Marilyn Hagerty: Interview with genius Olive Garden reviewer

Everybody online today is enjoying the publication of The Greatest Restaurant Review Ever Written, a piece entitled "Long-awaited Olive Garden receives warm welcome" by Marilyn Hagerty of the Grand Forks Herald.

There are so many evocative parts of the review: The "two long, warm breadsticks," the raspberry lemonade that is proffered but rejected in favor of water. The understated yet wistful tone is reminiscent of a William Carlos Williams poem.

So far, the Olive Garden review has been tweeted over 6,800 times, and Liked on Facebook 4,477 times. The editors at the Grand Forks Herald are scrambling to assemble an article on the outsized reaction for tomorrow's paper, but in the meantime, we called Marilyn Hagerty to get her response to the sudden Internet fame.

I'd like to make clear that I didn't intend to come off as disrespectful in this post. The reason I asked about the lemonade and the breadsticks is because so many of her readers seemed to enjoy those lines in her review and I wanted to get the back story. I'm a fan of Marilyn and her work--I really do think she has a brilliant voice, both in print and on the phone--and I apologize if my enthusiasm seemed sarcastic rather than genuine.

Hi, is this Marilyn?


Hi Marilyn, this is Kevin Hoffman. I'm the editor in chief of City Pages in the Twin Cities. How you doing?

I'm good.

I just wanted to call to tell you how much I enjoyed your Olive Garden review.

Oh, I'm sure you did.

And I was wondering if you had just a few minutes to do an interview about it?

Yeah, I do.

Are you aware of all the attention that it's been getting on the internet?

I wasn't until I just had a phone call from somebody in New York.

Was that Gawker?

I don't think so.

Did you think when you were writing it that it would get so much attention outside of Grand Forks?

I didn't really care.

How long have you been reviewing restaurants?

Oh, about 30 or 40 years ... I can't remember when I started doing that. I used to be the lifestyle editor of the Grand Forks Herald, and I started it sometime ... I can't remember when it's so long ago.

I take it there aren't a ton of restaurants to review in Grand Forks so it must be difficult to find a new place to go each time?

Yeah, that's exactly it. I had attended meetings of the national newspaper food editors for many years, and we had sessions on how to write restaurant reviews. And I got thinking, we don't have one, but why couldn't we? But if I did that, there are about three or four fine dining places, and then what would you do? So I decided that I would just write about all the restaurants, including McDonald's, or wherever people eat. Sort of like a news story to have our readers in our area to know what they can expect, what they can find, how much it will cost when they're visiting here. And the hometown people kind of like it, I mean they often tell me they do.

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