Marilyn Hagerty, an 85-year-old food columnist for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota, made national news when online readers devoured her review of the local Olive Garden (the “largest and most beautiful restaurant” in town and the first of the chain to open in the area) faster than a basket of hot breadsticks.
If you haven’t read the article yet, you’re in for a treat. “My first visit to Olive Garden was during midafternoon, so I could be sure to get in,” Hagerty began. “After a late breakfast, I figured a late lunch would be fashionable.”
She figured right. With impeccable prose – and not a trace of snark – Hagerty gave her readers the lowdown on the decor (“Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway”), the chicken Alfredo (“warm and comforting”), and where to find the low-fat and gluten-free offerings for people with allergies (try the Garden Fare Nutrition and Allergy Information guides).
Readers were so touched by her sincerity that the article quickly spread across viral channels like Facebook. Wrote one reader in Augusta, Maine, “Tell Marilyn to keep it up. We need food writers who realize where most of us go out to eat.” As of 11:00 a.m. on March 14, the article has been viewed 950,000 times — more than the Herald website’s other top seven stories combined, according to Herald writer Mike Brue.
The Village Voice also published an interview with the columnist, to which food personality Anthony Bourdain tweeted in response, “Very much enjoying watching Internet sensation Marilyn Hagerty triumph over the snarkologists (myself included) http://t.co/QErIcyPT.”
But Hagerty was more than an Internet sensation. Soon the Today Show, the Wendy Williams show, and the Ellen Degeneres show were hitting her up for interviews. (See Hagerty in this CBS News report below.)
The Herald had no choice but to send the food writer to New York City on a restaurant tour. Said Hagerty, “I don’t know exactly how we got here…something about a virus…we went viral. If that’s what it takes to get a trip to New York, I might go viral more often.”
Her first stop was Dovetail NYC, where “Marilyn’s only negative was the bathroom being downstairs,” wrote EatBeat blogger Ryan Babb. “She was worried about people who have trouble going up and down stairs easily.”
Image by Svetlana Larina via Shutterstock.