Olive Garden review: the greatest restaurant review ever written

olive_garden_salad.jpg
Olive Garden
Yes, it has black olives
After a great run writing reviews for City Pages, I will probably need to tender a letter of resignation because Marilyn Hagerty, Eatbeat columnist for Grand Forks Herald, just won restaurant reviewing. Forever.

Today's column, which she has been writing for years, titled "Long-awaited Olive Garden receives warm welcome" has the Internet abuzz, mostly with Tweets mimicking the author's extremely practical and straightforward writing style. Choosing a favorite line from this article would be like choosing a favorite child, but this section is particularly excellent:

She first brought me the familiar Olive Garden salad bowl with crisp greens, peppers, onion rings and yes -- several black olives. Along with it came a plate with two long, warm breadsticks.

And is second only to:
At length, I asked my server what she would recommend. She suggested chicken Alfredo, and I went with that. Instead of the raspberry lemonade she suggested, I drank water. 

As a fellow review writer, I can honestly only say that my cap is off to Hagerty and that this single Olive Garden review will likely get more pageviews than all the reviews I have ever written, combined.

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35 comments
GF Native
GF Native

I am a Grand Forks native who has now lived in the Twin Cities for several years.  My parents have resided in Grand Forks since the 1950s.

Those of us who criticize the Olive Garden reject it because it is just another corporate chain.  Some anti-OG concerns are aesthetic:  by the time a restaurant is a national chain, chances are its food has been made mediocre by design.  Equally important, especially during the Great Recession, are economic considerations.

I have advocated "buying local" since the mid-1990s, in part because I grew up in Grand Forks and saw what happened there when people stopped supporting independent businesses.

During my 1970s childhood, Grand Forks, ND and East Grand Forks, MN had at least as many independent restaurants as chains, perhaps more.  The Golden Hour in downtown GF was not usually chosen by children as a dining destination, but I remember it as where I first tasted Boston cream pie.  One of my favorites in late elementary school was a neighborhood family restaurant with a King Arthur theme.  Over in EGF, Mike's Pizza served the region's best pizza, and a trip to the former speakeasy Whitey's, with its neon Art Deco bar and elegant/seedy atmosphere, felt a little like time travel.  In the late 1980s, GF's Hunan Chinese restaurant served the best Szechuan string beans I have ever eaten.

Grand Forks had a good independent fish-and-seafood restaurant in the mid-late 1970s, but it ultimately closed.  In the 1980s Fargo trapped a Red Lobster, and people drove all the way from Grand Forks to Fargo (at that time, before speed-limit increases, about a 1.5-hour drive each way) to eat there.  Even as a teenager, I couldn't imagine driving that far just to eat at a restaurant, especially a chain restaurant.  At least add a trip to the Fargo Theatre!

From the mid-1980s through the early 2000s, GF and EGF had Italian restaurants as good as those in the Twin Cities, including Lola's (wonderful squash ravioli) and Juliana's (excellent all-you-can-eat lasagne, but one piece was plenty!).  Most, like the former Griffith's and Norby's department stores, did not last.  Why do people want to eat at the Olive Garden, but not good local restaurants?  I don't think price is the only issue. . .even GF's casual Italian Moon has fairly good food!

What killed Grand Forks?  Even considering the infamous flood of 1997, I blame Columbia Mall.  Before Columbia Mall opened in 1979, Grand Forks was more like a small city.  By the time I graduated from high school in 1985, downtown was dying.  The flood of 1997 made Grand Forks a Woodbury wannabe.  I haven't been inside Columbia Mall in years, but the last time I was there, all but two stores were national chains.  The Toasted Frog in downtown Grand Forks has good sweet-potato fries and I've heard that Whitey's is going to reopen, but most restaurants are now chains.

If Grand Forks had not become a suburb without an attached city, would I have stayed?  Probably not, but the odds would have been more likely.  

Ace02
Ace02

Idk. I've never eaten at an Olive Garden my whole life but most everyone has spoken highly of it to me. After reading her review, I pretty much have to go now!!

Haltmadness
Haltmadness

You are right.  You are not fit to sharpen Mrs. Hagertys pencil.  I can't wait to see what you are writing when you are 85 years old.  You are too full of yourself to recognize the subtle negative review by a seasoned professional who has to live in small the town where she eats. 

Rosa
Rosa

I live in Grafton, North Dakota a small town 45 miles north of Grand Forks, and The olive Garden is a favorite restaurant of many of my friends, and until few weeks ago, we had to fgo to Fargo to enjoy it, 200 hundered miles from grafton, that's the excitment arround here about the Olive Garden.I love to watch the top Chefs shows, and I found the meals presented there diffrent, and the presentation so very small portions, even though they look great, i wandered if the meals are way too small.

Spud
Spud

Ms Hagerty's article was earnest and matter of fact.  It was written to serve the community for which she wrote the article at the pace that one would expect in a moderately sized Midwestern city.  It was done very well.  Seriously, why are you mocking this article?  Do you think you are that much superior?  The media's reaction on the internet to this article makes me feel like this world is such an ugly place.  I'm frankly jealous that I don't live in a place like Grand Forks where it's okay to be honest about calling a chain restaurant enjoyable without the risk of being vilified.  Something tells me that you are too.  Shame on you for your lack of respect.

Gordon
Gordon

Not only will this article top all of yours in page views, Marilyn Hagerty has published more stories in the last ten years than you will in your life. She knows her audience, having lived with them for many decades, and she's no one's fool, and especially not your editor's. 

Kddd4720
Kddd4720

The reason the review is so popular is it's simply honest-no pretension, no exaggeration, no attempt to impress anybody with herself.  How refreshing! Thank You Ms. Haggerty for simply telling the truth. 

GKH
GKH

Native New Yorker here within shouting distance of at least 100 restaurants.

I absolutely love Ms. Hagerty. She lives in a perfectly lovely town and she is actually very happy that a new restaurant has opened up. No, there are not that many restaurants there and as a normal human being, she is expressing her joy at being able to eat at someplace new. Who wouldn't?

The staff seem to be very nice and the food seems wonderful. What more can a person ask for?

I was down on West Village about a month ago, and me and my wife ate at a very nice little bistro. However, the portions were cut for little mice and the price was astronomical. Although the environment was trendy and cool, the overall experience left me, let's say "hungry for more". On the way home, me and my wife stopped at a McDonalds for a large fries and a Big Mac. I was freekin' starving! Bring on The Olive Garden!So, I applaud Ms. Hagerty, the beautiful Town of Grand Forks (I've never been there) and most of all Olive Garden for their wonderful little restaurant. Kudos to all!And, no dammit, I am not being snarky! And if I am ever in Grand Forks, I will stop by The Olive Garden and I will leave them a NYC style tip!

Zennymoon
Zennymoon

If this is the nicest restaurant in Fargo...I must take it off my navigation system, so I dont wander in that direction.  As a second generation Italian, I guarantee Olive G. is  second rate and an Italian wannabee in the cusine department.  I loved the reviewer just hate the reviewee. Ciao

bleatreader
bleatreader

Is the city pages that is making fun of this person the same city pages that published a review of a new My Burger, a fast food burger joint, when it opened in calhoun-isles a couple of months ago? 

Test
Test

Well, you are pretty condescending yourself. Stop being so superior. Don't read it if it doesn't move you, but why ridicule?

Brb
Brb

I wish I was cool enough to write for a weekly.  

S. Abdul Otherwise Himself
S. Abdul Otherwise Himself

Hey!  Don't beat up on the nice old lady!She promised she'd try the lemonade on a hot summer day.

And may the first person who hasn't exclaimed YES at the sight of a black olive in their salad cast the first stale crouton...

Hakhim_asaid
Hakhim_asaid

And this is exactly why I don't read the City Pages. The fact that this piece of writing exists is a testament to how elitist some have become. For lack of better words... this blog entry is douchey. Privileged. Perhaps Emily should have read Divided We Eat before writing this.

ludwigtr
ludwigtr

I think you guys are kind of being jerks about this.  ...But that's just my opinion I guess...

Sarabellem
Sarabellem

I went to the website...now I kinda feel bad. Kind of a Peggy Hill of her day.

David Foureyes
David Foureyes

"Olive Garden is part of the Darden chain of restaurants that also operates Red Lobster. There are about 700 restaurants, including four Olive Gardens in North Dakota’s major cities."

Wait...where?

Francesco
Francesco

I think I just fell into a Coen Brothers movie. 

kateknives
kateknives

 It's pretty snarky, but I still laughed. And I can laugh, because I grew up in a state where we actually drove an hour to eat at - yes - the Olive Garden. I'm grateful every day for the overwhelming choices of real cuisine that we have here. This woman doesn't have the privilege of knowing anything else.

Sarah
Sarah

Snark?  Yes.  That doesn't make the article any less funny.  Olive Garden is consistently mediocre, much like any of the other middle of the road chain restaurants.  Still laughing...

Murp0172
Murp0172

I have followed her for years, she also at least once a year reviews Taco Bell. 

Bianca
Bianca

chicken alfredo swag

dschleis
dschleis

You are always free to move to Grand Forks, so be careful what you exclaim.  My Dad lived there and I visited  - bored.  I agree that the reaction is far too overwhelming and undeserved, but it doesn't make this world an ugly place, just an interesting unpredictable one.

Coyoteb1
Coyoteb1

I think I detect some "wayback machine" envy in all of this - wouldn't it be nice once more to live in a town where the opening of an Olive Garden is a big deal, and the local journalists and food Nazis aren't so arrogant and full of themselves that they can do an honest review of a restaurant where dinner costs less than a week's salary - Ms. Hagerty, let your small-town girl self hang out, and I'll look you up from time to time to see how things are going at that new Wendys

LovingMarilyn
LovingMarilyn

It isn't even in Fargo. Pay attention! Its in the much smaller, 72 miles North of Fargo, Grand Forks. Don't worry, I'm sure you won't accidentally find yourself there unless you're looking for awesome people or a hockey game. 

Renfield
Renfield

Never pick on cool people. That would be wrong.

Shh
Shh

 Why the fuck would anyone review Olive Garden?  Even in a smaller city (50k isn't even that small) everyone knows what they're gonna get.

LovingMarilyn
LovingMarilyn

Actually Miss Marilyn has eaten at the White House-twice. She does know other things but she is still able to appreciate Olive Garden. She is our kind of people. 

Francesco
Francesco

LOL - looks like also Wendy's, Subway, Applebee's, & KFC. I'm dying over here. 

LovingMarilyn
LovingMarilyn

Maybe because the people that read the Grand Forks Herald want to read her reviews??

hockeyfan
hockeyfan

There is no need to be snarky about her column..  She writes for the people in the Grand Forks area, which is a rural community of around 50,000 people.  She does not write them for restaurant snobs such as yourself. 

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