajun and Creole influences, and was on Lee’s list of places he attempted to go the previous weekend that were closed on a Sunday.

After enough tags, Lee and his family made it back on Wednesday, January 31 — and Lee noted the restaurant was empty when they went by. They spent $60.15. They ordered catfish and fries platter, chicken soul food burrito, catfish soul food burrito — all of which rated over an 8, and the catfish soul food burrito got a 9.

Lee noted that everything was as it should be in the restaurant, no real problems with marketing or the food, so he doesn’t know why it’s slow. He left a $2,000 tip and $1,500 to pay for people’s orders.

@keith_lee125

#stitch with @brunchaholics_ Brunchaholics taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

On Friday, February 2, Lee posted about the Taste Community Restaurant in Fort Worth. Breaking with his reviews, this was more of a PSA — Lee was raising awareness about its mission to feed people on a “pay what you can” model, as a method of combating food insecurity. This nonprofit was started in 2012 by Jeff Williams as an alternative to the soup kitchen model of feeding folks in need.

Lee and his family left a $4,000 donation but did not eat, because the restaurant was already packed, he said, when they went in and they didn’t want to take the “spotlight or shine off the food or mission.” That said, the restaurant is open to anyone and if you eat there and have enough, you are welcome to pay more than the cost of the meal.

@keith_lee125

Taste Project taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

Late night on Wednesday, January 31, Lee dropped a review of Sweetly Seasoned, a family run food truck that tagged Lee. The food, which seems like a mix of street foods from various cultures (as Lee notes, there’s no menu online) got high marks from Lee and his wife, Ronnie. But let’s smash cut to what happened next.

As he is want to do, Lee left a $4000 tip and told the food truck owner that a thousand should go to the woman doing braids there and a thousand to the barber, with the rest to go to her. Additionally, he left money to pay for orders for the 300 or so customers. Lee’s TikTok is flooded with comments that Sweetly Seasoned chef and owner, Kim Viverette, kept all the money for herself.

@keith_lee125

#stitch with @Ignoranttrey Sweetly Seasoned taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

An Instagram account called Texxposed TV posted a video from a woman, with a photo with Lee and his wife from that day, who asserts she was working at the food truck and that Viverette told her to begin charging for food again after three customers.

Eater Dallas reached out to Viverette for comment.

Lee spoke out about the incident in a TikTok post on Saturday, February 3. “We were all under the impression they were a team, and this was the normal routine for them,” Lee says of the braider and barber being on-site with the catering truck. “This our first time here [sic], we are customers. We have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes.”

Lee went on to explain that he gave money to the barber and braider specifically so they could do hair for free, and that he saw it as marketing for the food truck. He adds that he didn’t pay them individually because, for the safety of his family, he never carries cash. And he didn’t think it was safe for anyone to say their personal information out loud to be paid via Zelle or an app like Venmo, because of all the people streaming live from the location.

“Besides [sic] marketing, personal issues also contribute to this food truck being slow, in my opinion,” Lee wrote in a caption on the video. That’s putting it lightly.

Lee also notes that the son of the food truck owner is “misconstruing something I said, and I don’t appreciate it.” He clarified that when he said they could divvy the money out however they saw fit, he was referring to the method of distribution and not the amounts.

Guess his intentions are crystal clear now.

Late on Tuesday night, January 30, Lee added a review of Absolutely Edible Cakes & Catering in Rowlett, owned by Nikita “Nikki” Jackson, and it sounds like desserts are the king of Texas. Jackson made videos asking Lee to visit her shop that he stitched on TikTok into his review — she even made a t-shirt with her request and promised to bug him until she hugs him. Well, that hug happened because Lee and his family loved her desserts.

They ordered a personal sized Sweet Potato Thang (a sweet potato pie on a graham cracker crust) and a personal size red velvet cake. Personal size don’t appear to be an order option on the website, so we have some questions — but all told, Lee said they spent $13 on the food. Typically, these cost $45 and $65 for pickup, respectively.

Despite not loving sweets, Lee gave the Sweet Potato Thing a “9 point something.” The red velvet cake also got high marks, though he noted it was a bit too sweet for him and the icing to cake ratio was not ideal. Before leaving, the family went in to speak with Jackson and Lee said they stayed for four hours. Jackson shared that her shop has been open for 22 years, but that the community often forgets about her shop after so long. Lee asked how many sales she had that day, and she said one. He decided to leave a $4,000 tip and paid for the first 100 Sweet Potato Thang slices that the next customers wanted to order.

@keith_lee125

Absolutely Edible Cakes taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

On Monday, January 29, Lee shared a review of Halal Fusionz in Farmer’s Branch. This spot is owned by Ahmed Siyaji, who says it is his way of carrying on the legacy of his adoptive mother, Noorjehan Killedar. It serves food that is a fusion of Pakistani and Tex-Mex. Lee discoverd it through an email from the owner. Reviews of places like this are what Lee is known for — its a spot on no food critic’s list to try, although based on the look of it from his video, it’s not that different than a Cris and John’s. So, truly a small spot with no marketing that needs a hand. Lee notes this is a ghost kitchen restaurant, which is probably why it’s not on the top of diners lists but is perfect for a car taste test.

For a bag of food, Lee spent $18 which already sounds like a deal. He ordered a nahiri x birria taco, a chipotle kheema taco, a paneer tikka taco, paneer tikka masala chili elote, and a side of consomme. The nahiri birria taco is served in grilled naan and after a dip into the consomme, Lee gave it a thumbs up and the sauce elicited a “goddam” for spiciness. A mysterious drink that, based on his description, sounds like the mango mojito mocktail, also met with his approval. The paneer tikka taco with taziki sauce got high marks for it’s cheesiness and use of spices. Lee also put taziki on the chipotle kheema taco and after one bite declared it “the best one.” He noted that the elote needed mayo, lime, or something to cut the spice.

Lee noted that they went in to speak with Siyaji after and gave him triple the money he was giving away in a sweepstakes that anyone can win by leaving a review — the pot is at $1500 now. Lee also tipped him $1000.

@keith_lee125

Halal Fusionz taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

And finally Dallas voted for a place that didn’t let us down. Lee also posted a review of Hutchins Barbecue — he went to the McKinney location. His video notes this was in the popular category, voted on by folks in his Instagram stories. Hitting on all cylinders, Lee order its Texas Twinkie and, thank god, loved it.

He also got ribs, brisket, sausage, potato salad, and peach cobbler. It was overwhelmingly a rave from him, except the sausage (mid) potato salad (pass). Yes, even the cobbler — which is notable because Lee is notoriously not into sweets. He gave it a 9 and said only one other dessert has gotten that high of a rating.

At the beginning of that video, Lee read off a list of mom and pop places he tried to go to on Sunday and Monday that were closed. That’s so typical here that we have a whole map dedicated to restaurants open on Mondays — welcome to Dallas.

@keith_lee125

Hutchins Bbq taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

Over the weekend, he shared a review of Thunderbird Pies in Lakewood, which opened in 2021. It is owned by Jay Jerrier, the founder of Cane Rosso and Zoli’s Pizza. While Thunderbird is a one-off, Cane Rosso and Zoli’s have ten locations in DFW between them. Lee seems to have picked it based on its “lack of marketing,” one of the three restaurant categories he’s defined in Dallas, based on its low TikTok follower count. But his team didn’t do their research. Jerrier has employed PR firms for his restaurants. Thunderbird was named one of the best new Texas restaurants in 2022 by Texas Monthly and has regularly been on lists of the best food and best pizza in Dallas, including Eater Dallas’s 38 Essentials and pizza maps. It raises the question: do people in Dallas who nominated the restaurants know who makes their food?

That said, Jeff Amador, chief marketing officer behind the pizza concepts under Jerrier (how mom and pop is that?), told the Dallas Morning News in September 2023 that Thunderbird had begun testing a carryout and catering burger program called Side Hustle out of the restaurant after suffering from a significant drop in sales over the summer due to the exceptionally hot weather. And those same challenges will reappear if we’re facing another summer like that.

As for Lee’s review, he was not a fan. His family rated the customer service as fine but unremarkable. At the same time, Lee noted that ordering online was easy — which tracks consider the concept was born during the pandemic as a test item and is meant to be served as a takeout menu. Lee got the Little Bastards (fried Brussels sprouts with the famous honey bastard bacon marmalade, sweety drop peppers, and balsamic), Kale B.S. (kale and Brussels sprout salad), Buffalo wings with banana pepper ranch, the Connie (double pepperoni pizza), the Budd (cheese pizza), and its pizza of the month the GOAT (pepperoni, hot soppressata, pesto, goat cheese, and Wisconsin brick cheddar). He didn’t like fried Brussels sprouts and suggested the restaurant sear them instead, which sounds like a personal preference. He would have preferred the wings to be served with plain ranch, and despite giving them a 7 out of 10, he said the wings were “just a pizza shop wing.” He didn’t feel there was enough pesto sauce on the GOAT and didn’t enjoy the red sauce on the Connie or the Budd, saying it had an overwhelming amount of onion. Overall he didn’t like the crust, calling it “a little bouncy,” and overall found the pizzas under sauced. Lee declared the crispy Parmesan crust the best part of the pizza. And he didn’t end up eating the Kale B.S. on camera because someone forgot to give him utensils.

@keith_lee125

Thunderbird Pizza taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

He added a written note that he believes the lack of marketing and food is why this isn’t a well-known spot. That is inaccurate on the marketing side and a matter of opinion on the food side — but seriously, why are we sending Keith Lee to eat Detroit-style pizza in Dallas?

Lee also shared a review of Terry Black’s Barbecue in Deep Ellum, noting that over 10,000 people voted in a poll on his Instagram stories that he should eat there, so it landed in the places he’s trying by popular demand category. It’s a distinctly non-Dallas recommendation because Terry Black’s is an Austin-based spot with roots in Lockhart that serves Central-Texas-style barbecue. That said, it is family-owned.

Lee ordered online and had to wait an hour to get his food, and that to-go orders have a minimum of $75 — something he called crazy, and we call distinctly Dallas. Looks like Lee is getting a glimpse of our bougie side, which is quite a significant part of Dallas’s dining scene. He ordered mac and cheese, cornbread, a meat platter with sausage, jalapeno cheddar sausage, turkey, brisket, and a side of sauces, and he went back to order a slab of ribs for $100. This spot also failed to include utensils in his order, and his family went back inside to get them.

He spit out the jalapeno cheddar sausage, saying he wasn’t the target audience for it — okay, and that the cheddar was pungent and the meat was greasy. The turkey got raves, as did the brisket and the ribs, the latter of which were proclaimed delicious, although not the best ribs he’s ever had. The mac and cheese and cornbread got the thumbs down for being a “saucy noodle” and “dry.” And the barbecue sauce was not to his taste. He did not elaborate on why.

@keith_lee125

Terry Blacks Bbq taste test would you try it ? #foodcritic

♬ original sound - Keith Lee

“Personally, I think Dallas got a lot more to offer when it comes to barbecue,” Lee says at the end of the video. “And I’m looking forward to it.”

Update: Monday, February 5, 2024 at 8:45 a.m.: This story has been updated to include new reviews from Lee. It also replaces mentions of Lee’s daughter with his wife, and is updated to reflect that Lee went to the McKinney location of Hutchins Barbecue.

Thunderbird Pies

7328 Gaston Avenue, , TX 75214 (469) 577-1077 Visit Website