86-Year-Old Food Critic Returns to Olive Garden One Year Later

On March 7, 2012, then-85-year-old Grand Forks Herald food critic Marilyn Hagerty reviewed the newly opened Olive Garden in Grand Forks, N.D.

The simple, concise review went viral. Hagerty became instantly famous. Calls came in from The TODAY Show, Anderson Cooper's show, and Jay Leno's program, to name a few. She was a guest judge on Top Chef and even has a book coming out.

And on March 6, 2013, the 86-year old Grand Forks Herald food critic Marilyn Hagerty went back to the Grand Forks, N.D. Olive Garden to check back in. In her most recent review, Hagerty gave a glimpse into her celebrity and then reviewed a restaurant like she always does, simply, precisely, and thoughtfully.

“I went viral, and I didn't even know what that meant,” writes Hagerty in her second analysis of Olive Garden. “In the past year, I have learned.”

Learn she did. Hagerty made her way onto Top Chef. Anthony Bourdain tweeted, “Very much enjoying watching Internet sensation Marilyn Hagerty triumph over the snarkologists (myself included),” and then helped her compile her reviews into a book.

As Hagerty writes, however, “That is all in the background.”

Background it may be, and meanwhile, Hagerty has remained true to her roots. She has always reviewed restaurants like Olive Garden. The latest Olive Garden assessment may work well for publicity with the upcoming release of her book (out August 27), but it also a perfect example of what Hagerty does best.

The most recent review touched on points that most of her reviews do: “The food is predictable … The vegetable soup is hearty and satisfying … Children are well-treated.”

In her evaluations, Hagerty looks for positives and negatives before reporting them back for the Grand Forks audience to read.

As she said in a Gawker story regarding a take down of Guy Fieri’s Times Square restaurant, “If it is no good at all, why bother reviewing it?"

My only real qualm with Hagerty’s review is this:

In her 2012 critique, she didn't order the raspberry lemonade that was recommended by the waitress claiming, “On a hot summer day, I will try the raspberry lemonade.” The 2013 review makes no mention of the drink.

So what is it, Marilyn? Should we try the lemonade?!

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Liam Boylan-Pett

Liam is a culture writing intern at PolicyMic. His work has appeared in "Running Times" and other running publications. He is also a professional middle-distance runner for the New Jersey-New York Track Club. After graduating from Columbia University with his bachelor's degree, he earned a Master's of Professional Studies in Journalism from Georgetown University. Originally from Bath, Mich, he spends his time watching TV, reading longform journalism, and thinking about who is going to be in the NCAA basketball tournament's Final Four.

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