Woman's review of Olive Garden goes viral
Woman's review of Olive Garden goes viral, Restaurant Review of The Olive Garden Goes Viral, Marilyn Hagerty gives an earnest account of her meal at her town's new Italian eatery. How does one 85-year-old North Dakota woman cause pasta discourse to go viral? By writing about – and highly praising – the Olive Garden, the Italian chain restaurant that many Americans seem to love to diss.
When Marilyn Hagerty, columnist and food critic for the local Grand Forks Herald paper, visited the city’s new Olive Garden restaurant (a place she hadn’t been to since dining at the location in Fargo a few years ago), she apparently enjoyed good service and a very satisfying eating experience. “After a lengthy wait for Olive Garden to open in Grand Forks, the lines were long in February,” she wrote. “The novelty is slowly wearing off, but the steady following attests the warm welcome.” And from the pleasant waitress to the crisp salad to the main entrée, Hagerty deemed the midday meal a thumbs-up event.
“The chicken Alfredo,” she wrote, “was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese.”
Other highlights from the review:
- “The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.”
- “My booth was near the kitchen, and I watched the waiters in white shirts, ties, black trousers and aprons adorned with gold-colored towels. They were busy at midday, punching in orders and carrying out bread and pasta.”
- “As I ate, I noticed the vases and planters with permanent flower displays on the ledges. There are several dining areas with arched doorways. And there is a fireplace that adds warmth to the decor.”
The summing up of her supping experience: “All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks. It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here.”
The paper then published the review on March 7, including it on their Web site. You would think that it would have ended there. But Hagerty, who has reviewed about 1,500 other restaurants for the paper, could never have guessed what came next: Her innocuous little food write-up caused a viral commotion as it was picked up (and snarked about) by blogs, such as Fark, Boingboing and Gawker, who found it utterly hilarious that anyone could wax rhapsodic about the less-than-elitist chain.
By Friday morning, the review had received 290,000 hits. Compare that to the newspaper’s second-best-performing story, which got less than 6,000 hits, and it’s safe to say the Olive Garden is a topic that draws eyeballs. Facebook and the Twittersphere have also been buzzing with more snark and also plenty of defenders of Hagerty, who has written for the paper for 60 years. According to the AP, she had to ask her son, who just happens to be Wall Street Journal reporter Bob Hagerty, what “going viral” meant. Prediction: She’ll soon land on a national talk show host’s couch.