If you haven’t been following the Internet sensation that is 85-year-old food columnist Marilyn Hagerty, you’re missing out. The Grand Forks, North Dakotan columnist wrote a review of the Olive Garden, a restaurant which just reached the town of 50,000 in February, has racked up over 200,000 views since Hagerty posted it on Wednesday. Some are reacting positively to Hagerty’s no-nonsense review—it’s only dinner, after all--with others wondering if her piece was an Onion-esque satire, or chuckling about the writer’s naivete.
Marily Hagerty wants you big city elitists to know that she doesn’t give crap.
Unlike most viral articles where the writer only serves as a personality-less photograph representing the place, Hagerty’s been interviewed by the Village Voice about her reviewing. She says that it would be idiotic for her column only to review fine dining restaurants—as reviewers can afford to do in larger markets—because she would be finished in three weeks.
Hagerty’s viral piece is a straightforward review of the ubiquitous Olive Garden, saying:
After a lengthy wait for Olive Garden to open in Grand Forks, the lines were long in February. The novelty is slowly wearing off, but the steady following attests the warm welcome…My first visit to Olive Garden was during midafternoon, so I could be sure to get in. After a late breakfast, I figured a late lunch would be fashionable.The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.
The reason that Hagerty’s piece went viral, of course, is because we look at an earnest review of The Olive Garden as homespun and a bit idiotic in contrast with reviewers who write equally earnestly on tastiness of the pork-belly infused martinis at the latest Korean-fusion joint in Seattle.
But it’s equally idiotic of “worldly” food columnists to make fun of Marilyn Hagerty’s piece. She’s writing for the market she lives in, a small one, and the review seems no different from any other in a small town with a limited number of dining options. She doesn’t need to skewer The Olive Garden because, unlike cynical food reviewers, she probably didn’t hate it.
The only complaint I could find towards Hagerty’s body of restaurant reviews, which also include news-worthy depictions of Taco Bell and Dippin’ Dots, is that she neglects the regular folks restaurants that—like the mom-and-pop places in bigger markets, city folks—may get run out of business by chains with national marketing campaigns like The Olive Garden. She mentions that North Forks has “lots of restaurants,” so perhaps Hagerty could consider using her newfound fame to give some of those the press they deserve. Perhaps if the cruelty were removed from big city writers’ comments, all they’d really be saying is that The Olive Garden doesn’t need anymore press.