Phoenix/ Food & Drinks
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Published on February 28, 2024
TikTok Taste-Maker Keith Lee Sprinkles Magic on Mesa Eateries with Cash Giveaways and Candid ReviewsSource: Instagram/Keith Lee

The trendy TikTok palate of Keith Lee has hit Mesa, Arizona, turning local eateries into overnight sensations with his trademark reviews. His latest stop at the Korean specialty Myungrang Hotdog Mesa, near Broadway and Dobson roads, showcased an eclectic mix of Korean-style hotdogs garnished with a variety of toppings and sauces.

Despite its unique offerings, the hotdog joint has been grappling with financial pressures, teetering on the brink of closure, as reported by 12 News. The owners evidently reached out to Lee in a bid for some of that social media rescue magic. After tasting a variety of Myungrang's hotdogs, Lee delivered his verdict, with most items scoring above 5/10. Among the standouts were the 'Original with sugar’ at 8/10, and the 'Mozzarella ramen' hotdog jumping from 5/10 to a solid 7.9/10 with the addition of sauce, according to a 12 News report.

In true Lee fashion, the food critic didn't just leave his opinions on the app: he left cash as well. Lee generously shelled out to cover $2,500 worth of meals for future patrons to support the struggling business. “In my opinion, overall, there’s no reason why they should be slow enough that they would consider closing,” Lee told his TikTok followers.

But it's not just hotdogs on Lee's tasting tour in the Grand Canyon State. His inaugural review in the area was for Republica Empanada in Mesa. With a palate for the savory and sweet alike, he dished out ratings that mostly favored the eatery's offerings. The former MMA fighter praised the eatery's crispy empanadas and zesty salsa, boasting, "If this place is slow, in my opinion, it shouldn't be," despite leaving a $500 tip for a woman who had recommended the restaurant to his wife, Lee also added a $600 kicker for any subsequent customers that night, according to a Phoenix New Times report.

With his social media clout, Lee's reviews can heavily influence a restaurant's fate, something echoed in what has been dubbed "the Keith Lee effect." However, not all his foodie forays have attendees licking their chops in anticipation. Lee has been known to stir up controversy, as when he abruptly cut his San Francisco tour short after falling ill and openly criticized Atlanta's culinary scene. His methodology sometimes clashes with the more traditional, local-based food criticism, where dynamics and detailed context are king. Though Lee's future stops in Phoenix are not disclosed, eager fans are closely watching the influencer's feed, ready to see which local business will be hit by his next glowing—or damning—recommendation.