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Marilyn Hagerty, North Dakota Olive Garden Restaurant Reviewer, Goes Viral

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From one reporter to another, thank you Marilyn Hagerty, for your perfectly fine review of the new Olive Garden in the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald. What made me cringe wasn't the fact that you lavishly praised the new restaurant as your city's "most beautiful" or even that you chose to review a chain restaurant in the first place. What bothered me was the snarky mocking you were served -- not at the hands of your Olive Garden waiter, but by the hipsters at Gawker and Boing Boing.

The writer at Boing Boing started with this: "Here's a sentence I never expected to type: You should really read the Grand Forks Herald's review of The Olive Garden." She then went on to wax unpoetically about the nostalgia of eating at uncool places like the Olive Garden or Red Lobster. Gawker simply repeated lines from your review, implying how truly preposterous it was for someone would positively review such a common place.

Their attention to your story caused it to blow up, go viral, explode -- all good things, for those who aren't fluent in Webspeak. And the beauty is that all you were doing is something that the elite media just doesn't get: Writing an unhip review of a new restaurant that tells readers in your city of 50,000 about the experience and how much it will cost them. Hats off, I say.

And good for you for remaining nonplussed by the attention. You told the Village Voice that you were just doing your job, the same thing you've been doing every day at the newspaper since the 1950s. And as the Village Voice pointed out, Pulitzer Prize-winning restaurant critic Jonathan Gold reviewed the Olive Garden for L.A. Weekly last April. But when he did it, it was cool.

So was this mocking response ageist? Or just another reminder that for some New York media elite, the United States ends at the Hudson River? Truth is, in many small towns across the country, the opening of an Olive Garden restaurant can be a big deal. And by the way, having gone to a few, their food isn't bad and if you ask, they'll bake up a batch of their breadsticks without the butter and salt coating. Funny, I couldn't get Spago to do that.