Wagswoofs – A salmon-chopped cheese. “dry” bacon, egg, and cheese. Pizza from a tourist joints in Manhattan.
The beginning of Keith Lee’s New York City tour was anything but smooth, causing a lot of frustration among the locals.
In his first video uploaded from the city, Lee expressed his excitement as he and his family arrived in New York. He shared that he received a direct message (DM) that caught his attention. With a following of 15.4 million on TikTok, Lee had plans to explore and review various eateries during his visit.
A visit from Lee has the power to alter the course of small businesses that are showcased on his account. With a devoted following, the 27-year-old ex-MMA fighter attracts crowds to the restaurants he reviews, a phenomenon now known as the “Keith Lee effect.”
The everyman food critic based in Las Vegas usually opts for takeout from restaurants. He records himself eating in his car and provides reviews on a 10-point scale. He is adamant about paying for the food himself and requests his family members to pick it up to avoid any preferential treatment.
In the video, Lee was encouraged to try the “2 Smoove” at Taste Budz Deli in Queens through a direct message screenshot. The message claimed it was the best salmon chopped cheese ever tasted. Lee decided to give it a try and ordered this unique twist on the classic New York City bodega sandwich.
After giving the salmon sandwich a try, Lee shared his thoughts in a video review. He found the flavor to be a bit salty, but overall enjoyable. According to Lee, the sandwich tasted exactly like seasoned salmon, complemented by a variety of sauces, tomatoes, and lettuce. Though he wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it, Lee gave the sandwich a respectable rating of 7.5 out of 10.
Afterwards, he decided to give the regular chopped cheese from Taste Budz a try and gave it a solid rating of 8 out of 10. However, when he tasted the bacon, egg, and cheese, he found it to be dry and stale, giving it a disappointing score of 4 out of 10.
It was definitely a great surprise and that we were the first stop in his New York City tour. Alex Riley, one of the owners of Taste Budz Deli
The video, which has garnered approximately 4.3 million views and over 420,000 likes, sparked outrage among New Yorkers on TikTok who were appalled by the concept of a salmon chopped cheese. Traditionally, this sandwich consists of ground beef, but alternative options have gained popularity in recent times.
User @hoodieraven expressed their surprise and frustration by exclaiming, “And what is a SALMON CHOPPED CHEESE?!! We are being sabotaged.”
Videos of New York TikTokers addressing Lee’s visit to the bodega quickly gained viral popularity.
A TikToker, going by the handle @_thecomedian, exclaims into his camera, “Who suggested that Keith Lee try a salmon chopped cheese? When did this become a thing?”
“Why would you all decide to start freestyling when he visits our city?” he exclaimed. “I have to admit, the fish at the deli is absolutely mind-blowing, it’s out of this world, it’s absolutely insane, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. It’s bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.”
Despite the online protests, the impact of Keith Lee was already evident on Friday. According to Alex Riley, the owner of Taste Budz Deli, the store experienced a significant increase in sales, with an overall increase of 40%. By 7 p.m., they had sold twice the usual number of “2 Smoove” sandwiches.
Riley expressed his excitement and gratitude for being the first stop on the New York City tour. He acknowledged the positive impact it had on their publicity and looked forward to the upcoming weekend.
The deli owner extended an invitation to critics to personally sample the salmon chopped cheese, acknowledging that it had sparked controversy.
“It started off as an experimental sandwich that we crafted for our own enjoyment. Later, we decided to share it with some of our customers, and to our delight, they loved it. As a result, we decided to officially add it to our menu.”
Even rapper Waka Flocka Flame, who is from Queens, followed Lee’s advice. He shared a video on Instagram, standing in front of a neon sign at Taste Budz Deli, and captioned it as “this food was 🔥.”
In Lee’s second video from NYC, he took the time to review three popular pizzerias in Manhattan: Joe’s Pizza, Prince Street Pizza, and Bleecker Street Pizza. While not completely blown away by any of them, Lee did find that Prince Street Pizza stood out with a rating of 7.7 out of 10.
Once again, the internet was in an uproar, and this time it was about New York City pizza. Some people even went as far as dismissing pizza from Manhattan altogether. One TikToker, Taylor Michelle, seemed particularly distressed in her response video.
In a recent video, she hilariously expressed her confusion about their food choices. “First, we were in Queens for a delicious bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich,” she explained. “And now we’re in Manhattan for slices of pizza? I’m completely lost and confused! Someone please get this man a tour guide!” Her comical reaction perfectly captured the amusing situation they found themselves in while trying different foods in different boroughs.
By Friday evening, it seemed that Lee had indeed accomplished that. In one of his videos, he mentioned that he had received a list of recommendations from @righteouseats, a local food account operated by Brian Lee and Jaeki Cho. As per their website, the account supports and promotes businesses owned by mom & pop, immigrant, minority, and BIPOC communities.
One of the recommendations was Taste of Heaven, a soul food restaurant located in Williamsburg. In his video review, Lee highlighted this restaurant, which brought a sense of relief to New Yorkers who eagerly expressed their thoughts in the comments section.
Lee demonstrated the tenderness of the oxtail and the flavorful jerk ribs as he enjoyed his meal in the car. He praised the restaurant’s perfectly seasoned rice and peas, considering it the best he had ever tasted.
“Absolutely, you’re absolutely right,” he exclaimed, using one of his trademark expressions. “I completely understand why everyone was urging me to leave Manhattan.”
Lee was thoroughly impressed by every dish at Taste of Heaven, giving them high praise with ratings ranging from 8.7 to 9.4 out of 10. Not only did he take the time to greet the owners, but he also generously left behind $1,500 to cover the orders of everyone waiting in line.
Lee later went to Aunts et Uncle, a vegan restaurant in Brooklyn, and Tamarind Island, a roti shop in Queens. He mentioned, “The food was absolutely delicious that our family decided to leave a tip.” However, upon approaching the owner, they were taken aback by their unexpected reaction.
In the video, the apparent owner stood outside the restaurant, his hands clasped to his head, overcome with joy. He couldn’t believe what he was witnessing. “This is unbelievable,” he exclaimed. “I never thought we had a chance, bro. It doesn’t matter what happens next, the fact that you came here…”
After leaving his previous destination, Lee did not disclose his future plans. However, wherever he chooses to go next, the impact of his presence, often referred to as the “Keith Lee effect,” is expected to be felt.