Long-awaited Olive Garden receives warm welcome
March 8, 2012 9:51 AM   Subscribe

Today in North Dakota news, the Grand Forks Herald reviews the long-awaited Olive Garden "the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks."

Regular readers of EATBEAT columnist Marilyn Hagerty will, of course, recognize that this is a fairly negative review.

via BoingBoing
posted by 2bucksplus (381 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes, several black olives.
posted by box at 9:53 AM on March 8, 2012


Pretty close.
posted by clockzero at 9:54 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Grand Forks? I hear that's a party town.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:54 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am kind of in love with Marilyn Hagerty now.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:55 AM on March 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


I was heartened at the lack of snark in BoingBoing's comments.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:58 AM on March 8, 2012


I don't want to live on this planet anymore.
posted by mikelieman at 9:59 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes, but is their pizza better than Rhombus Guys'? And, of course, OG opens way the hell out of town in the megamall slash interstate corridor. Bravissimo..
posted by obscurator at 10:00 AM on March 8, 2012


That is indeed a great review, once you read between the lines.
posted by vacapinta at 10:00 AM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think the issue is with the reviewer, and not with Grand Forks. Yelp shows some real fine dining options that wouldn't be out of place in a big city.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:00 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love this lady.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:00 AM on March 8, 2012


My wife's parents are very frequently suggesting that we should move from Minneapolis to North Dakota because they keep hearing that there's an oil boom out there and we need to go be part of it. When I saw this article, I briefly thought that I should send it to them with a note along the lines of "THIS IS WHY WE DON'T WANT TO MOVE TO NORTH DAKOTA."

But I immediately realized that their response would be: "WHY NOT? IT HAS AN OLIVE GARDEN!"

Why yes, for the purposes of this imaginary exchange, we DO communicate by telegram.
posted by COBRA! at 10:02 AM on March 8, 2012 [55 favorites]


I can't even begin to figure out how damning this faint praise is meant to be, or how praising. I feel like I need a Midwestern-to-English interpreter.
posted by RogerB at 10:02 AM on March 8, 2012 [55 favorites]


My band played a show in Grand Forks once. It's desolate.
posted by josher71 at 10:03 AM on March 8, 2012


I don't want to live on this planet anymore.

Really? Because people in Grand Forks, North Dakota patronize a chain restaurant serving mass-produced, vaguely Italian food? You know, my guess is that it's not like they have a lot of local Italian restaurants serving more authentic, cooked to order dishes that are being driven out of business by the Olive Garden hegemony.

Now, the people who go to the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue in Manhattan--that's kind of surprising and odd. Olive Garden in Grand Forks might be the best place to get a big cheap dish of pasta nearby, and sometimes you just want a big cheap dish of pasta.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:03 AM on March 8, 2012 [61 favorites]


Is North Dakota a real place?
posted by Meatbomb at 10:03 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think the issue is with the reviewer, and not with Grand Forks.

Read her other reviews. And then think of the phrase "Damning with faint praise."
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:04 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is North Dakota a real place?

North Dakota is a state of mind.

A cold, flat state of mind.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:06 AM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I can't even begin to figure out how damning this faint praise is meant to be, or how praising. I feel like I need a Midwestern-to-English interpreter.

This is why the South is better than the Midwest; if her review had just read: "Olive Garden? Bless your heart," I would have understood what was going on.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:06 AM on March 8, 2012 [52 favorites]


haha flyover country
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:07 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Is North Dakota a real place?

Just echos.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:07 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


She first brought me the familiar Olive Garden salad bowl with crisp greens, peppers, onion rings and yes — several black olives

I would like a Midwestern-to-English damning-with-faint-praise translator to explain the subtext of that dramatic pause. Does she have a longstanding grudge against black olives? Are black olives a Grand Forks culinary dogwhistle of some sort? Is this the latest salvo in a portracted discussion about the merits of black olives in a garden salad? Is it "black olives? in a salad? do they think we're savages?" Or "black olives? in a salad? finally!"

What I'm saying is that Marilyn Hagerty is quite a writer, because in one simple clause she's got me obsessed with the socioculinary role of black olives in North Dakotan dining.
posted by gompa at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2012 [24 favorites]


The anti-flyover snark, it runs deep. Deeper than the Red River.
posted by blucevalo at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is North Dakota a real place?

It's like Prince Edward Island in that some people claim it exists, but it's really a myth. You'll hear news stories once in a while about their hockey team or a flood. But have you actually been there? Have you met anyone from there? Of course not.

To those who claim to have driven through it, you actually drove 350 miles through a federally-run territory used for psychological testing.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2012 [22 favorites]


Once, for many layered and complex reasons I really didn't want to go to a family gathering. When I found out it was going to be at an Olive Garden I just snapped and went "An Italian-American family going to an Olive Garden in New Jersey is an abomination" and just called in sick or something.

I also once ate the very best breakfast buffet in Hagerstown Maryland, cause it was the only breakfast buffet in Hagerstown Maryland.
posted by The Whelk at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Not so negative that she won't go back on a warm day for the raspberry lemonade.
posted by DU at 10:08 AM on March 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Now, the people who go to the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue in Manhattan--that's kind of surprising and odd. Olive Garden in Grand Forks might be the best place to get a big cheap dish of pasta nearby, and sometimes you just want a big cheap dish of pasta.

This isn't impossible in Manhattan either!
posted by Jahaza at 10:09 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Permanent flowers.
posted by changoperezoso at 10:09 AM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


snobs gotta snob
posted by nathancaswell at 10:09 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


This isn't impossible in Manhattan either!

Yes, that's the point.
posted by DU at 10:10 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would like a Midwestern-to-English damning-with-faint-praise translator to explain the subtext of that dramatic pause

There were olives in her salad at Olive Garden.
posted by hwyengr at 10:10 AM on March 8, 2012 [24 favorites]


The don't-say-anything-if-you-have-nothing-nice-to-say school of restaurant reviews. Refreshing!
posted by Bwithh at 10:11 AM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Does she have a longstanding grudge against black olives? Are black olives a Grand Forks culinary dogwhistle of some sort? Is this the latest salvo in a portracted discussion about the merits of black olives in a garden salad? Is it "black olives? in a salad? do they think we're savages?" Or "black olives? in a salad? finally!"

The restaurant is called Olive Garden.
posted by DU at 10:11 AM on March 8, 2012 [37 favorites]


I'm a fan of fast food and even I don't like the Olive Garden. Both times I ate there I got sick. As for Grand Forks, I've never been there, but I'm sure that like most places, it's more interesting than it thinks it is.
posted by jonmc at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


If anything, I read that more as a criticism of the lack of sophistication in Grand Forks rather than a smearing of Olive Garden, although I don't speak the language.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]



I live in Madison, WI - a town that is known for it's many and varied places to stuff your face with awesome food.

My son is gay. His boyfriend is gay.

And their favorite restaurant is The Olive Garden. 10,000 amazing hole in the wall restaurants and that's their favorite.

I just want to take a moment and apologize to The Gay Community. I tried to teach him, and I failed. I'm sorry.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2012 [90 favorites]


This is a dick post, made to laugh at folks in North Dakota for being far away from everywhere and not knowing where they ought to eat. There's not much in Grand Forks, and you ought not begrudge folks for eating somewhere like the Olive Garden when it's available.

And speaking as someone with family from North Dakota: fuck you.
posted by barnacles at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2012 [67 favorites]


People Of Olive Garden

thats yours, you can have it, you dont even need to credit me or acknowledge/mention/hint that i had anything to do with it
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to say I find this whole meme ugly. Smug superiority based on where you happen to live is a sad thing.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2012 [23 favorites]


"So, I'm tendin' bar there at Ecklund and Swedlin's last Tuesday, and this little guy's drinkin' and he says, "So where can a guy find some action? I'm goin' crazy out there at the lake." And I says, "What kinda action?" and he says, "Woman action, what do I look like?" And I says, "Well, what do I look like, I don't arrange that kinda thing," and he says, "But I'm goin' crazy out there at the lake," and I says, "Well, this ain't that kinda place."

Try the Olive Garden.
posted by three blind mice at 10:13 AM on March 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


I realize that clockzero's link is to The Onion, but I'm assuming it's true. That said, of course Olive Garden was voted best Italian restaurant in a newspaper reader pole. Votes in reader polls are about volume. People who give a damn and vote for their favorite Italian restaurant with all that implies. Family recipes, fresh ingredients, etc.

But it's like voting for third party candidates who are all over your particular issue. Folks from the other side of town are unlikely to have ever heard of the place, and most people see restaurants as "me not cooking at home" and not much more. They're going to vote for whatever is vaguely convenient and safely mediocre. They're as likely to see freshly prepared food as a down-tick as it makes things take too long.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:14 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's a few more reviews from Marilyn:

Many choices make eating at Pizza Ranch an adventure
For me, eating at Pizza Ranch was an adventure. I liked the fact that the slices of pizza are narrow enough, so you can try different kinds. There is a wide choice. I tend to choose pizza with cheese and pepperoni. The customer favorite is the Roundup with beef, pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions, mushrooms and black olives.
Great buffet makes Italian Moon a landmark in Grand Forks
But there is a limit to how much a person could — or should — eat. Some people can handle a lot. Others are moderate. And I notice that many of the customers at the Moon go back through the salad bar, where there are fresh slices of different pizzas available all the time.
(Pop quiz: one of these reviews is positive and one is negative, can you figure out which is which?)
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:15 AM on March 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


Oh dear. I grew up in Grand Forks. Holy crap, Hagerty is still writing the same articles. She has never met a food or restaurant she didn't like.

I've lived in LA for 15 years and LOVE eating delicious foods of all kinds, but Sanders is, in fact, delicious, and I've had some of the best food I've ever eaten there. East Grand Forks now has a Thai/Sushi place, which kind of scared me (given the quality of sushi at places around here when it's sushi+[anything else] but was actually damn good.
posted by flaterik at 10:16 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just want to take a moment and apologize to The Gay Community. I tried to teach him, and I failed. I'm sorry.

They don't have the big flashing lights and black clad Carb Police in Madison? I once tried to grab for a butter roll and the bastards nearly sliced off my fingers.
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 AM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Compare Marilyn's review of another Italian restaurant ( a regular kind of buffet type place ) which emphasizes that the pizza tastes good from the very start and goes on to identify other dishes that taste good to her
http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/230793/
posted by Bwithh at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you think that by posting this review I am making fun of North Dakota you're missing the point. This is a post about writing, not eating. There's really nothing new to say about a chain that has 700 restaurants and yet this is a review worth reading.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:18 AM on March 8, 2012 [46 favorites]


Oops sorry, someone already posted that
posted by Bwithh at 10:19 AM on March 8, 2012


The restaurant is called Olive Garden.

Oh. Right. The Chekhovian take on it. Missed it completely. Thanks.

My mistake is when I hear "Olive Garden" I don't actually think of olives in or out of gardens, in the same way I don't think of an actual place called Kentucky when I read a KFC sign. It's pure abstraction. Olive Garden = "sorta kinda Italian or something."

Dammit, Hagerty, your plainspoken Midwestern literalism's tripped me up again!
posted by gompa at 10:19 AM on March 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


DU, one of us is misunderstanding.

Sidhedevil wrote: Now, the people who go to the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue in Manhattan--that's kind of surprising and odd.

Contrasting that with: Olive Garden in Grand Forks might be the best place to get a big cheap dish of pasta nearby, and sometimes you just want a big cheap dish of pasta.

My point was that even in Manhattan, sometimes you just want a big cheap dish of pasta and the Olive Garden might be the best place to get a big cheap dish of pasta nearby. (And particularly the best place to get a big cheap dish of pasta with a big cheap bowl of fresh salad while watching a ball game on television.) Therefore, it's not "surprising and odd" to go to the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue in Manhattan as I have in fact personally done. And therefore Sidhedevil's point is not my point, I think. Perhaps Sidhedevil can suggest a better place to get my big dish of pasta, fresh salad, for cheap and watch the ball game? Near the F train please.

This is a dick post, made to laugh at folks in North Dakota for being far away from everywhere and not knowing where they ought to eat. ...

Barnacles, I think the point is that it's a negative review, but that it's rhetoric is unusual. If it's a negative review, they in fact do know "where they ought to eat." But perhaps I misunderstand.
posted by Jahaza at 10:19 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a dick post, made to laugh at folks in North Dakota for being far away from everywhere and not knowing where they ought to eat.


Nah. She takes it apart -- note that she has not one single, solitary nice thing to say about the food. The ND reviewer is so dry with her snark that some NYC reviewers should stand in awe. She doesn't come as a rube to me at all. I wish she reviewed for my local paper.

Disclaimer: I don't think OG is half as bad as it's popular to make it out to be.
posted by tyllwin at 10:20 AM on March 8, 2012 [31 favorites]


I was trying to remember the name of the T.C Boyle short story about the food critic who loved everything vs. the food critic who hated everything but typing "T.C Boyle" "Food" and "Depressing" just narrows it down to everything he ever wrote.
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 AM on March 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


As a former small-town reporter I feel her pain. I once had to write a story on a Sonic opening up by the highway.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:20 AM on March 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


made to laugh at folks in North Dakota for being far away from everywhere

Oh c'mon barnacles. Lighten up. No wonder when I was in Hecla, South Dakota last year visiting my best friend, everyone told me "See we not country bumpkins. Not like those people in North Dakota."
posted by three blind mice at 10:21 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


"SO IT'S COME TO THIS: A NEW SONIC OPENS AND YOUR INTREPID REPORTER CONSIDERS SUICIDE"
posted by The Whelk at 10:22 AM on March 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


I was recently given a 25 dollar gift card to OG. I almost feel like going to the green to ask what to do with it.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:22 AM on March 8, 2012


The absolute, no-kidding best cheeseburger I've ever had was at a lunch counter in rural Wisconsin. And I've had some fancy fuckin burgers.
posted by theodolite at 10:22 AM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's like Prince Edward Island in that some people claim it exists, but it's really a myth. You'll hear news stories once in a while about their hockey team or a flood.

That's riiight. No such thing as PEI. Just keep on drivin'. Thaaa-aaaa-aaat's it.

*hurries off to Malpeque Harbour, fills sacks with oysters*

Nothin' to see here, sonny. Just move along.

*dies in bacchanalian bliss of the best goddamn oysters on the planet*
posted by gompa at 10:24 AM on March 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


"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."

That is the most hilarious sentence one could write in a restaurant review. Yes, visitors from out of town love to see the same restaurant as they have wherever they're from. Thank you, Marilyn Hagerty, you're awesome.
posted by xingcat at 10:24 AM on March 8, 2012


My daughter, for some reason, takes exception to the phrase "olive garden" itself; she loudly insists it should be called "olive grove".
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:25 AM on March 8, 2012 [15 favorites]


It's like Prince Edward Island in that some people claim it exists, but it's really a myth. You'll hear news stories once in a while about their hockey team or a flood.

So you're saying it's the Bielefeld of Canada?

My grandmother is actually from Bielefeld.
posted by Jahaza at 10:25 AM on March 8, 2012


Therefore, it's not "surprising and odd" to go to the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue

I must disagree. I went to that Olive Garden once for a birthday party and I was amazed at how expensive it was. We're talking 22 dollar entrees which seems excessively pricey for Olive Garden. You can get a big bowl of pasta for less than that many places in Manhattan.
posted by josher71 at 10:25 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


By some communities' standards, this is an absolutely scathing review. You just have to know how to read between the lines and hear what's not being said.
posted by Aquaman at 10:26 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was going to defend Grand Forks by stating the best coffee I ever drank - and I don't like coffee - was at a diner in GF, but it turns out it was at the Kroll's in Fargo.

Yes, visitors from out of town love to see the same restaurant as they have wherever they're from.


I can't tell if you're being serious or not.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:26 AM on March 8, 2012


The only comment about the chicken alfredo is that it was "warm and comforting". This is a writer with a well defined style, and this is what her unfavorable reviews look like. In a small-market paper, you aren't likely to see a sentence like, "The food I had at the Olive Garden was not good, do not eat there ever." That's just how it is.

All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks.
The Olive Garden is in a new building.

It attracts visitors from out of town as well as people who live here.
It is a fact that people eat at this restaurant.
posted by helicomatic at 10:26 AM on March 8, 2012 [26 favorites]


The fact that she's from Grand Forks doesn't make her a dope or a rube. She knows she chose to call the restaurant the "largest" (not praise) and "most beautiful" (not food-related praise) in the city. It is essentially "bless your heart." It is what I always found to be the public face of the Midwest: Don't lie, but say the nice things and people will understand what you didn't say. (My official line for practicing my Minnesota accent is "The Twins, they're sometimes not too good, but we love 'em because they try so hard.") It's not veiled snark, exactly. It's how a certain kind of person functions.

I, too, have found the meme-ification of this weirdly distasteful. Ultimately, whether other people approve of it or not, there are people who have never been to an Olive Garden before, who will wonder what it's like when it appears and opens, and who will understand what she's saying: Big, comforting plate of affordable food in a pretty setting. Which is a little bit more honest in explaining a hugely successful chain than "only idiots go there," which is how OG is often treated.

That is the most hilarious sentence one could write in a restaurant review. Yes, visitors from out of town love to see the same restaurant as they have wherever they're from.

You understand that many people not from Grand Forks who might visit Grand Forks are from places smaller than Grand Forks that don't have Olive Gardens, right? There are people for whom going to Grand Forks is "going to the city."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:27 AM on March 8, 2012 [37 favorites]


You have to really understand Scandinavian Lutherans to get why this review is scathing. Motherfuckers will smile at you, serve you up a plate of hot dish and all the while be shivving you with their eyes. You won't know it, but the rest of the people in the church basement will. Oh, you'll still get invited to the picnics and the swap meets and all that. But the smiles. They'll be...tighter. The eyes will be...harder.

Ok, fuck it. You'll never know.

North Dakotans are like the anti-Jews.
posted by R. Schlock at 10:27 AM on March 8, 2012 [22 favorites]


I can't do it. I can't laugh. My first real job was given to me by a newspaper editor that looked just like this woman, and wrote just like her, too.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:27 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


tyllwin, I don't think it's snark. I'm pretty sure it's "if you don't have anything nice to say...", which is quite endemic to those parts. It's possible I'm wrong and she's just got it buried under such dryness, and that when I first saw her columns in high school (which I graduated from in 1997. clearly cheerfulness makes you immortal), I was not yet old enough to have such a finely tuned detector, but... it seems unlikely. I've always been a snarky bastard.

And xingcat, believe it or not, Grand Forks is a large town for the area, and there are lots of small towns around that do not, in fact, have Olive Gardens. She mentions the one in Fargo - that's 90 miles away, and is BY FAR the closest relatively large city. You're pretty much going to Winnipeg or Minneapolis after that.

If you have only known the coasts it's hard to understand how different the Dakotas are. When you get to the end of a city, there's not another city. There's wheat.
posted by flaterik at 10:27 AM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Hey, you guys, the Olive Garden's portobello ravioli are actually pretty good.
posted by something something at 10:27 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter is a community weblog, with user generated links collected into "posts". There is a space for comments and discussion. Both posts and comments are regulated by "mods", paid employees. While not visible to a site visitor, they are presumably wearing pants. The entrance fee ($5) also grants posting and commenting rights to several subsites, including Ask Metafilter, MetaTalk and Metafilter Music. New users must comment before they are allowed to post. The main site has a welcoming blue background.
posted by Orange Pamplemousse at 10:27 AM on March 8, 2012 [90 favorites]


Aquaman: By some communities' standards, this is an absolutely scathing review. You just have to know how to read between the lines and hear what's not being said.

Marylin Hagerty should really be the food critic for the Guess Culture Tribune. "The food was as you might expect, and you know how I feel about this kind of decor."
posted by Rock Steady at 10:28 AM on March 8, 2012 [23 favorites]


Olive Garden is part of the Darden chain of restaurants that also operates Red Lobster.

Okay, now I get it.
posted by Gelatin at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the Olive Garden had cannolis I'd like it a little better.
posted by Reverend John at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2012


My daughter, for some reason, takes exception to the phrase "olive garden" itself; she loudly insists it should be called "olive grove".

Your daughter is right. Olives grow on trees. A cultivated group of fruit-bearing trees is an orchard or grove, not a garden.
posted by gauche at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Ok, I'll admit it. I live in Grand Forks, North Dakota. I'm kind of amused by the furor about Olive Garden as well but in a 'I understand' kind of way.

I had dinner last night at an excellent Asian fusion restaurant, Drunken Noodle. Sister to Drunken Noodle is Little Bangkok. There's also the Blue Moose and Parrot's Cay and Burger Time and twenty or more different restaurants that offer quality non-chain dining. For absolutely amazing Italian, there's Mama Maria's or there's another Italian restaurant downtown as well. The town is a bit bereft when it comes to quality Mexican or Indian food, but it's definitely not lacking in fine dining options. There's a Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown, lest you think this is all too hopelessly provincial for you.

So why are people excited about the Olive Garden? Because Grand Forks is a small town (55,000 people is small to me, I'm from San Diego) 70 miles from the next closest town (Fargo) and 140 miles from the next next closest (Winnipeg). People who've eaten at Olive Garden before, say in the Twin Cities, are not impressed but those who haven't eaten there because most chains don't come to North Dakota and now's their chance to eat at one.

Really, there's an astonishing lack of chains. You know the excitement about Olive Garden that y'all are sneering at? Would you have sneered so much if I told you that people were equally excited about the new Five Guys that opened up last year? One happens to be a bit hipper than the other, but both chains stirred up excitement precisely because they're finally here! People don't have to go to the Cities anymore to get an ordinary chain that everyone elsewhere has.

Also, people are excited because one of the members of the city council is a huge liquor store owner and he blocked Olive Garden's liquor license for about six months which built up a lot of anticipation. Small town politics, yo.

Bad chains, with bad food, don't last in this town. Golden Corral just closed, as a matter of fact. I can argue that Olive Garden has mediocre rather than bad food and in fact there's an Applebee's (used to be two--Drunken Noodle just took over one of them), a TGI Friday's, a Buffalo Wild Wings, and all of those standard boring chains but y'know what? People everywhere eat that food so it's not really unique to North Dakota.

Grand Forks, North Dakota. Low unemployment, none of the issues with the oil boom in the western part of the state, lovely and welcoming people. If you're in town, come say hi! I'd love to organize a meet-up with you.
posted by librarylis at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2012 [126 favorites]


As a former small-town reporter I feel her pain. I once had to write a story on a Sonic opening up by the highway.

Now hold on a minute. Were there other Sonics already within easy driving distance? Then writing a story on a Sonic opening would be pretty useless indeed.

If, however, this was Sonic breaking new ground into a market, then damn right that's a story! One of the saddest things about living in South Bend and then Chicago was that you still got to see Sonic ads all over TV, but there were no Sonics within driving distance. I actually knew some people who made a day trip to Fort Wayne to go to the Sonic there.

Really, Sonic should just be outlawed from advertising nationally. I had taken them for granted having grown up in Texas, but I wouldn't have felt such pangs of longing if it wasn't for their damn ads.

(My inner voice as I write this comment is for some reason much more Texan twanged than usual.)
posted by kmz at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


You have to really understand Scandinavian Lutherans to get why this review is scathing. Motherfuckers will smile at you, serve you up a plate of hot dish and all the while be shivving you with their eyes. You won't know it, but the rest of the people in the church basement will. Oh, you'll still get invited to the picnics and the swap meets and all that. But the smiles. They'll be...tighter. The eyes will be...harder.

Lutheranism! A religion seemingly designed to keep small communities from killing each other during winter.
posted by The Whelk at 10:29 AM on March 8, 2012 [63 favorites]


If, however, this was Sonic breaking new ground into a market, then damn right that's a story! One of the saddest things about living in South Bend and then Chicago was that you still got to see Sonic ads all over TV, but there were no Sonics within driving distance. I actually knew some people who made a day trip to Fort Wayne to go to the Sonic there.

OH MY GOD I HATE THIS IT SHOULD BE A CRIME.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:31 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


North Dakotans are like the anti-Jews.

Hate to break it to you, but we're pretty well-versed in the most passive of aggression as well.
posted by clockzero at 10:31 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're pretty much going to Winnipeg...

WE'RE GETTIN A WORLDCLASS IKEA REAL SOON MOTHERFUCKERS

or Minneapolis after that.

They already have an IKEA. And light rail transit. And a beautiful city with really nice people. Motherfuckers.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:32 AM on March 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


Hah! I grew up in a small city surrounded by farmland, and this is exactly how everyone talked about things they hated the shit out of. "The window treatments were beautifully designed," my grandmother once remarked about a terrible diner. Indeed they were!
posted by bewilderbeast at 10:32 AM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Now, the people who go to the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue in Manhattan--that's kind of surprising and odd.

The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there, but you can use the bathroom for free.
posted by steambadger at 10:34 AM on March 8, 2012


Reminds me of a thread I posted a while ago that was [rightfully] deleted for being tone-deaf in presentation.

For my money this review of a new Olive Garden in Sioux City is the cream of the crop; it replaces this review's kindly-old-lady warm fuzzies with... something more hillariously atonal.
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 10:34 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


OH MY GOD I HATE THIS IT SHOULD BE A CRIME.

As a nearly-lifelong resident of New York who once moved to LA for a year, I think it should be my constitutional right to punch anyone mentioning In-n-Out Burger without immediately giving me an In-n-Out burger.
posted by griphus at 10:34 AM on March 8, 2012 [20 favorites]


Just posted this story on the ole Twitter. Within seconds, this reply from a journalist acquaintance:

Hagerty's face is stencilled on walls/dumpsters in downtown Grand Forks. She's got an odd following.

Can anyone verify this?
posted by gompa at 10:35 AM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


(My official line for practicing my Minnesota accent is "The Twins, they're sometimes not too good, but we love 'em because they try so hard.")

I prefer "Let's get some Cokes and some mochas and go out on the boat," but then I lived in Minneapolis.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:35 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


OH MY GOD I HATE THIS IT SHOULD BE A CRIME.

I don't know whether this was meant as sarcasm or not, and it's one of the rare occasions where it makes me laugh in either interpretation. Well done.
posted by gauche at 10:36 AM on March 8, 2012


Not so negative that she won't go back on a warm day for the raspberry lemonade.

In Grand Forks, I think that might not be a ringing endorsement.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:37 AM on March 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


All I know about Winnipeg I learned from Venetian Snares.

Alvy Ampersand, will there be a post with some positive facts about Winnipeg sometime in the future?
posted by helicomatic at 10:38 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


My source says she saw the Hagerty stencils firsthand. She's looking to see if she still has pics.
posted by gompa at 10:38 AM on March 8, 2012


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

I would eat a single meal there for the sole purpose of telling everyone I had a Royale with cheese.
posted by TedW at 10:39 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


In conclusion, Olive Garden is a land of contrasts.
posted by The Whelk at 10:39 AM on March 8, 2012 [38 favorites]


UPDATE! "In at least one instance of the graffiti, her head was surrounded in flames. Poetic."
posted by gompa at 10:40 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


That is some of the dryest, read-between-the-lines bitching I've ever read. Kudos. Also, quoted (in one of the BB comments, but not linked) from another column of hers about a trip to Florida:
"P.S. An elderly white-haired gentleman leaned over me when I was
sitting on a bench in Florida. He said, “Say something! Say something!” I
thought he was trying to pick me up. Then I realized he wanted to know
if his hearing aid was working."
Which is all sorts of brilliant; it reads like one of Lydia Davis' aphoristically short stories.
posted by Len at 10:40 AM on March 8, 2012 [10 favorites]


I prefer "Let's get some Cokes and some mochas and go out on the boat," but then I lived in Minneapolis.

This has more pronunciation opportunities, but I find that mine gets me in the mood, and the mood is everything.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 10:41 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


This sort of thing happens all over, though, right? I mean, here in Boston ("The Athens of the USA" they'll have you believe) people were going apeshit over the very first Sonic to enter the market a couple years ago. I think it's just one of those things where, as a nationally advertised product that you hear about all the time, you just need to go check it out to see what the fuss is.

I will admit to being a bit of a snob, and when I took a trip out to western Colorado I was a bit worried about what I'd find. Honestly, though, there was some really good food - I stayed in Palisade (population 3,000 or so) and this small town not only had a great French bistro, but one of the best bowls of pho I've ever had. Plus, about a dozen wineries, a meadery, a brewery, and a distillery. So that helped.
posted by backseatpilot at 10:41 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's pretty easy to pick out the people in this thread who've never read a small town newspaper. The kind that comes out weekly or is shared by 2 or 3 area towns.

They are the people who think there's the faintest chance in hell this isn't 100% real.
posted by DU at 10:42 AM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Hagerty wheatpaste in Grand Forks, ND.
posted by helicomatic at 10:42 AM on March 8, 2012 [19 favorites]


WOOO NORTH DAKOTA REPRESENT! *VAGUE HAND GESTURE*

While this might seem "real US" vs "North Dakota US", it's just as easy for us, within North Dakota, to further bifurcate the debate and go, "Pfsh, those small-town rubes in Grand Forks, we here in Fargo know real food."

Plus, we've had an Olive Garden in Fargo since the 1980s, so suck on that, Forkers!
posted by AzraelBrown at 10:42 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not so negative that she won't go back on a warm day for the raspberry lemonade.

In Grand Forks, I think that might not be a ringing endorsement.


Kadin, it's generally hotter and more humid there in the summer than it is in Los Angeles. I'm pretty sure there was at least one year while I still lived there with, if you counted wind chill, a 200 degree temperature swing. -100 in the winter, 100 in the summer. It is most certainly a land of contrasts, at least when it comes to the weather making you uncomfortable.
posted by flaterik at 10:42 AM on March 8, 2012


Maybe it was a scathing review, maybe it wasn't... but I don't get what's wrong with people in small towns being excited about something new in their area, even if it's a chain that's basically played-out in some circles.

I lived in a town in Arkansas once, where people made reservations for Mother's Day at "that new 'Taco Bell'".

It happens that, when the only thing in your town is a diner and a Dairy Queen, anything new is pretty exciting.
posted by kaseijin at 10:43 AM on March 8, 2012


As a nearly-lifelong resident of New York who once moved to LA for a year, I think it should be my constitutional right to punch anyone mentioning In-n-Out Burger without immediately giving me an In-n-Out burger.

Ugh, the big city newspapers made a gigantic fucking deal out of In-n-Out coming to DFW. There were multiple news stories. It was ridiculous. The DFWian had decent coverage though.
posted by kmz at 10:44 AM on March 8, 2012


I love her photo. That is the knowing smirk of a master satirist.
posted by device55 at 10:44 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


That is the most hilarious sentence one could write in a restaurant review. Yes, visitors from out of town love to see the same restaurant as they have wherever they're from. Thank you, Marilyn Hagerty, you're awesome.

No, seriously, I'm from the South, I currently live in Quebec. My husband and I have a longstanding rule of "If it's someplace we have in our town, we don't go to it while traveling." Hence, most chains are out. But the question I am frequently asked by my sister and father regarding food where I live is invariably: "Do y'all have an Outback Steakhouse/Applebee's/Ruby Tuesday's/etc.?" When I say we don't, the silence on the other end of the phone is deafening.
posted by Kitteh at 10:45 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


And one more: "Make sure to visit Widman's candy shop for some chocolate-covered ripple chips. (It's next to the sex shop.)"

Grand Forks, North Dakota: A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Who knew?

(All of these courtesy of @zoeywrites.)
posted by gompa at 10:46 AM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


The half of me that has spent my entire life living in places where you can get actual Italian food is pointing and laughing.

The half of me that knows that this is not available to everybody realizes just how rude this is.

The half of me that thinks "dude, you're on Metafilter, this site is full of snark" is pointing at the preachy half of me and laughing, but is secretly tired of doing that, because I understand that not everybody is like me.

The half of me that is a mathematician thinks "what the hell, you have three halves?" and just made things worse by announcing its existence.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:46 AM on March 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

American tourists. And, if my personal experience is any indication, I would go a step further and say generally loud, large, boorish American tourists.

I was amused and relieved when in Paris that, if you are even slightly polite, people don't think you're from the US. Polite + thin = British. Polite + larger = maybe German.
posted by kaseijin at 10:47 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

I'm guessing it's because it's reasonably good extremely cheap food that comes quickly and is very popular with kids.

Charming cafes are not near so charming with three kids to look after, and lovely restaurants in the Latin quarter are not affordable to people who work at lovely restaurants in the Latin quarter.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:47 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The chocolate covered potato chips from Widman's are, in fact, delicious. I get less resistance to people trying them now than when I brought them here during college.

I briefly dated a girl that worked in that porn shop.

It's not a big town.
posted by flaterik at 10:49 AM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I love me some subtlety, but you can overdo it to the point where your message is lost.
posted by tommasz at 10:50 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm in Houston now, which appears, after living in San Francisco, to be the chain capital of the world. There's a Walmart, Target, PetsMart, and every restaurant chain that exists every three blocks. Almost without fail, if you're asked to get together for dinner with someone, it'll be at a chain restaurant. I've never had so much bad food. And why is Chili's still in business? (Note - never order the chili.) Or Pizza Hut, when you pay $6 for a large pizza, you get a $6 large pizza.

That said, the Olive Gardens I've been to here are not that bad. The one I went to in San Francisco cause I happened to be out at Stonestown mall was astonishingly bad.
posted by shoesietart at 10:50 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was born in North Dakota ("Why not Minot?") and even I barely believe it's really up there where the maps say it is. That said, I found this review totally endearing and I'm glad I got a chance to read it. I, too, have loved some Olive Garden in my day, though I can't say I ever get a craving for it anymore.
posted by juliplease at 10:50 AM on March 8, 2012


backseatpilot: This sort of thing happens all over, though, right? I mean, here in Boston ("The Athens of the USA" they'll have you believe) people were going apeshit over the very first Sonic to enter the market a couple years ago.

When the first Krispy Kreme in New England opened in Somerville (Cambridge?) back in the mid 90s there were four hour waits for donuts.

gompa: "Make sure to visit Widman's candy shop for some chocolate-covered ripple chips. (It's next to the sex shop.)"

In Concord, NH, it was the State Republican Headquarters next to the sex shop (and across the street from the State Capitol).
posted by Rock Steady at 10:51 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


My friend's a Wisconsinite who moved to Minnesota and married a MN native. He complains all the time about the passive-aggressive "Minnesota Nice" thing, and I gotta show him this, because I wonder if he'd pick up on it as being a negative review or not... Heh. Yes, it's N. Dakota, but apparently the culture is similar in that regards?
posted by symbioid at 10:51 AM on March 8, 2012


As another Winnipegger, I had assumed that Grank Forks only existed to facilitate cross border shopping for us.

And yes, people are getting SOOOO excited for the Ikea that is being built here. I honestly do not get it.
posted by utsutsu at 10:52 AM on March 8, 2012


Perhaps Sidhedevil can suggest a better place to get my big dish of pasta, fresh salad, for cheap and watch the ball game? Near the F train please.

*stares a long moment, goes to Googlemaps, pulls up "Olive Garden NYC" and hits "search near: Italian"*

Da Andrea. It's about 8 blocks away from the Olive Garden, right by the 14th Street stop. That's one of the four pages of hits I got searching not just near the F train, but near that F-train stop specifically.

You're welcome.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:53 AM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


I'm always shocked how expensive these big chain dinner places are. I guess they make it up in portions but everything seems wildly overpriced. I thought chains drove down prices?
posted by The Whelk at 10:54 AM on March 8, 2012


Well what the hell was she supposed to write?
posted by mazola at 10:54 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aw hell. Only part of this discussion is about the merits of the review, the other part is just the usual snarking/insulting of people in small towns and the Olive Gardens they frequent. Move aside, People Who Shop at Wal-mart!
posted by Atreides at 10:55 AM on March 8, 2012


For my money this review of a new Olive Garden in Sioux City is the cream of the crop; it replaces this review's kindly-old-lady warm fuzzies with... something more hillariously atonal.

From the article:
That's the reaction that excites general manager Jason Hagarty, 31, an Omaha native and bachelor with eight years of Olive Garden experience, most recently as general manager in Dubuque.

wtf??
posted by timshel at 10:57 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm racking up a couple more Michelin stars this weekend, including a lunch at Momofuku Ko. Last night I had dinner at Olive Garden. [Shrug.]

Julia Child loved McDonald's and Burger King. I really, really love high-minded food, but I'm not any "better" than Julia Child.

When the first Krispy Kreme in New England opened in Somerville (Cambridge?) back in the mid 90s there were four hour waits for donuts.

Medford. I don't know if it was quite four hours, but the grand-opening events were big deals. They set up tents and gave out T-shirts and coffee mugs. People were indeed lined up for doughnuts, but it's worth adding that they were lined up for free doughnuts.

I didn't attend the Medford grand opening, but I paid pretty close attention because I owned stock at the time. When Medford opened, I had already been to the grand opening in Cranston.
posted by cribcage at 10:57 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "I can't even begin to figure out how damning this faint praise is meant to be, or how praising. I feel like I need a Midwestern-to-English interpreter.

This is why the South is better than the Midwest; if her review had just read: "Olive Garden? Bless your heart," I would have understood what was going on.
"

Your comment reminded me of this Genteel Southern Lady.

(be sure to check out the rest of it, as well - the lady that seems like she's Blaire from Facts of Life (in the clip beforehand) talking about how northerner's sound "nasally" which is funny to me, because I think this lady sounds really nasally)...
posted by symbioid at 10:59 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went to high school on a small South Pacific island that is a US Military base (Kwajalein). The one convenience store on the island carried Budweiser, Miller Lite, and Michelob. That was it - the entirety of the beer selection on the island. Then one day we got a shipment of Stroh's. I think it was mistake, but it didn't matter. Never in the history of mankind has an entire shipment (I'm guessing 100 cases maybe) of crappy beer sold out so fast. It sold out in hours. There was a line out the door from open until we ran out.

Did I mention this was Stroh's?

Sometimes different is all it takes to be awesome, at least temporarily.
posted by COD at 10:59 AM on March 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


I love me some subtlety, but you can overdo it to the point where your message is lost.
Ahh, but you are not her target demographic, tommasz.
posted by Floydd at 10:59 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was amused and relieved when in Paris that, if you are even slightly polite, people don't think you're from the US. Polite + thin = British. Polite + larger = maybe German.

My (limited) experience in Europe is that people will got out of their way to assume you're something other than American; I think it's a way of being polite. My wife and I get a ton of people assuming we are English, and I'm a fat guy with a Southern accent who wears dirty blue jeans.

I mean, everything about me screams "American," but I guess since I'm not spitting chaw on the art they don't want to offend me by pointing it out.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:01 AM on March 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


Okay, I'll play nice and admit that this Brooklynite got pretty damn excited when we got that Ikea. (Actually, the people-watching there is kind of fascinating.) And I remember when Krispy Kreme opene in New York and there was a damn stampede.

(But about Krispy Kreme - I gotta say, I never tried it, because honestly? The name puts me off. ..."Crispy" is just not an appetizing-sounding descriptor for "cream" to me; more like, "when your cream is crispy it's time to toss it and check the temperature setting in your fridge.")
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:01 AM on March 8, 2012


This sort of thing happens all over, though, right? I mean, here in Boston ("The Athens of the USA" they'll have you believe) people were going apeshit over the very first Sonic to enter the market a couple years ago. I think it's just one of those things where, as a nationally advertised product that you hear about all the time, you just need to go check it out to see what the fuss is.

I live in suburban Atlanta and there have been non stop lines for the Del Taco that just opened. There is no shortage of great food in Atlanta, maybe the best Mexican food I’ve ever had in my life here.

When the first Krispy Kreme in New England opened in Somerville (Cambridge?) back in the mid 90s there were four hour waits for donuts.

The same in Los Angeles. I don’t know about 4 hours, but it was chaos for weeks. For donuts. I have never in my life been to a place that had as many donut shops as L.A. but this still happened.
posted by bongo_x at 11:04 AM on March 8, 2012


Krispy Kreme is straight-up awful and anyone excited for that is insane.
posted by neuromodulator at 11:05 AM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


general manager Jason Hagarty, 31, an Omaha native and bachelor

Just in case someone happens to be reading and wants to set their granddaughter up on an awkward date or something, I guess.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:05 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, yes, Olive Garden is an abomination.

On the other hand, it's trivially easy and very enjoyable to make world-class Italian food in even the most bare-bones home kitchen in about the time it takes to go down to an Italian restaurant, be seated, order, and wait for the food to come out, so, in a way, almost all Italian restaurants are an abomination to one degree or another.

And, speaking as a Midwesterner, this reviewer's scathing subtext and understated snark is truly a thing to behold. My hat is off to her.
posted by The World Famous at 11:06 AM on March 8, 2012


People got really excited about the Chik-Fil-A hidden in an NYU dorm in Greenwich Village and the first NYC Five Guys. I remember youngish looking folks trying to sneak in to buy chicken nuggets.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:07 AM on March 8, 2012


When you are writing in a small town, you can't afford to piss off your advertisers. I think she couples Minnesota-nice with enjoying being employed perfectly. Also, when a chain opens up in a small town, it's a big fucking deal. Petco just opened up here and people refer to it as the Juneau Zoo. "Have you been?" "Verily."
posted by Foam Pants at 11:08 AM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hagerty wheatpaste in Grand Forks, ND.

I love the graffiti added to these. Says it all, really.
posted by scalefree at 11:09 AM on March 8, 2012


When the first Krispy Kreme in New England opened in Somerville (Cambridge?) back in the mid 90s there were four hour waits for donuts.

Krispy Kreme is straight-up awful and anyone excited for that is insane.

For your consideration. Japanese people being insane. Note that the area at the start of the video is the queue and the next one you see is "the lineup before the lineup".
posted by Winnemac at 11:12 AM on March 8, 2012


On the other hand, it's trivially easy and very enjoyable to make world-class Italian food in even the most bare-bones home kitchen...
...
And, speaking as a Midwesterner...

Yeah that about explains things.
posted by griphus at 11:13 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


When the first Krispy Kreme in New England opened in Somerville (Cambridge?) back in the mid 90s there were four hour waits for donuts.

Boston actually. It was in the Prudential Center. I think it's gone now, didn't last long.
posted by scalefree at 11:13 AM on March 8, 2012


OK, more than complaining about Olive Garden vs a better Italian joint -- why on earth would you go out to eat Italian food? 90% of the cuisine is based around fresh ingredients and a little kitchen skill. If you want a big bowl of pasta, you can have a puttanesca sauce ready pretty much by the time the noodles are cooked, which will taste better than a huge percentage of restaurants at a very reasonable cost. Meanwhile, you throw together a salad, maybe some kind of bread (or garlic bread, if you must), a nice bottle of wine, and you have a fine fine meal for a date or solo dining. Geeze, people!
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:13 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


"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."

"The water came in a glass. The water was cold, and very wet. The glass was round, and fit perfectly in my hand."
posted by mikeand1 at 11:14 AM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Sweet jesus have any of you people lived in an Italian neighborhood?
posted by griphus at 11:14 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


people who go to the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue in Manhattan

6th Ave and what?
posted by ob at 11:14 AM on March 8, 2012


And yes, people are getting SOOOO excited for the Ikea that is being built here. I honestly do not get it.

My wife's cousins make semi-regular trips from Saskatoon out to Calgary with two things in mind: a visit with the family, and a trip to IKEA. They ensure the car is packed with the visit to IKEA in mind; i.e., they have set aside space for the furniture they anticipate buying. Trips to places that have access to chain stores/outlets that you don't have are exciting for some people (hell, even I found myself enjoying stops at fast food places like Wendy's when I lived in a very small (3,000 people) community for a while).
posted by never used baby shoes at 11:14 AM on March 8, 2012


The Northern Valley's most up-to-date site.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:16 AM on March 8, 2012


Yeah that about explains things.

Did you just imply that nobody in Detroit could possibly know what good Italian food tastes like or how to cook it?
posted by The World Famous at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Through a surprisingly lengthy and convoluted chain of circumstances, the high points of which you may be familiar with, I found myself - a longtime resident of the Washington DC area - having a late lunch in an Olive Garden in a remote exurb of Denver, Colorado on the afternoon of September 11, 2001. It was a Tuesday.

It was quite a surreal experience. I suspect, if asked to describe it at the time, I probably would have said something much like this.
posted by Naberius at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


OK, more than complaining about Olive Garden vs a better Italian joint -- why on earth would you go out to eat Italian food? 90% of the cuisine is based around fresh ingredients and a little kitchen skill. If you want a big bowl of pasta, you can have a puttanesca sauce ready pretty much by the time the noodles are cooked, which will taste better than a huge percentage of restaurants at a very reasonable cost. Meanwhile, you throw together a salad, maybe some kind of bread (or garlic bread, if you must), a nice bottle of wine, and you have a fine fine meal for a date or solo dining. Geeze, people!

I'm having trouble squaring "don't go out for Italian food" with "lives in Rhode Island."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Marilyn takes America by viral storm ... thanks to Eatbeat review of Olive Garden: First, her name is bestowed on a lift station. Now, Herald columnist Marilyn Hagerty has received even more celebrity because her Wednesday restaurant review of Olive Garden has gone viral.

“I don’t get it,” she said this morning. “I’ve been doing this for 30-40 years. Why all of a sudden now?”

Internet sharing is the reason. Popular websites such as Fark, Gawker and Boingboing posted the story, setting off a barrage of comments via Twitter and Facebook.

The website postings were because residents of more metropolitan areas found it amusing that a chain restaurant would be reviewed. In larger markets, reviews are made of more exclusive, high-end eateries.

posted by flex at 11:19 AM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


I remember a bit in Prairie Home Companion about the North Dakota Hotel in downtown Saint Paul, where people from North Dakota could stay with their own kind.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:19 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm having trouble squaring "don't go out for Italian food" with "lives in Rhode Island."

Well, in their defense, "going out" can be an expensive prospect. I haven't gone out to dinner in YEARS unless someone else was spotting me.

(Then again, Olive Garden would be beyond your grasp in that scenario as well.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:20 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Disclaimer: did not read the whole comment thread. I did get a fair bit into it, but I have only so much stamina. However, I wish to say that as a Flyover Type myself by birth, I really don't see this post as the kind of coastal urban snottiness that I guess some people are. It seems fairly ageographical to me, and focused on the fact that people liked the review. I'm fairly sensitive to urban snobbery, and vociferous in my condemnation thereof. But I don't see any here.

I'm from southern Indiana, if anyone needed credentials.
posted by Because at 11:20 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love how this review is kind of the inverse of the the preening, tortured review Jonathan Gold gave the Olive Garden (previously on MeFi), in which he makes sure to let you know that of course a serious foodie would only goooo there as a misguided praaaank -- though if you read between the lines it seems like his dinner companion actually kind of enjoyed the experience. Meanwhile, Marilyn Hegarty says the decor is nice and the pasta was comforting, and by omission manages to convey more or less the same message as the first review, but without a trace of the agonizing self-consciousness.
posted by en forme de poire at 11:20 AM on March 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


here in NYC people lost their shit when IKEA opened in Brooklyn and years before that, when 23rd Street was finally graced by the presence and smells of KRISPY KREME DONUTS. the losing of shit over those donuts was magnanimous.
posted by liza at 11:21 AM on March 8, 2012


Like PEI, North Dakota also exists. To find it one must first travel north and east out of the Black Hills, through the grasslands, and onto the great desolate waste. From there, one goes several days further into the desolation, to a place where no scrub pine can be seen and the land drops away in all directions. On this spot, if one is able to focus one's concentration and energies (meditation or a sweat lodge helps in this), one can re-position one's orientation within the threads of the universe.

At this point, the curtain will be drawn away from the plains, and you will be shown the paths to the villages of North Dakota, and the welcoming hearths therein.

That, or Unhcegila will come and visit you.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:21 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Did you just imply that nobody in Detroit could possibly know what good Italian food tastes like or how to cook it?

I could take or leave that interpretation, but I am implying you've been living a life devoid of good Italian food. If this is accurate, and assuming you've eaten Italian food in Detroit alone, you've literally had a <3% chance of having authentic Italian food.
posted by griphus at 11:22 AM on March 8, 2012


I'm really waiting for a North Dakota oil boom post. It's supposed to be crazy.
posted by drezdn at 11:22 AM on March 8, 2012


I've driven through ND several times on my way to and from Montana. This is the reason to go there. (Double rainbow! Wild horses!) Seriously, the South Dakota badlands pale in comparison.
posted by desjardins at 11:22 AM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I live in suburban Atlanta and there have been non stop lines for the Del Taco that just opened.

There's a Del Taco in Atlanta now?! Seriously, for years the only Del Taco east of the Mississippi was on St. Simons Island ; apparently Taco Bell bought out most of the locations in the southeast (at least they did here in Augusta. And while I wouldn't wait in line to eat there, if I am hungry and in a hurry and in the mood for a burrito or taco, Del Taco beats Taco Bell by a mile (and for a while, at least, they also had beer, which is another plus).
posted by TedW at 11:22 AM on March 8, 2012


The Minneapolis alt-weekly just posted an interview with Marilyn Hagerty.

Did you think when you were writing this that it would get a lot of attention outside of Grand Forks?

"I didn't really care."

She sounds awesome. I'd love to go eat with her. And she drinks Crown Royal!
posted by castlebravo at 11:23 AM on March 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


why on earth would you go out to eat Italian food?

Because going out to eat isn't always primarily about food. For example, Olive Garden is a convenient place for me to get together with relatives who live in the next state over. Meeting halfway means that each of us only needs to drive one hour instead of two. Also, a restaurant is a great option if I want X and my partner wants Y and neither of us has a lot of time to spare that night. Basically any reason why somebody would go out to eat, combined with the fact that Italian food appeals to lots of people, is the answer to your question.

As for Krispy Kreme...? I think they're great, but then, I love all kinds of doughnuts. The best within driving distance are Kane's, but that's a liberal definition of "driving distance" for me so mostly I go to Dunkin Donuts. There are a few mom-&-pop places in my area that aren't good. In New York, I like Doughnut Plant. Honey Dew is just okay. Michael Schlow had fantastic doughnuts on the menu at Radius, although he changed them a few years ago. (Still good. Not as good.) And speaking of...? I like Olive Garden's zeppole (Italian doughnuts), too.
posted by cribcage at 11:23 AM on March 8, 2012


From a former editor

"Oh, that's for real. Marilyn has been reviewing restaurants for the
Herald for decades. She also writes a sort of celebrity column and has a
sewage lift station named for her, as does Dave Barry.

By the way, her readers will recognize that as a fairly negative review
since she spent a lot more time on the ambience than the food:

"The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day. The
portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese."



An interview with Marilyn -

Was there anything you left out of your review in terms of your experience there?

Um, how would I know? I put in what I put in. Yeah, you're getting at the fact that I didn't criticize it enough, I suppose, because that is what most people who want to be critical say. And I usually do put in pluses or minuses and say a few good things and bad things. Anyway, in the past when that has been criticized, I mean, what do you do? You keep going. The publisher came out to my desk one day and said, "Marilyn, I like what you're doing, because it gives a picture of what places to eat are like in Grand Forks." And I'm a journalist, I'm not just someone sitting out in the country writing.

....

Everybody on the Internet today is sharing your column and really enjoying it.

I feel they're being rather condescending, but it's OK with me.


posted by cnelson at 11:24 AM on March 8, 2012 [12 favorites]


If this is accurate, and assuming you've eaten Italian food in Detroit alone, you've literally had a <3% chance of having authentic Italian food.

[throws flag] [holds arms in crossed position]

That is not math at all. 15 yards, plus an additional 5 for the use of the word "literally."
posted by Linda_Holmes at 11:25 AM on March 8, 2012 [32 favorites]


If this is accurate, and assuming you've eaten Italian food in Detroit alone, you've literally had a <3% chance of having authentic Italian food.

There's so much wrong with this logic that it's difficult to know where to start.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 11:25 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm having trouble squaring "don't go out for Italian food" with "lives in Rhode Island."

Contrary to popular belief, apartments in RI come equipped with kitchens.

To slightly mitigate your aghastness, St. Joseph's Day is coming up, and with it, zeppole season. That's worth stopping by the bakery for.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:27 AM on March 8, 2012


His boyfriend is gay.

One would hope.
posted by madajb at 11:27 AM on March 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


The fact that this review is about The Olive Garden is part of the joke, but a very small part. It's also not hugely relevant that it's in North Dakota. This article is memorable for the writing, which is just... off. I'm sorry folks, but I am not buying the fact that Marilyn is a brilliant satirist or anything like that. Read her other reviews. Marilyn sees a green car. Look, there's a green car.
posted by solmyjuice at 11:28 AM on March 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


...whether or not a hastily-Googled zip code map proves anything or not, you are all welcome to my neighborhood for Italian food made by Italians for other Italians. It is good and you will enjoy it and you will say "thanks, griphus, that was some fantastic Italian food. You are welcome to my house so that I may make you Italian food as well." And we will be friends and also there might be some gelato.
posted by griphus at 11:28 AM on March 8, 2012


I tried to teach him, and I failed. I'm sorry.

Man, I've got two little kids and I'm doing everything I can think of: getting them interested in cooking, making sure that most of their food is homemade, teaching healthy habits, only allowing junk that passes a minimum bar of quality, and keeping them away from TV ads. And I damn near have nightmares about my son one day raving about the baby back ribs at Chili's.
posted by middleclasstool at 11:29 AM on March 8, 2012


I live in Madison, WI - a town that is known for it's many and varied places to stuff your face with awesome food.

My son is gay. His boyfriend is gay.
And their favorite restaurant is The Olive Garden. 10,000 amazing hole in the wall restaurants and that's their favorite.

I just want to take a moment and apologize to The Gay Community. I tried to teach him, and I failed. I'm sorry.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:13 AM on March 8 [23 favorites +] [!]


You know I was going to guess your gay son's boyfriend was gay even before you mentioned it.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 11:29 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


In other "Midwestern newspapers go in strange directions to reach their perceived target audience" news, I just read a Minneapolis Star Tribune article about the Fender Musical Instruments IPO that included this gem:

In recent years, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company's guitars have been used by musicians from Bruno Mars to Shakira.
posted by COBRA! at 11:30 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I love this review so much and the writer behind it. That subtle super-dry review of the decor instead of the food is fantastic.

It reminds me of the time I gave my worst-ever technology conference presentation to a huge room of maybe 3,000 people (I threw my slides together at the last minute, barely practiced, it came out as unorganized and nothing really new).

The first point in a review of the talk in a major newspaper was the writer saying I was significantly tall. It was so great, like hearing "Europe's loudest band" for Spinal Tap, no mention of quality at all.
posted by mathowie at 11:34 AM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]



No, seriously, I'm from the South, I currently live in Quebec. My husband and I have a longstanding rule of "If it's someplace we have in our town, we don't go to it while traveling." Hence, most chains are out. But the question I am frequently asked by my sister and father regarding food where I live is invariably: "Do y'all have an Outback Steakhouse/Applebee's/Ruby Tuesday's/etc.?" When I say we don't, the silence on the other end of the phone is deafening.


That's what I meant...I should have written that out more. I think she's saying that the Olive Garden is perfectly suited to those visitors who can't stand anything new or different and wouldn't appreciate the really great food she's been able to try and recommend as a reviewer.
posted by xingcat at 11:36 AM on March 8, 2012


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

Oh, I'm sure you did.


She just burned the shit out of this interviewer. I'm not joking.
posted by narcoleptic at 11:37 AM on March 8, 2012 [31 favorites]


Damn, no one's posted about how MetaFilter's Own Greg Nog was a host at Olive Garden?
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:37 AM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


She isn't being passive aggressive here - she calls it the nicest looking restaurant in Grand Forks, which is likely accurate. Sadly. And it isn't damning with faint praise - this is a review by an old geezer for all the other old geezers. She always covers how much things cost, portion size, if the service put up with your special requests, how long things took - when to go so you don't have to wait all damn day for your food. That's the gig. This isn't the worst/most hilarious of her "reviews". For example she loves the Italian Moon, which was so much worse than any Olive Garden, and might be considered competitors, but for the fact that one is actually edible, and the other is some sort of buffet.
posted by zenon at 11:41 AM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I loved Olive Garden as a child. I had my first-ever slice of cheesecake there, for one thing. Plus there were various pasta dishes that my parents never served - manicotti, that sort of thing. And if you're under the illusion that back in my family's days of working class poverty in a remote suburb my parents could conceivably have found the time to prepare authentic Italian after miraculously buying the authentic ingredients at Aldi's....well, you have another think coming. Olive Garden lasagna tastes just fine if you're comparing it to grocery store spaghetti with canned-tomato/tomato-paste/green pepper/McCormick spices tomato sauce and imitation parmesan.

Even now, I have a soft spot for the cheap, proletarian foods of my youth, and I'm not going to shame anyone who enjoys them. Shaming people for liking the best food they can get is pretty crass.

This reviewer seems irritating. She should either fake it where she is or take her chances in the big city - sticking around to write smarm about your neighbors so that you're the clever fish in the rube pond isn't what I call grown-up.

Plus I bet that if your sample was not just restricted to Mefites, half the people who are all "ooh, Olive Garden is so risible"....I bet that if you did a blindfold taste test between the same dish from Olive Garden and somewhere moderately fancier, half of them couldn't figure it out.

(As a side note, my parents have retired to somewhere with a dearth of fancy restaurants. The local Red Lobster is actually pretty well run, and that makes a big difference. Sure, the food isn't what you call sophisticated, but the ingredients are fresh, nothing is greasy and everything is cooked to a turn. I suspect that an Olive Garden meal from a well-run restaurant would beat the recent nasty, oversalted meal I had at one of the happening locavore joints - that meal was not, I assume, typical of the restaurant, but man it was bad.)
posted by Frowner at 11:42 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


librarylis said: I had dinner last night at an excellent Asian fusion restaurant, Drunken Noodle.

From the interview:
Are there any restaurants opening soon that will be the subject of your future reviews?

Yes, I have done one for next week, I've already finished it. My deadline is 10 days before--I have to have the review in 10 days before it's printed. And I have submitted one on "The Drunken Noodle," which just opened in East Grand Forks.
I'm very excited.
posted by scalefree at 11:42 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sure, the food isn't what you call sophisticated...

They're working on it.
posted by griphus at 11:43 AM on March 8, 2012


No, seriously, I'm from the South, I currently live in Quebec. My husband and I have a longstanding rule of "If it's someplace we have in our town, we don't go to it while traveling." Hence, most chains are out. But the question I am frequently asked by my sister and father regarding food where I live is invariably: "Do y'all have an Outback Steakhouse/Applebee's/Ruby Tuesday's/etc.?" When I say we don't, the silence on the other end of the phone is deafening.

I totally get why a person would want to eat at Outback if they're traveling and don't know the area. Local places serve the best food, but they also serve some of the worst, and it can be hard to tell the difference (A concrete building the parking lot of a Hardees'? C Sanitation grade? That place should have been gold.) After a long drive, I'm pretty likely to pull into a Bob Evans or somewhere like that in order to avoid ending my day with terrible food.

I don't get it if you're visiting relatives, since they can presumably guide you to places that are good. Hell, I even manage to find local places for my dad who freaks out when there's a menu item he doesn't immediately recognize, out of the fear that there might secretly be parmesan cheese in the dish.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:48 AM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Living within a day's drive of Grand Forks, I'm given to wonder if my impression of her review would have been any different if I had watched Fargo (I haven't, since I can't get over the strong accents), and/or imagined her reading it out loud. Probably not.

What matters to me is that it's an embodiment of behavior common to the upper midwest that's passive-aggressive, and that's enhanced very much by body language and tone. It's very much a read-between-the-lines communication style that can be difficult to get used to.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:49 AM on March 8, 2012


I'm really waiting for a North Dakota oil boom post. It's supposed to be crazy.

You mean like this?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:49 AM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could take or leave that interpretation, but I am implying you've been living a life devoid of good Italian food. If this is accurate, and assuming you've eaten Italian food in Detroit alone, you've literally had a <3% chance of having authentic Italian food.

So, let's just look at this a bit closer.

First, you're claiming that there is virtually no authentic Italian food in the metro Detroit area. Which is idiotic.

Second, you're saying that, because I am a midwesterner, I have lived a life devoid of good Italian food. Which, frankly, is idiotic.

Third, you're explicitly assuming that, because I self-identified as a midwesterner, I have never eaten Italian food anywhere other than Detroit.

I mean, I get the lullzy "lol midwesterners don't know what good Italian food is" joke. It's a completely stupid joke, but I get it. Some people who live in New York ignorantly think that New York is the only place in the world to get authentic or good anything. I get that. And I'm even willing to set aside the irony of that belief, given the dissimilarity between New York Italian food and authentic Italian food. And I get that some New Yorkers don't realize that there are good restaurants in the Midwest, even by New York stadards (whatever those are). I don't blame them for being ignorant of that fact. I can't expect a hipster on an urban decay photography safari in Detroit to have time to find the good food. And I can't expect everyone in New York to somehow be cognizant of the existence of Chicago. It's not your fault that you've never heard of Chicago. I don't blame you. There really is some good food there, though. I mean, if you can restrain yourself from chortling at Charlie Trotter because he's a midwesterner and couldn't possibly know what good food is.

But I'm just a little shocked that there exists someone who is unaware that, sometimes, people from Detroit travel or even live somewhere other than Detroit for some period of time; that you assume that everyone who self-identifies as a "midwesterner" has never been outside the midwest and, indeed, must be commenting from their La-Z-Boy somewhere in Indiana; that you are unaware that customs authorities do, in fact, permit midwesterners to travel outside the United States and even live in countries like Italy for extended periods of time; that you are somehow unaware that there are even actual Italians living in U.S. cities other than New York and Philadelphia. No, there's no way someone who grew up in Detroit could possibly know what authentic Italian food tastes like or how to prepare it.
posted by The World Famous at 11:54 AM on March 8, 2012 [32 favorites]


You know I was going to guess your gay son's boyfriend was gay even before you mentioned it.

You know, this is Metafilter. I've become impressed by the things people will assume unless (and even in spite of) you make it explicit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:54 AM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's a Del Taco in Atlanta now?!

Snellville.
posted by bongo_x at 11:55 AM on March 8, 2012


It's very much a read-between-the-lines communication style that can be difficult to get used to.

What I've learnt from this and other comments like it is that midwesterners are quite like the English.
posted by ob at 11:58 AM on March 8, 2012


You know I was going to guess your gay son's boyfriend was gay even before you mentioned it.

He could be bi, but I'm not sure how many people would jump to that conclusion.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:59 AM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Or Republican.
posted by mazola at 12:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hey, you know what else is exciting about chains coming to small towns? SALES TAX.

We just got a Golden Corral, which I do not really even understand what that is except that the commercials involve being hit in the face with frying pans, but they knocked down a cruddy old empty strip mall, built a new building, and sell people food. I am super-excited about it because that was a non-producing property that now pays sales tax! Also, fewer vagrants in the empty strip mall! Also, some jobs (albeit not particularly high-quality, I imagine)! Also, some knock-on development in nearby commercial areas picking up their traffic!

I don't have to want to patronize some place to be excited that it's doing business. The creepy-seeming, kinda skeezy strip club pays $100,000/year in sales tax. NAKED BOOBIES PAY FOR COPS! So do Olive Gardens.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


In lieu of an apology for saying something that was, honestly, pretty stupid, I will extend the olive branch of a chicken parm the size of the lung if you're ever in Brooklyn at a place that I can assure you is not an "abomination." Square?
posted by griphus at 12:01 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


librarylis, isn't there a Korean barbeque place in Grand Forks? One of those places where you dish your raw meat and veggies into a big bowl and then the chef makes it taste friggin' amazing? I remember eating at one and loving it, I think in Grand Forks.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:01 PM on March 8, 2012


OK, more than complaining about Olive Garden vs a better Italian joint -- why on earth would you go out to eat Italian food?

Well, for me, because the Italian places I love make stuff that I can't or won't make at home. I don't order pasta, generally (because I can make that at home, unless it's fresh ravioli or something). But I can sit at the bar at Delfina's pizza place and watch one of the guys make fresh mozzarella right in front of me. Or I can get the fish that's roasted in the brick oven at that place in North Beach. Like that.

And even then, the best Italian food I've ever had in my life - it's Proustian, really - was a simple bowl of pasta dressed with olive oil, garlic, and Parmesan, eaten at a place in the Florence train station. I've never been able to replicate it.
posted by rtha at 12:01 PM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


Along with it came a plate with two long, warm breadsticks.

This is the best sentence written so far in this century, by the way.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:03 PM on March 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


(Also this article was hilarious, I forgot to say that. Also, gompa, I'd say she was being deadpan, not literal: "Oh, you ate at the new Olive Garden? How was it?" "Well, there were certainly olives on the salad." Also, I go out for Italian food because other people's heavy cream sauces are better than mine and sometimes I want something alfredo-y. Although I do have to admit I've only been to the Olive Garden twice; when I go for chain food I want chain burgers. Mmmmm, chain burgers.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:05 PM on March 8, 2012


In lieu of an apology for saying something that was, honestly, pretty stupid, I will extend the olive branch of a chicken parm the size of the lung if you're ever in Brooklyn at a place that I can assure you is not an "abomination." Square?

My reaction was way over the top - and over the line. My apologies. Square. I'll take you up on the offer, and extend the same if you're ever in L.A.
posted by The World Famous at 12:05 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


An ex-coworker got engaged at a Red Lobster. Apparently the guy had colluded with the waitstaff to position the ring atop the entree (eww). She thought this was a really classy, sophisticated proposal. I mean, they had lobster! I didn't know what to say except congratulations.
posted by desjardins at 12:06 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mongolian barbecue is where you dish your raw meat and veggies into a big bowl and then the chef makes it taste friggin' amazing. Korean barbecue is where you get panchan, and is, thus, far superior.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:08 PM on March 8, 2012


D'oh. You're right. I think I've been confusing those for months now.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:11 PM on March 8, 2012


Here's the art of this review: to foodies, it says "this place is nice enough, but it isn't really a place you or I would typically enjoy because the food is mediocre", and to everyone else, it says "this place is nice enough, and if you like nice places more than you care about food, you will probably enjoy this place" -- and does it without coming off as rude, judgemental or snobbish. Count me a fan of this author.

disclaimer: I am both a foodie and capable of enjoying a meal at olive garden. I am also from the midwest. Coincidence?
posted by davejay at 12:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


From the City Pages interview:

Everybody on the Internet today is sharing your column and really enjoying it.

I feel they're being rather condescending, but it's OK with me.


You think? That interviewer was speaking to her like she was a child. Ugh.
posted by Think_Long at 12:14 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh my god, that pizza ranch review is hysterical.

"I moved from the pizza table to the salad bar, where I found the canned peach slices appealing along with other typical offerings."

"And it has made the large parking lot busier than ever. I had no trouble finding a spot during the noon hour Jan. 26."


Those are priceless descriptions. So many negative things are said, but not in a way that lets the owners say "hey, why the negative review?"
posted by davejay at 12:15 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


People get excited about chain stores and restaurants all the time and nobody is immune. I remember how excited my New York friends were when Trader Joe's and Jamba Juice opened in Manhattan. There were lines going out the door at both establishments in the early days, if I remember correctly. As for me, I would have sacrificed my younger siblings to get a giant chain bookstore like Borders in my hometown when I was growing up.

I'm just happy people are enjoying food. Besides, de gustibus and all that.
posted by peripathetic at 12:17 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Huh, I actually know Camille Dodero, the Voice writer on this. She usually reviews music.
posted by spicynuts at 12:18 PM on March 8, 2012


...great, now I'm going to spend the rest of the day trying to come up with a joke that begins with "Marilyn Hagerty walks into an Olive Garden" and ends with "'hey, why the negative review?'"
posted by griphus at 12:18 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


At least they don't make you Screech-In the front door of any new Dakota joint.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:29 PM on March 8, 2012


Metafilter: sometimes you just want a big cheap dish of pasta.
posted by schmod at 12:31 PM on March 8, 2012


RogerB: "I can't even begin to figure out how damning this faint praise is meant to be, or how praising. I feel like I need a Midwestern-to-English interpreter"

Here's a guide for speaking the regional dialect that they use one state over.
posted by schmod at 12:32 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Metafilter as reviewed by the GFH: the background was a pleasing blue color and it hardly took any time to load.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:33 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


For the life of me I can't get this. It feels like people are reading WAY too much between the lines. It reads exactly how my grandfather would have reviewed a place - "they have food there" - like there is a sub-conscious effort by the writer to be completely neutral, and it's just the way they write.
posted by Big_B at 12:41 PM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


You're pretty much going to Winnipeg...

WE'RE GETTIN A WORLDCLASS IKEA REAL SOON MOTHERFUCKERS

or Minneapolis after that.

They already have an IKEA. And light rail transit. And a beautiful city with really nice people. Motherfuckers.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:32 PM on March 8 [2 favorites +] [!]


REPRESENT!
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:41 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Those cheddar biscuits at Red Lobster are yummy.
posted by jonmc at 12:43 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to know a gal living in Sun Valley, Idaho, rather wealthy, has her own cook, who would occasionally come into Mtn. Home just to eat at McDonald's, prior to one being built in Hailey. (for the plebs, dontcha know) She said it was 'comfort food.' So, mileage varies everywhere.
posted by BlueHorse at 12:43 PM on March 8, 2012


And, she noted, although chain restaurants, buffets and truck stops have been subjects of her reviews, she has eaten at The White House. Twice.

Snap!
posted by stargell at 12:48 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


To those who claim to have driven through it, you actually drove 350 miles through a federally-run territory used for psychological testing.

That explains a lot, actually.

When I drove across the top of the country on Rt 2 the summer between junior and senior years of college with my girlfriend, the ND crossing was prefaced with two days in the outskirts of Grand Forks hanging out reading paperback sf novels in a Burger King while my gf recovered in a cheap hotel room next door from a 2 day migraine, then included passing through a terrifying thunderstorm near Devils Lake that I watched approaching for like an hour before we drove into it, a surreal interlude with other confused tourists at a stone pylon in a gas station parking lot in Rugby ND that supposedly marks the geographical center of North America, and my gf's miraculous recovery from the resurgent migraine (the healing powers of a well timed Excedrin, as I recall) among the Teddy Roosevelt badlands heading into Montana. (Thank you to Google street view for providing imagery to go with my nearly 30 year old memories, particularly since the aspiring poet who I was then was way too cool to take snapshots like a stupid tourist during that big cross country trip.)
posted by aught at 12:50 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now, the people who go to the Olive Garden on 6th Avenue in Manhattan--that's kind of surprising and odd. Olive Garden in Grand Forks might be the best place to get a big cheap dish of pasta nearby, and sometimes you just want a big cheap dish of pasta.

I've gone there many many times. It is actually hard to go to dinner there as there is usually a long wait and they do not take reservations.

What compels me? The salad,breadsticks, and spinach/artichoke dip. I usually order a bloody mary, they used to serve it garnished with pepperoni. My companion orders riunite on ice. I'm not really one for authenticity though, just because someone in Italy made the same dish 400 years ago doesn't make it taste any better.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:51 PM on March 8, 2012


For the life of me I can't get this. It feels like people are reading WAY too much between the lines. It reads exactly how my grandfather would have reviewed a place - "they have food there" - like there is a sub-conscious effort by the writer to be completely neutral, and it's just the way they write.

It's not just the way she writes. Read her other reviews.
posted by The World Famous at 12:52 PM on March 8, 2012


Any of you hipsters ever heard of the movie Fargo? That's in North Dakota. Also, I heard last December that North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate, although I understand Nevada is the current winner there. Aaaaand, did you know that the town of Rugby, North Dakota is the geographical center of the North American continent? There's a lot to like about North Dakota so take that, h8rz!
posted by Lynsey at 12:54 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oops, on preview, what aught said.
posted by Lynsey at 12:56 PM on March 8, 2012


Any of you hipsters ever heard of the movie Fargo? That's in North Dakota.

It's been a long time since I watched it, but I'm going to nitpick anyhow that most of the story actually takes place in Minnesota, don't cha know. (The kidnappers are from Fargo, though, if I recall correctly.)
posted by aught at 12:59 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Alvy Ampersand, will there be a post with some positive facts about Winnipeg sometime in the future?

Winnipeg is the city where Guy Maddin and associates made some of the best films of the late twentieth century, and where Kid in the Hall Kevin McDonald finally found true love. makes it magical enough for me.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:02 PM on March 8, 2012


Though the scene where he's trying to bury the money and looks, in vain, for a landmark, was shot near Grand Forks, because Fargo didn't have all that much snow that year.

Grand Forks is pretty significantly colder than Fargo, and especially Minneapolis (not that cold correlates to snow, necessarily)
posted by flaterik at 1:05 PM on March 8, 2012


Many choices make eating at Pizza Ranch an adventure

Let me just also add: do not mock broasted chicken if you've never had it.
posted by aught at 1:06 PM on March 8, 2012


An ex-coworker got engaged at a Red Lobster. Apparently the guy had colluded with the waitstaff to position the ring atop the entree (eww). She thought this was a really classy, sophisticated proposal. I mean, they had lobster! I didn't know what to say except congratulations.

Why would you ever say anything except "Congratulations!" when somebody happily shares her engagement story with you?

This thread is disappointing, albeit unsurprising. No wonder diversity lacks on MetaFilter.
posted by cribcage at 1:08 PM on March 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


"The burger was good and just the way I like it — unadorned except for mustard and pickles."

Okay, now I know that this is a parody. Nobody eats a burger with mustard.
posted by Splunge at 1:10 PM on March 8, 2012


On the other hand, it's trivially easy and very enjoyable to make world-class Italian food in even the most bare-bones home kitchen

"World class"? I think you misspoke! That would imply very little variation in the quality of Italian food throughout the world. Hell, I can't even make a world class PB&J.
posted by Edgewise at 1:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've been known to mustard a burger, splunge, especially if theres bacon on it. Fries, too.
posted by jonmc at 1:14 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hate pickles though.
posted by jonmc at 1:14 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hate pickles though.

Pistols at dawn, good sir. Pistols at dawn.
posted by griphus at 1:16 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


As a child I used to order a hamburger with nothing but pickles, and then take the pickles off before I ate the burger. Loved the pickle flavoring but the pickles themselves were too strong.
posted by JanetLand at 1:17 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


> Why would you ever say anything except "Congratulations!" when somebody happily shares her engagement story with you?

That rubbed me the wrong way as well. I mean, I get the sentiment that doing something like proposing at a Red Lobster is indeed a prosaic sort of thing. But, shit, anything that makes someone else happy and doesn't harm anyone else is usually a good thing in this world, regardless of lack of apparent sophistication. Not everyone has the inclination to do scavenger hunts or flash mob proposals or whatever else might be considered hip.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:17 PM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

American tourists.


Eh, I saw a lot more French teens than American tourists in the two or three McDs I curiously poked my head into in Paris. (I didn't notice any other American fast food chains around, but when you see a McD on the Champs-Elysees or just outside the gates of Versailles, you gotta peek or do a walk-through.)

Also, I did notice beer on the menus, which I thought would improve things if added to American McDs.
posted by aught at 1:19 PM on March 8, 2012


Well, that's another illusion shattered. I was convinced that Olive Garden was a chain of Chinese restaurants.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 1:21 PM on March 8, 2012


I love mustard on my burgers. Also on hotdogs. I don't really like ketchup on either.

Also, griphus - don't shoot jonmc! Remember, the best thing about someone who doesn't like the food thing you like is MORE FOR YOU!
posted by rtha at 1:25 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Okay, now I know that this is a parody. Nobody eats a burger with mustard.

There's a place called Texas I would like to tell you about.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:26 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


As far McDonalds abroad: at some point while spending 10 days in Beijing on business, we ducked into a McDonalds. And it wasn't because of the food - we were all loving the food. It was for the respite from the non-stop barrage of people trying to sell us something or take us on a tour or god knows what. We were actually left alone while we ate our fries.

The same is probably not true of Paris, though.
posted by flaterik at 1:29 PM on March 8, 2012


The only time I've eaten at McDonald's in the last 15 years has been in Jakarta. Halal, grass fed Aussie beef burgers are delicious!

> There's a place called Texas I would like to tell you about.

McDonald's "Texas Burger" is pretty much just a regular burger with extra mustard.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:32 PM on March 8, 2012


Why would you ever say anything except "Congratulations!" when somebody happily shares her engagement story with you?
Start with the social animal's natural impetus to strive for and advertise one's own high relative status. Try to wrap this tightly in the progressive attitudes that status is synonymous with privilege and that lording your privilege over someone else is an inherently oppressive, ironically status-lowering thing to do. The result isn't a watertight seal. Pressure builds in the stagnant interior, leaks spring up in strange places, and jets come spurting out.
posted by roystgnr at 1:32 PM on March 8, 2012 [9 favorites]


I suppose my reaction to the Red Lobster engagement story seemed classist* or snobby and if Red Lobster seems like the height of romance to her husband, well okay then, but we have much nicer restaurants here. Getting engaged is something you only do once per marriage, why not endeavor to make it a little bit special? Bacchus has seafood and a view of the lake. Red Lobster has a view of the interstate and a Best Buy.

And sorry, but picking my ring out of the entree I'm about to eat is disgusting.

* Although we were the same social class
posted by desjardins at 1:33 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I went to a McDonald's in Paris. Not that many reasonably-priced restaurants are open late on weekdays, as it turns out.
posted by desjardins at 1:35 PM on March 8, 2012


When I worked at Burger King twenty-mumble years ago, one of the standard variations demonstrated in the training videos was the "mustard whopper", in which mustard replaced mayonnaise. I think there may have been some other minor ingredient variation. In any case, nobody ever ordered one. Perhaps the videos were made in Texas.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:39 PM on March 8, 2012


Getting engaged is something you only do once per marriage, why not endeavor to make it a little bit special?

I suspect he did endeavor to make it a little bit special, to him and to her. Just not to you. Which is understandable, I think, since he doesn't really have any way of knowing what you would consider special.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:40 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


"World class"? I think you misspoke! That would imply very little variation in the quality of Italian food throughout the world.

That's not what world-class means.
posted by The World Famous at 1:40 PM on March 8, 2012


I'm proud of Ms. Hagerty for not succumbing to the the Olive Garden's 'Just say no to H2O' or 'H2NO' campaign.
posted by umbú at 1:42 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love pickled stuff though griphus, eggs, kraut, sausage. Just not the cukes.
posted by jonmc at 1:42 PM on March 8, 2012


I went to McDonald's in Hilo twice, because the other restaurants sucked worse. Kalua pig and loco moco sound pretty good, sure, but the execution of these and other local dishes left much to be desired.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:53 PM on March 8, 2012


It seems like a lot more is being read into this review than should be. I speant a good deal of my life in Fergus Falls (just south of Fargo) and this type of review was the standard. Nothing more, nothing less. If what she doesn't say is considered acerbic, cutting edge prose then Minnesota is full of genius writers.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris

I went to Paris in college and I ate at Pizza Hut.

I'm sorry!
posted by freecellwizard at 1:57 PM on March 8, 2012


Why would you ever say anything except "Congratulations!" when somebody happily shares her engagement story with you?

Because you're supposed to say "best wishes," obviously.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:58 PM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


To those who claim to have driven through it, you actually drove 350 miles through a federally-run territory used for psychological testing.

Well, I rode a bicycle across North Dakota, and I loved it. Friendly people, nice little small towns, the quiet spare beauty of the scenery.

Certainly, of the 30+ states I've cycled through while riding across the USA twice, North Dakota is in the top three.
posted by JeffL at 1:58 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


For those still not getting it, try counting the words she used to describe her meal:

1 - Warm

2 - There is no 2
posted by Sys Rq at 2:07 PM on March 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


Learned to make my own bread-and-butter pickles recently. Never again store-bought.
posted by telstar at 2:09 PM on March 8, 2012


From the update:
Hagerty said her daughter, Gail Hagerty of Bismarck, urged her to read the Facebook comments about her review.

“I told her I’m working on my Sunday column and I’m going to play bridge this afternoon, so I don’t have time to read all this crap,” she said.

posted by mgar at 2:09 PM on March 8, 2012 [18 favorites]


A quick googling tells me that Olive Gardens site criteria is "a prime regional focal point" with "a population of 125,00 within a 15-minute drive". According to the Census Bureau, the population of Grand Forks is around 53,000 with some 100,000 people in the metro area. Sounds like Darden Restaurants is betting on Grand Forks continued growth.

A good bet, seeing as how North Dakota has overtaken California as the nation's third-largest oil-producing state. (Texas and Alaska are one and two.) Lowest unemployment rate in the US is in North Dakota.

But the state's population is still lower than it was in 1930. Huh.

An interesting article about the oil boom in North Dakota from Governing magazine.

I have now spent an hour or so reading up on North Dakota. Did you know that swaths of western North Dakota was settled by Lebanese immigrants? I did not know that.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [8 favorites]


Although we were the same social class

There's class and there's class. I guess some folks will just never understand that.

/snooty
posted by gauche at 2:13 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


swaths were settled

dammit
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:14 PM on March 8, 2012


In a review for a popular brew pub and Vietnamese joint she starts the review off with the following:
My experiences in dining in Fargo [the largest city in the state] usually are limited to a stop at the Olive Garden for lunch or for some good, wholesome food at the Highway Host
I'll leave the Highway Host up to your imagination....
posted by zenon at 2:19 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuller makes mild, nonthreatening, Garrison Keilloresque jape about little old midwestern ladies' lack of snark resources, while noting that there is no imminent threat to the nation due to massive oversupply elsewhere.
posted by jfuller at 2:20 PM on March 8, 2012


> why on earth would you go out to eat Italian food?

Because I want someone else to do the cooking, for a change, and I like Italian food.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:21 PM on March 8, 2012


And, she noted, although chain restaurants, buffets and truck stops have been subjects of her reviews, she has eaten at The White House. Twice.

Now this is the review I want to read.
posted by darksasami at 2:23 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter: I’m working on my Sunday column and I’m going to play bridge this afternoon, so I don’t have time to read all this crap


One can dream
posted by mazola at 2:26 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


I’m working on my Sunday column and I’m going to play bridge this afternoon, so I don’t have time to read all this crap.

That's North Dakota Nice.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 2:27 PM on March 8, 2012


An ex-coworker got engaged at a Red Lobster. Apparently the guy had colluded with the waitstaff to position the ring atop the entree (eww). She thought this was a really classy, sophisticated proposal. I mean, they had lobster! I didn't know what to say except congratulations.

I worked at a Red Lobster for about a year. This happened three times.

You know, I got engaged in the parking lot of a Texas Roadhouse. I even wrote the limerick myself. My wife still brags about it.
posted by Gygesringtone at 2:32 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]



Oh, what do you like to drink?

Well, it depends what kind of food I'm eating. I like wine, I like beer, I like martinis, I like Crown Royal. I don't drink a lot, but when I drink I know what I want to drink."


I think I'm in love with this woman.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:36 PM on March 8, 2012


crap I messed up the link
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:38 PM on March 8, 2012


The eerie thing is that her review could easily apply to my Olive Garden.
posted by mazola at 2:39 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I went to Paris in college and I ate at Pizza Hut. I'm sorry!

I went to Moscow in '92 and ate at Pizza Hut. I'm not sorry.
posted by ob at 2:42 PM on March 8, 2012


I haven't been to an Olive Garden since I was in high school, but the one time my family went I loved it. It was like a rich lower-upper-middle class man's East Side Mario's.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:42 PM on March 8, 2012


librarylis, isn't there a Korean barbeque place in Grand Forks? One of those places where you dish your raw meat and veggies into a big bowl and then the chef makes it taste friggin' amazing? I remember eating at one and loving it, I think in Grand Forks.

Neither Mongolian nor Korean, sorry. There could very well have been at one time, but restaurants don't always stick here.

On the other hand, a fairly nice Japanese restaurant just opened up (I'm hoping it will do gangbusters business) and I'm looking forward to trying that one out soon so I can add some Japanese to the Thai/Middle Eastern rotation.

Overall, there's been an amazing number of restaurants that have opened in the past year in Grand Forks--at least 7 that I can think of, maybe even 10-12--for a town of 55,000 or so. Including a nifty brew pub.

I will up my meetup offer--Winnipeg folks, take note as you seem like you're all down here anyway--to wings and beer at Parrot's Cay.
posted by librarylis at 2:43 PM on March 8, 2012


You know, I got engaged in the parking lot of a Texas Roadhouse. I even wrote the limerick myself. My wife still brags about it.

I asked my wife to marry me in the parking lot of a Macheesmo Mouse.
posted by Fnarf at 2:46 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


but restaurants don't always stick here.

I saw you mention the lack of indian food.. it is pretty severe. My mom always insists on an indian dinner when she comes to visit. There was a pretty tasty pakistani place, of all things, downtown pre-flood, but the owner moved away during the deluge and never came back. The restaurant was pretty much wiped out, it's hard to blame him.
posted by flaterik at 2:48 PM on March 8, 2012


I'm North American and have lived in Brazil the better part of a decade. My co-workers and I were thrilled when an Outback opened in our city. It's become one of our special occasion places, because sometimes you just want bacon cheese fries and ranch dressing and all the cranberry iced tea your bladder can hold.

So the other day, my co-worker and I were having a lunch meeting at Outback and she asked, "Right now we eat at Outback because it reminds us of home. Do you think that when we live in the U.S. again we'll eat at Outback because it reminds us of Brazil?"
posted by wallaby at 2:48 PM on March 8, 2012 [16 favorites]


Myself, I've got relatives who grew up in rural areas in the '40s through the '60s, and they do love their chain restaurants. When I see them, we always head for a Piccadilly's, a Ruby Tuesday, or something such, and they always get grilled chicken and vegetables with sweet tea to drink, and I'm just happy if the place will sell me a glass of wine.

Instead of trying to change their ways now, I try to see it as they did. Back in the hard strange old days, you just did not know what a restaurant was if you didn't already know the town and know all about it.

In the past, businesses, even restaurants and hotels, weren't necessarily intended for everyone who could stop in. Sometimes they were shady and dangerous; sometimes they were tacitly known as a place where only [ethnic minority] came to eat; sometimes they would give you food poisoning; and sometimes they were just creepy, filthy little places where the two denizens would stare at you the whole time because you were the single most interesting thing likely to happen all day.

Of course, these things can all still be true today, but we haven't grown up to expect them. Eating at a new place is an adventure, not a gamble. I can respect my elderly relatives' preference for clean, well-lit, nationally reputable places. (Anyone born after 1970, though, has got no excuse. Get out there and hurt your tastebuds!)
posted by Countess Elena at 2:49 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


> She takes it apart -- note that she has not one single, solitary nice thing to say about the food.

Well, she does say "The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day." Maybe she used it for shelter?
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:50 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Card Cheat: "Well, she does say "The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day." Maybe she used it for shelter?"

She was thinking of the tauntaun Alfredo.
posted by brundlefly at 2:53 PM on March 8, 2012 [13 favorites]


... which, well ... I thought it smelled bad on the outside.
posted by gauche at 2:56 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tauntaun Alfredo freezes before you even get to the first course.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 2:57 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Now is the winter of our discount Alfredo.
posted by griphus at 2:57 PM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


"It's good corn pudding."
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:58 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Twilight ($11.95 Little, Brown) is a book written in 2005 by Stephenie Meyer. The cover features a striking picture of a woman's arm as she holds out an apple. The book itself is a 544 pages in paperback and fits nicely into my hands. I particularly enjoyed the crisp font choices and well organized table of contents. I would read another book in the series the next time I have ample free time and nothing left on my reading list.
posted by Alison at 3:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [17 favorites]


Also, I'd like to put in a word for Guess Culture here. I come from deep Guess Culture country, and I think it gets a bad rap. Sure, it's tough to learn how to put yourself forward when you move to a big city, but being from a Guess Culture can offer you layers of insight into other people and what they do. After all, you have to grow up guessing what other people might be thinking, every day. It's excellent training for the everyday anthropology of 21st century life.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:03 PM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


That's a good point, Countess Elena, about how the Internet has made some progress toward transforming the experiment of trying a new restaurant into "an adventure, not a gamble." I don't think we're all the way there yet. I've seen savvy restaurateurs design websites that look like high-end steakhouses, when the real experience doesn't deliver. I've seen enough attempts at gaming Yelp that I am skeptical of even looking at that website. But it's a good point. It's a different world today.

I took a road trip about a decade ago. I didn't have a cell phone, and my laptop didn't have wireless Internet. On my way back I made a stop somewhere in Pennsylvania for dinner, and I tried two places: The first was an early disaster, so I excused myself and drove a mile up the road, and Attempt #2 turned out to be a fantastic little Italian place. I was in some random little town and the food was as good as the North End. It was really cool. But a different night in Ohio, I hadn't felt like gambling and I just stopped at an Outback. It delivered exactly what I expected.

Piccadilly Pub has closed, by the way. Apparently rather abruptly.
posted by cribcage at 3:04 PM on March 8, 2012


I'd never heard of Piccadilly Pub -- sorry I missed it. I was thinking of Piccadilly Cafeteria, and sadly, I don't think that thing is going to close until America does.
posted by Countess Elena at 3:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I keep coming into this thread, thinking I'm going to write something about rural life or small towns or Olive Garden and it's going to be really profound or something, because I live in a town a tenth the size of Grand Forks and I completely know what it is to be thrilled about a new chain restaurant or just someplace with reliable food.

But then I read all these comments about how, you know, Olive Garden is okay IF there are no other options and IF you live in a boom-town with no good barbeque and IF you aren't getting engaged there and you know...what if you just like Olive Garden? What if you think it's a nice restaurant and it's where you want to go on a special occasion? There are people who live dignified lives, and that's where they like to eat.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:16 PM on March 8, 2012 [11 favorites]


what if you just like Olive Garden?

There are certainly many people who do. And I think it's safe to assume that they're not all idiots. Do you like Olive Garden's food? If so, can you describe for me what, if anything, about Olive Garden's food that you consider to be superior to, say, actual Italian food?
posted by The World Famous at 3:19 PM on March 8, 2012


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

There is a ton of great food in Paris. But if you want to grab a very quick bite to eat at an odd hour, or maybe late night takeout, and you don't want that food to be a kebab, there aren't a whole lot of other options. I've eaten so much more McDonalds in Paris than I ever did in the US, where it is second-tier roadtrip food, just because the US (various college towns, specifically) has so many more options for that type of food (sandwiches, burritos, falafel, local burger joints, etc). In most of Europe, MacDo and Starbucks are two of the only places that also reliably have free wifi as best as I can tell.
posted by Schismatic at 3:19 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't care about the politics of chain restaurants, but I now know exactly how I will write my next negative academic book review. "This book has a fine cover, with a dust jacket. Upon opening it, one is greeted with a table of contents that reliably locates each chapter in the book. A somewhat needlessly complex copyright statement is followed, however, by a concise and yet erudite preface . . ."
posted by spitbull at 3:21 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


> I now know exactly how I will write my next negative academic book review.

Spin Magazine beat you to it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:25 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


"This book contains thousands of words, many of whch can also be found in some of the world's most cherished and enduring literature."
posted by griphus at 3:28 PM on March 8, 2012 [7 favorites]


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

Same reason they do everywhere else, I'd imagine.

Plus, I have been to McDonaldses on three continents, and you know what? It's actually kind of neat to see how the same old crap differs ever-so-slightly from place to place. All those Pulp Fiction "little differences" are really helpful when it comes to comfortably easing into culture shock.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:30 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


Her writing is brillant, it is exactly how to write a letter of reference for en employee you do not like but want to get a job somewhere else, without putting your own reputation on the line.
posted by saucysault at 3:40 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Dear Metafilter,

I never thought I'd go on the internet to defend Olive Garden* but...
If so, can you describe for me what, if anything, about Olive Garden's food that you consider to be superior to, say, actual Italian food?
Wow, that comes across as snooty. I'm sure it's not meant that way, but I'll bite:

Perhaps it's not all about food. Perhaps the food doesn't need to be 'the best' or 'world class'. Perhaps some people like Olive Gardens because they feel comfortable there and it serves decent enough grub. Perhaps some people get engaged there because the place has some special meaning to the particular couple (first date was there? shared good times? who knows!).

I refuse to mock a place that has provided me with unlimited bread sticks when I needed them most!

Ladies and gentleman, I rest my case.

----
* I was at a restaurant this past weekend that served vanilla mashed potatoes, so hopefully I have some 'foody' cred
posted by mazola at 3:47 PM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


Olive Garden's Alfredo Sauce

1 pint heavy cream
1 stick butter
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese - (to 3/4)
1 teaspoon garlic powder

In a saucepan combine butter, heavy cream, and cream cheese. Simmer thisuntil all is melted, and mixed well. Add the Parmesan cheese and Garlic powder. Simmer this for 15 to 20 minutes on low.


Such elegant proportions! Genius!
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:51 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, that comes across as snooty.

Sorry. I don't mean to come across as snooty. I happen to really like Italian food, and I don't think anyone who has had both Italian food and Olive Garden food would disagree that, although the Olive Garden uses Italian food as a jumping-off point, the two cuisines are not the same.

I refuse to mock a place that has provided me with unlimited bread sticks when I needed them most!

Notwithstanding my unintentional snootiness, I do agree with you that there have been times when I have happily availed myself of Olive Garden's unlimited salad and bread sticks.
posted by The World Famous at 3:51 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If so, can you describe for me what, if anything, about Olive Garden's food that you consider to be superior to, say, actual Italian food?

First, we need to define "actual Italian food".
posted by kmz at 3:53 PM on March 8, 2012


Heh, Olive Garden isn't that bad. I've had worse Italian food in Italy. Seriously.

I remember being in a smallish town in North Carolina when they got their first Taco Bell and it was kind of a big deal. Variety, man, anything different, in the right circumstances can be a blessing!
posted by snsranch at 3:53 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Olive Garden is restaurant food. People go there because it's easy to do so. The fact that it's Italian-themed probably isn't a huge factor, other than people like starch.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:54 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Every time I think about North Dakota, I think, "wow that's so far north" and then I remember that there's actually an entire other country north of North Dakota.
posted by octothorpe at 3:57 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


> Every time I think about North Dakota, I think, "wow that's so far north"

Get ready for a mind blow.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


As someone who grew up in North Dakota and now lives in Chicago, a mecca for fine dining*, I will make one point.

You know what North Dakota has that you do not?

Knoephla soup and fleischkuekle.

Two foods of the gods you cannot find outside the borders of North Dakota.

*I'd trade a dinner at Girl and the Goat for a meal from Kroll's Kitchen.
posted by Windigo at 4:02 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, Olive Garden isn't that bad. I've had worse Italian food in Italy. Seriously.

I, too, have had Italian food in Italy that is worse than Olive Garden's cuisine. (Seriously, the room temperature clear, unflavored gelatin full of fish entrails? Yuck.)
posted by The World Famous at 4:04 PM on March 8, 2012


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

American tourists.


A lot of times when traveling I'll stop into a McDonalds for a Coca Cola Light in a big cup with lots of ice. Practically everywhere outside the US if you asks for ice in your drink you get one cube. If you ask for lots of ice, you get two cubes. But at McDonalds you can get a cup full of ice with some soda in it just like int the good old US of A.

And in a lot of countries I've been to McDonalds are nicer than those here. The one I went to in Moscow had people in front of the counter taking your order and it as ready for you when you got to the front. The Mac Cafe section was like a coffee house with really delicious pastries and coffee drinks. I was the only American in the joint.

I've been to McDonalds in Germany, UK, Mexico, Thailand, Italy, France (but not Paris) and they're all popular and full of locals. Families, teens and people looking for something fast.

First, we need to define "actual Italian food".

This is going to be just like the Chipotle thread a few weeks ago. Except this time it is "actual Italian food" instead of "actual Mexican food."
posted by birdherder at 4:11 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


If I ever propose to someone, it will be at this Pizza Hut.
posted by dirigibleman at 4:14 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


... I am simply watching with astonishment as this highly controversial, passionately argued thread continues to grow in size.
posted by kyrademon at 4:18 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


We added flour and eggs to the thread in order to thicken it.
posted by The Whelk at 4:22 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


We added flour and eggs to the thread in order to thicken it.

And a 55-gallon drum of oregano.
posted by The World Famous at 4:27 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up out in the country, just outside a small town of around 15,000 people. Many mornings I would get early to help my grandfather feed the cattle and make sure there was enough water for them. My father was a deputy sheriff when I was young. My mother was a stay-at-home mom for a while, and then completed college and became a teacher. We lived in a mobile home, and it was a big deal when we traded up to a double-wide, where my parents continued to live until ten years after I left home.

No one in my family had ever been to New York, until I went. Same for LA and Chicago. No one had left the country, except as part of a military assignment, until I did. We were provincial, rustic.

We didn't know anything about fine dining, and neither did anyone we knew. My family's favorite restaurant was the little diner at the Charter Motel, where we ordered the Charter Burger, no tomatoes, extra jalepenos, plus fries and Dr. Pepper. Sometimes after church we would go to Wanda's Family Restaurant for chicken fried steak and baked potatoes. When my parents finally had enough extra cash that we could occasionally drive to the big city and eat at Red Lobster or Olive Garden, or someplace exotic like Peony's Chinese Buffet, it was a big deal. At age twelve, I thought I was getting a taste of high-class city life, where the waiters dressed nicely and escorted you to the table, and put the pepper on your food for you with an honest-to-god black pepper grinder, not a grey plastic shaker. We never ordered things like lobster because they intimated us. No one knew how to eat a lobster, and we were embarrassed to ask. We also didn't know anything about wine, so we stuck to iced tea, or, yes, raspberry lemonade, because we had a vague notion that the real high class people all knew which wine went with which food, and all we knew was that it came in red or white.

This isn't my manifesto for the common man, or the beginning of a rant against elitist snobs who wouldn't be caught dead in an Olive Garden. You've got your likes, and I've got mine. But if you want to know what kind of person looks forward to going to Olive Garden, and thinks it's a nice, high-class, fancy place to be, the answer is "my kind of person"--the kind who grew up in Western-yoked shirts their Mammas sewed, whose uncles smelled like engine oil and livestock, and who watched enough TV to know that other people in other places had better dining options than Wanda's, but couldn't picture just what that looked like. We thought it looked like Olive Garden.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 4:30 PM on March 8, 2012 [70 favorites]


I think how this review is different from your conventional restaurant nytimes.com review is that here you have to read between the lines. It's a philosophical or cultural or generational difference; I think each has their advantages.
posted by polymodus at 4:33 PM on March 8, 2012


Now, it has been a long time since I went to an Olive Garden, and I've certainly eaten quite a lot of fancier food since then. However, I was recently at Lou Malnati's, considered by many amongst my Chicago acquaintance to be a local institution which provides a high-quality tasty kind of Chicago-ish pizza/pasta/calamari food, and it reminded me a lot of Olive Garden. Perhaps Olive Garden used to be better than it now is, of course. But I do know people who eat fancy Chicago-area Italian food regularly (and there's quite a lot of very good Italian around Chicago) who like Lou Malnati's. So I'm a bit suspicious that some of this "oh the dreadful proletarian embarrassment of Olive Garden" may be more branding than anything else.

Also, there's sort of a "LOL people of Walmart!!!!" vibe to making fun of a restaurant for not being gourmet and expensive enough.
posted by Frowner at 4:57 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


And when I lived in China I ate at either McDonald's or KFC about once a week.
posted by Frowner at 4:59 PM on March 8, 2012


my only comment is that strohs, especially compared to bud, miller lite or michelob, is NOT crappy beer - (in fact, my first true craft beer was the bock beer they brewed in the 70s in late fall - i MISS that stuff)

i'll admit that stroh's isn't what it used to be, but crappy beer?

nope
posted by pyramid termite at 5:20 PM on March 8, 2012


I grew up in a town that was the county seat and also the biggest town within a 20-mile radius. We had a Sonic, a Subway, a Pizza Hut (that got so much dine-in business they built a bigger one down the street), and one of the "fanciest" places in town, a Mazzio's Pizza.

If I wanted McDonald's, I would have to drive half an hour to Chickasha, which was also where I attended college. An Olive Garden would have been a Big Deal - for anything like that, you would have to drive "to the city", which meant Oklahoma City, almost an hour away. The people I grew up with would have considered OG or Red Lobster a great place to propose to their SO.

Now, I live in Houston, and have two McDonald's each almost exactly a mile from me, and if I drive far enough down Westheimer or Beltway 8, the same sequence of stores and franchise restaraunts starts repeating. I might drive 15-20 minutes to go "out to eat" some nights, while when I grew up that was "going to the next town over".

I've got a thing for scuzzy hole-in-the-wall food establishments, especially if they're Korean, Chinese, Japanese, etc. The addiction to Asian food probably comes from my childhood in a town where "sweet and sour pork" was "fancy".
posted by mrbill at 5:33 PM on March 8, 2012


I don't think this woman is veiling criticism between the lines of this review to the extent that people are reading into it. Nowhere near it, and that she'd probably be mystified by a lot of what is being said about her online.

If you listen to "I Heard it Through the Grapevine," the song seems to be about a guy who's been burned by a woman who broke his heart, and I'm certain it's intended to be read that way. But if you look past the surface of it, the guy comes across as a total douchebag with all sorts of jealousy issues, who places himself at the center of everything this woman does, and it's no wonder she fucking left him.

But we know that, even though it's meaning that the song's author didn't intend to stick in there.

That's what I think is going on here. I actually think this is a fairly straightforward case of a woman who gave her honest impressions of the Olive Garden without the intense negativity people are attributing to her, that we're projecting a hell of a lot onto her, and that she doesn't have the same mental categories for snarkishness that we do.

She doesn't want to have anything to do with what's going on on the internet, even though the internet is the perfect place for people who do what we think she's doing. WE'RE the ones who are good at that.

When she's writing about the ambiance of the OG, I don't think she's doing it to contrast it with the food, I think she's doing it because ambiance is important to her readership, and that maybe the purpose of her column is to give people an idea of what to expect when they go places rather than to help them figure out where the best food is, or to give them common reference points to talk about with people who have been there for readers who haven't gone themselves.

If she were purposefully doing what people seem to think she's doing purposefully, she would have realized she was that good, and that people would respond favorably to it. The world wouldn't be finding out about her because some food column went viral; they would have found out about it because of something more intentional on her part. Even she says this; she wonders why after doing this for 30-40 years, people are just starting to pick up on it now.
posted by alphanerd at 5:38 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


My husband and I got mcDonald's in Seville on our honeymoon. Because we were tired of walking and figuring out where to eat and we had a million more places to go see that we still had to find and didn't want to waste time at another restaurant. And I needed a really big Coke.

As a child I used to order a hamburger with nothing but pickles, and then take the pickles off before I ate the burger. Loved the pickle flavoring but the pickles themselves were too strong.
posted by JanetLand at 3:17 PM on 3/8
[1 favorite +] [!]

Start watching at about 4:35. (And then watch the whole thing.)
posted by artychoke at 5:41 PM on March 8, 2012


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

Confession: I've eaten there at least once during every trip I have made to Paris. The first time was for the novelty of ordering wine and beer with our cheeseburger and fries. The last time was because it was the only place I could find that didn't charge an extortionate price for a coke, which I needed to stave off an oncoming migraine.

We also found a Pizza Hut, located near Gare de Lyon. Weirdest pizza I've ever had.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 5:42 PM on March 8, 2012


If so, can you describe for me what, if anything, about Olive Garden's food that you consider to be superior to, say, actual Italian food?

I don’t care anything about Italian food, don’t hate it, have just never got it. If someone wants to go to Olive Garden or their favorite Italian place it’s pretty much the same to me.
posted by bongo_x at 5:57 PM on March 8, 2012


Interesting story: The first Olive Garden in the state of Alaska just opened up in Anchorage. Not only were people in Juneau talking about it, but it made the paper and we are 600 miles away.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:58 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm North American and have lived in Brazil the better part of a decade. My co-workers and I were thrilled when an Outback opened in our city. It's become one of our special occasion places, because sometimes you just want bacon cheese fries and ranch dressing and all the cranberry iced tea your bladder can hold.

This is always weird to me. Is there or isn’t there a market for bacon cheese fries and blooming onions in Brazil? If there is surely Outback isn’t the only one that can do this. If there’s not then how does Outback stay in business?
posted by bongo_x at 6:00 PM on March 8, 2012


I don't think she's making fun of Olive Garden for being provincial. I think she's making light of the fact that she's reviewing a chain restaurant.

Consistency is the whole point of chains, so from a critic's viewpoint, what can she possibly say? "It's the sort of thing you'll like if you like that sort of thing."

It's big. It's pretty. They've got iced tea and bread sticks and chicken alfredo. If you've seen their commercials (how can you miss them?) you know exactly what you're going to get. That's the entire reason chain restaurants exist.

But she's on deadline, has to file something, and can't risk offending the big new business in town. So she pads the review with musings on the decor and an excruciatingly literal description of what you already know you can expect there. I think it's hilarious.
posted by Space Kitty at 6:08 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


I moved to Grand Forks about a year and a half ago. The people where I work treat Marilyn's columns as a big joke, and put up her picture on the locker of the guy who does the most eye rolling of her work. My favorite was when she reviewed two different Subway locations (Grand Forks has four!) within a few months.

I am from a small town myself and am pretty much pleased that Grand Forks has more to offer then where I moved from (except good Mexican dammit). Even so, I had to giggle at comments from everyone here whenever a new restaurant was announced, "When are we getting an Olive Garden". I haven't been myself and would rather try the Drunken Noodle or the Japanese steakhouse, but I don't mind having another place in town that's an option besides yet another burger joint.

The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

I got a coffee and pastry there last fall, mainly because I used their bathroom and felt I had to order something.
posted by weathergal at 6:09 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


But she's on deadline, has to file something, and can't risk offending the big new business in town. So she pads the review with musings on the decor and an excruciatingly literal description of what you already know you can expect there. I think it's hilarious.

Exactly! It's the eternal truth of working at small-market newspapers--you have to follow your bliss as far as you can while not pissing off the advertisers. Brava, Marilyn!
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:20 PM on March 8, 2012 [5 favorites]


I tell ya, I really don't have time to sit and read what people think, because I have a deadline.

I don't really want to give a link to the local corporate owned city paper editor that called this lady up for an interview and proceeded to have the tables turned on him whether he knew it or not. She comes across as a genuine person while the pretentious snark masters looking for hits and retweets, do not.
posted by chrismc at 6:25 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I, too, have had Italian food in Italy that is worse than Olive Garden's cuisine.

Huh, now that you mention it, so have I.
posted by Justinian at 6:31 PM on March 8, 2012


In that case, you'll be pleased to know it was already posted.
posted by box at 6:31 PM on March 8, 2012


I, too, have had Italian food in Italy that is worse than Olive Garden's cuisine.

Well, yes. Italy is a big country.

But the best Italian food I've ever had has been in Italy. Especially the Piemonte region. We've been going there about once a year on food vacations. The worst I ever had was in Florence where its hard not to find a place that isn't making a living off revolving tourists. If you do your research beforehand though you're unlikely to have a bad meal.
posted by vacapinta at 6:35 PM on March 8, 2012


Oh god the worst meal I've ever had was in Florence.

BUT there is a surprisingly good considering the price cafeteria/trattoria right near the Duomo, "Leonardo" I think, it's very popular with student tourists and El Gatto Et Vulpe is like right down the road and cheap and simple and runs off the backpacker crowd.
posted by The Whelk at 6:39 PM on March 8, 2012


I am a guy who can be said to have opinions about food. It's really tempting to have an attitude of "you're in one of the most interesting places on earth, why the hell would you go to a McDonalds??"

This is an understandable, but really sophomoric thing to say.

If you want to know, at a glance, what makes a place what it is--take a shortcut to understanding the zeitgeist of a culture that isn't your own--there is nothing more useful than going to McDonald's.

The McSpicy Paneer in India? Vegemite English Muffin in Australia? EBI Filet-O in Japan? McSchwarma, Gazpacho, Chicken "SingaPorridge" etc., etc.

Here's a picture I took in the aforementioned McDonald's on the Champs-Elysees: that shit cray.

I try to go to McDonald's in every country I visit.
posted by danny the boy at 6:43 PM on March 8, 2012 [6 favorites]


1920s anthropologist shows up in remote village, big feast ensues that night with rings of whirling happy folks young and old, stamping and hollering in intricate patterns around a bonfire. Anthropologist asks through the interpreter 'Are these splendid dances a tribute to the gods? Or courtship rituals? Perhaps they tell ancient stories of your people, bring luck to the tribe, or help to ward off malign spirits?'

'Nah,' replies the chieftain, 'we just like dancing.'
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:47 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


"that shit cray"?
posted by Wolof at 6:49 PM on March 8, 2012


that shit cray
posted by danny the boy at 6:51 PM on March 8, 2012


In a culture where status is conferred to those who are "ironic"—though, ironically, the deliberate nature of their choice renders it non-ironic (and frequently just assholish)—those who are non-ironically non-ironic gain the ultimate status. Which is itself ironic.

This is plainly obvious when you treat this thread as a drinking game. [hic!]
posted by five fresh fish at 6:51 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like her or not, this woman is getting a lot of reaction. If this post gets any longer, I'm going to have to ask the waitress for another glass of wine.
posted by birdwatcher at 7:13 PM on March 8, 2012


Get a bottle, we need a cheese course before dessert
posted by The Whelk at 7:17 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know how this turned into the foreign McDonalds thread, but I have to say something about the "McTost" that is a breakfast item on the Polish McDonald's menu. I never had one, but they appear to be a grilled cheese made with two hamburger bun tops, turned crust side in. Grilled cheese is great, possibly even on hamburger buns, and possibly even for breakfast, adjusting for cultural attitudes about what things should be on a breakfast menu.

The thing I don't understand is why they turn them inside out, and why they use only the bun tops. Do they have a surplus of them? What are they doing with the bottoms? If they're throwing out half of two buns to make this sandwich, why not use the bottom instead, the half that's more like the sliced bread usually used to make toast? Also, why turn the bread inside out? Why isn't this on the regular menu as well, seeing as how a cheese sandwich is well within the Poles' culinary wheelhouse?
posted by LiteOpera at 7:32 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think Olive Garden is just fine, thanks. I don't get the OMG OLIVE GARDEN reactions from the entire Internet. I have been to far fancier Italian restaurants in foodie towns in California where the food wasn't nearly as good as freaking Olive Garden. When I go there, the food's tasty enough and I get enough of it, and it's a restaurant all the relatives will go to. Big effing deal, y'all. And it's probably a huge deal in a Dakota state.

Now, if you want horrible foreign cuisine in a state where there's probably few to no natives of that cuisine around to cook it, try eating Chinese food in Montana. No, seriously, try it. That will make your Olive Garden whining look like nothing.

I love that Marilyn clearly doesn't give a shit about becoming a viral meme on the Internet. Sensible woman. It's a shame her kind is going extinct with age and Internet-ness.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:38 PM on March 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


that shit cray

What she order? Fish filet.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:40 PM on March 8, 2012


@Whelk - I believe the TC Boyle story was Sorry, Fugu. Back when he was spelling out the middle name.
posted by drowsy at 7:41 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sort of regretting never even stepping into a McD's the last time I was in Beijing, but from Googling around it looks like the only local item is a fried taro pie thing. Meh.

It's hard to even think about going to random international chains when there's Peking Duck easily and inexpensively available. Or cheap and tasty street food. Or local chains devoted to jiaozi, or baozi, or shuan yang rou.
posted by kmz at 7:47 PM on March 8, 2012


But she's on deadline, has to file something, and can't risk offending the big new business in town. So she pads the review with musings on the decor and an excruciatingly literal description of what you already know you can expect there. I think it's hilarious.

Exactly! It's the eternal truth of working at small-market newspapers--you have to follow your bliss as far as you can while not pissing off the advertisers. Brava, Marilyn!


Sidhedevil, you're someone I consistently rely on for a good take on things, but are you sure you're reading this correctly? I mean, we're people who just stumbled onto this situation a few hours ago. Do you really find it plausible that we'd be better at figuring out what's "really" going on here than that big new business?

I think it's far more likely that she's not concealing anything; that she hasn't been dog-whistling her true feelings for 30-40 years to her readers, while somehow managing to get around her paper's advertisers and possibly her editors, in a way that would be immediately obvious to people with no familiarity of her town or her column.

Not to mention the toll this type of repression would take on her personally.
posted by alphanerd at 7:58 PM on March 8, 2012


I think it's far more likely that she's not concealing anything

No more so than all of the other people from the region that stick tightly to "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all". They're not doing it to be dry, or snarky, or ironic, it's just the culture.
posted by flaterik at 8:17 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


If so, can you describe for me what, if anything, about Olive Garden's food that you consider to be superior to, say, actual Italian food?

Other people have said it better, but basically, I think this is just a matter of taste. Some people like authentic Tuscan cuisine and some people like American pasta dishes, and I get kind of growly when discussions like these come up because there's often an undercurrent of "Don't these people know any better?" about whatever middle-of-the-road option is under discussion. Some people do know better and still like the middle-of-the-road thing, some people don't give it much thought, and I think it's entirely value-neutral either way.

Maybe I just empathize too much with this postsecret.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 8:20 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


Speaking as someone who lives near Hollywood, I think Grand Forks sounds kind of irresistable.
posted by PJSibling at 8:21 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


You should read her review of the Polish Invasion.... at any rate, everyone knows that the Olive Garden in Madison rules, you go to Prince Edward Island for the clams and that when in the Forks, you go to Whitey's for the liver pate (at least until it was turned 90 degrees in the great flood of '97).
posted by onesidys at 8:35 PM on March 8, 2012


A North Dakotan once told me that in his hometown, the worst thing you could say about someone was: "I wouldn't do that".
posted by onesidys at 8:44 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


In a bit of turnabout, my grandparents once came to visit Grand Forks from Atlanta, and we went to Whiteys for dinner. My grandmother said about the chile "hm, a little too spicy for me".

The waitress said no one had ever said that before, and we believed her.
posted by flaterik at 9:01 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


I grew up in a town where the dining options were/are the Chicken Chef, the ubiquitous small-town Chinese-Canadian restaurant, the hotel/pub, the gas station, and a place where the specialty was deepfried Pizza Pop. It was a big deal when we drove the two hours to visit relatives in Brandon, because that was the closest McDonald's. But Olive Garden's always been pretty crap in my book; everything feels like it just came out of the microwave. So dislike of OG isn't necessarily a snobby thing.

And now I want some Knoephla soup. And then some sort of dessert that I can't pronounce.

Alvy Ampersand, will there be a post with some positive facts about Winnipeg sometime in the future?

I pretty much shot my wad with the IKEA thing. Unless you like the Jets. Do you like the Jets?!?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:26 PM on March 8, 2012


Grand Forks has nothing on New York City, where people pack the disgusting Carmine's every single night.
posted by escabeche at 9:30 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]


you go to Prince Edward Island for the clams

In the unlikely event I was at all unclear earlier in this thread, I'd like to reiterate that you go to Prince Edward Island to eat yourself into a catatonic stupor on the oysters. God Himself put them there, and it is one of His primary channels of communication with mere mortals.

That is all.
posted by gompa at 9:37 PM on March 8, 2012


Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about... Olive Garden.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:42 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


An associate of mine from years ago told us about his honeymoon in Scotland. Talking about all the sights, the travel within the country, how beautiful it all was...

...and then when she walked away to talk to people, he lowered his voice and said, "And the only damn food worth the time in the entire country that I ate was in a McDonald's in Glasgow."
posted by mephron at 9:51 PM on March 8, 2012


I pretty much shot my wad with the IKEA thing. Unless you like the Jets. Do you like the Jets?!?

So, ahhh, no forthcoming FPP about Winnipeg's most lickable son?

oh god i'm part of the problem
posted by Snarl Furillo at 9:53 PM on March 8, 2012


God, this thread (way late to the party but I had to go to a suoer-long rehearsal when I was halfway through it.)

First off, is it possible that the bachelor Haggerty who runs the new Olive Garden location is a close relation of hers? Because if so, that to me is the funniest thing about this.

Moving on, I've been to that Chaps-D'Elysses McDonalds, when I was 11. I forget what the circumstances were that brought my family in there, but I remember that it was enough for my dad to put his foot down and just make a decision by god, and my mom broke down crying in there because FFS we were in Paris what the hell were we doing eating at a McDonalds?

My parents are both foodies who have lived almost the entirety of their adult lives in Houston, TX and Bartlesville, OK. I know how cliche it is to believe one's own mother to be the world's best cook, but non-biased evidence from friends has confirmed for me that she is at least in the top ten. My folks know food, and my considerable thinness probably has much to do with the high standards I was raised on.

But growing up in Houston... that place is a trip in a lot of ways. It's basically like the Buy-N-Large habitat from Wall-E but as a terrestrial city. Everything is a chain, it seems like. Even the better restaurants become chains as fast as possible, which is ther genesis of the Pappas family restaurants. (Pappas Steakhouse, Pappsito's, Pappadeaux, Pappamia's, etc. Interestingly, I don't think they ever tried a Greek place.)

But there is good food to be found, if one is clued into it, and one is from a family that wants to try out every new hole-in-the-strip-mell that pops up. In one strip-mall on FM 1960, for instance, there is (or at least was) a place called Empress of China. My parents and I were the first customers there when I was about 6 years old, and subsequently started eating there about 2 or 3 times a week. The Chef/owner, Scott Chen, was super friendly to us, there was a particular waiter who made a point of getting our table every night, and the Chens had a daughter my age who I would play with while my family was earting (and it turned out lived just a few streets over from us.) Empress quickly moved from being merely the best Chinese food you've ever had to a Chinese/French fusion which rocketed Chen to stardom (my first trip to NY, where I would later move, was when Scott invited us as his guests to his James Beard Dinner.)

A few years later, an Italian place named Campioni's set up shop next-door to Empress and blew everyone away. As Empress was becoming far more expensive than it used to be (and deservedly so) we moved to Campioni's as our regular spot, as did most of the neighborhood.

Then, a few years after that, Scott's Japanese sous-chef moved on, opening his own Sushi place (Matsu) down the road a bit. I grew up being taught to love Sushi, and it is still one of my favorite of all things in this world, and no Sushi I have tasted anywhere is as good as that at Matsu. Thus a new standard was born.

But then we moved to Bartlesville, which doesn't even have an Olive Garden. Frankly, if one opened up, the Examiner-Enterprise would have a review. There just aren't a lot of decent restaurants in the town. The dining room at the country club is quite good (and makes an excellent Steak Diane) and the Phillips Cafeteria (this is the cafeteria for Phillips Petroleum executives, which is open to the public) is a good lunch spot, but what are you going to do? It's Bartlesville, OK. Most people aren't trying to penetrate that particular market. An Olive Garden would be at least consistent and welcoming.

But if there's a point to this rambling it's that (1) one can probably find good restaurants just about anywhere, but it requires knowing the town pretty damn well, and (2) that certain towns are going to be JUST BETTER when it comes to certain types of cuisine. New York has a lot of that locked up, particularly Italian (and probably classic French) but for Mexican? You want Houston. Specifically, you want the original, downtown Ninfa's location. The best Mexican in NY is a pale imitation. The best Mexican most other places is a pale imitation of NY's best Mexican.

Similarly, LA has the best over-all Sushi. Oklahoma City, strangely, has the best Vietnamese. DC has the best Ethiopian. Miami has the best Cuban. Chicago and New Orleans have their entire own subset of great foods no one else can do half as well. And it seems like ND has it's own thing as well.

But if you're not in the mood for that, sure, Olive Garden. Why the hell not?

(oh, and I will ocassionally make a CHili's run because there's nowhere else near me that makes a decent dry-rub, and something is better than nothing.)
posted by Navelgazer at 10:00 PM on March 8, 2012 [4 favorites]


"You'll be older too. . . ."
posted by bardic at 10:27 PM on March 8, 2012


Scotty Lundegaard: [finishing supper] May I be excused?
Jerry Lundegaard: Ya done, there?
Scotty Lundegaard: Yah. Can I go out?
Jean Lundegaard: Where ya goin'?
Scotty Lundegaard: Just to McDonalds.
Jerry Lundegaard: Be back at 9:30.
[Scotty exits]
Wade Gustafson: He just ate - he didn't finish! He's goin' to McDonalds instead of finishin' here.
Jean Lundegaard: He sees his friends there. It's okay.
Wade Gustafson: It's okay, MAC-Donalds. Heh. Whaddya think they do there? They don't drink milkshakes, I assure you.
Jean Lundegaard: It's okay, Dad!
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 12:20 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Marilyn is competing in twitter trends against a Ugandan warlord.
posted by iamck at 2:23 AM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is always weird to me. Is there or isn’t there a market for bacon cheese fries and blooming onions in Brazil? If there is surely Outback isn’t the only one that can do this. If there’s not then how does Outback stay in business?

Outback has done really well here. Supposedly our Outback is one of the busiest in the world and sells a ridiculous amount of beer per month. We're even getting a second one, which is pretty unusual because mid-priced American chains are novelties and as such are usually just one-per-city.

And I'm sure that's part of why it does so well. It's exotic. It's novel and pretty expensive. I'm sure that copycats will start cropping up around town (an "Australia Steakhouse" has already opened at the mall) and then some of the mystique will be gone and all the young businessmen will find somewhere new to hang out, just as they did when the temaki trend petered out.

Someone else could try it, I'm sure, but Outback seems to have some awesome distribution chain that gets this stuff to us. The cheese used on the fries is nothing I have ever found locally and I imagine that they have vats and vats of ranch dressing and honey mustard in the back.

posted by wallaby at 2:50 AM on March 9, 2012


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

Why go to McDonalds in Paris: McDonalds is open until 2am and open again at 4am including the between-meal deserts where real restaurants close, has free WiFi, and will let you and your friends hang out or study as long as you want with no hassle from the staff. They get macarons from the same company that makes them for LaDurée, and have special menus made for the French market (a goat cheese wrap, various cheeseburgers/chicken sandwiches with regional French cheeses and spice mixes, plenty of desserts, and the upcoming McBaguette). The electronic kiosks mean you can order fast without ever dealing with employees or waiting in line. No one will look at you weird for eating alone.

Contrary to a previous poster, I find most of the clients in McDo to be French. The staff rarely speak English even, though perhaps at the location on the touristy Champs Elysées they do.

(I owe McDo a huge thanks for 2 months of free WiFi when I couldn't get it set up in my apartment, and still go back once in a while because there is something addictive in their french fries, but otherwise have no connection to them).
posted by whatzit at 3:45 AM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


A Wall Street Journal blog discusses how this story went viral. It includes this fascinating bit: "Hagerty is the mother of Wall Street Journal reporter James R. Hagerty."
posted by knile at 6:02 AM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now, if you want horrible foreign cuisine in a state where there's probably few to no natives of that cuisine around to cook it, try eating Chinese food in Montana. No, seriously, try it. That will make your Olive Garden whining look like nothing.

Oh my god, the worst Chinese food I've ever had in my entire life was in Butte back in the nineties, in what must be one of the country's oldest continuously-run Chinese restaurants. It appeared to be operating in a long-converted miners' whorehouse (at least there were these strange cubicles for each table). I believe that the owners were distantly related to the original cooks. That was such bad food. But at the same time, it was one of my favorite restaurant experiences - the place was hopping and obviously popular, everyone seemed to be having a good time, the staff seemed to know a lot of the clients, the building was interesting (Butte was great - if there were jobs, I would move there). Also, I kept thinking about what it must have been like to open that place. I expect the first owners were the children of guys who had worked on the railroads - what they must have seen! What they must have survived!

I would totally eat there again regardless of the actual food quality, and I think that's completely legit.
posted by Frowner at 6:02 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Man, some of you guys come to a party in the midwest, say something appallingly offensive, and then don't understand you're being snubbed and frozen out because everyone keeps being polite to you.

"No, no, I don't think there are any lines to read between! The rubes were saying please and thank you and smiling pleasantly, of course I didn't offend them!"
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:36 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


> If you want to know, at a glance, what makes a place what it is--take a shortcut to
> understanding the zeitgeist of a culture that isn't your own--there is nothing more
> useful than going to McDonald's.

When I was first trying to pick up spoken French I found it surprisingly useful to hear native French speakers from different regions speak French-accented English. That's how I first started to hear differences between Paris and Marseilles.
posted by jfuller at 6:50 AM on March 9, 2012


But then we moved to Bartlesville...

Well that's interesting; my mother moved from Bartlesville (where she met Frank Lloyd Wright at the dedication of his skyscraper) to Houston; I had no idea migration occured in the opposite direction.
posted by TedW at 8:17 AM on March 9, 2012


Homesickness can do weird things to you. When I was living in France for a while after college, I'd occasionally go to McDonald's for softserve ice cream - I still don't understand why, since it's not something I ate much of at home in the States, but for some reason, I got serious cravings for it in France. That, and Doritos, another thing I hardly ate at home.
posted by rtha at 8:30 AM on March 9, 2012


rtha, I eat more cheesesteaks ever since I moved away from Philadelphia.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:43 AM on March 9, 2012


I'm Italian. I occasionally go to Olive Garden without shuddering or cringing. I eat the salad, the soups, and the bread. I stay away from pasta dishes because they are disappointingly mushy, since I much prefer al dente pasta, but nothing I ate there has made me throw up or has killed me yet.
posted by francesca too at 11:08 AM on March 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


President "Bobby": Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?

Chance: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.

President "Bobby": In the garden.

Chance: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

President "Bobby": Spring and summer.

Chance: Yes.

President "Bobby": Then fall and winter.

Chance: Yes.

Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.

Chance: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!

Benjamin Rand: Hmm!

Chance: Hmm!

President "Bobby": Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time. … I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.
posted by banshee at 1:28 PM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


Pappas family restaurants. (Pappas Steakhouse, Pappsito's, Pappadeaux, Pappamia's, etc. Interestingly, I don't think they ever tried a Greek place.)

Yia Yia Mary's. It's... okay.
posted by mrbill at 1:29 PM on March 9, 2012


Awesome reference, banshee.
posted by alphanerd at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2012


Not half as clever as her column for the Wyoming Gazette, Meatbeat, where she reviews porn theaters.

‎"The floors were sticky. I declined the popcorn."

"The chairs were comfy, and the air smelled of sweat and salt."
posted by Homeskillet Freshy Fresh at 2:11 PM on March 9, 2012


This is really the only place where I've seen the review correctly understood. Many people seem to be under the impression that someone who has been a professional writer likely longer than their own parents have walked this earth could never, ever utilize snark or sarcasm.
posted by dantsea at 3:56 PM on March 9, 2012


The last time I checked, there were about four dozen Mickey Ds in Paris. I have no idea why anybody would eat there

American tourists. And, if my personal experience is any indication, I would go a step further and say generally loud, large, boorish American tourists.


Bizarre that folks here (presumably Americans) think the whole world shares their prejudices.

In Prague one night, my SO and I got off a train a little after midnight, when nothing else was open in our end of town except a few convenience stores. We stopped into the train station McDonalds, and it was absolutely packed. Not only were there only adults there (so much for the children-only theory), but the people working there were all over 30, too. And polite! I didn't hear anyone else speaking English -- it seemed to be mainly locals.
posted by coolguymichael at 4:26 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


I've eaten in, or rather drunk coffee from, a McDonald's in Prague. I was in a hurry and didn't have time to sit down in one of the many excellent cafes, and McDonald's seemed like the place most likely to have to-go cups. It took a lot of miming, but eventually they gave me some coffee in a soda cup.

It wasn't good, but it did the job.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:32 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Opinions (and taste) are like assholes. Surprise, everybody has one! I personally find Olive Garden not-so-good, but hey, that's just like, my opinion, man.
posted by ch3ch2oh at 12:30 AM on March 10, 2012


My partner grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota. Hagerty's daughter is a judge in Bismarck and a friend of my partner's ex.

I remember visiting ND to close up my partner's parents' house after they died. Driving west from Minnesota on a dark, clear winter night, darkness on all sides. No exits for miles and miles. And then finally you'd see a light ahead and there'd be a sign saying "Exit 233. No services." And this went on forever.

I liked North Dakota. In advance of our trip, I read up on the state and learned that, while July is the only month of the year in which snow has never been recorded, it is common for the summers to be hot and dry. At the time (around 1994 or so) North Dakota held the US record for the widest temprature range recorded in a single year.

My partner says that we have too many trees here in Michigan, and not enough wind.

One time we were traveling near Minneapolis, and knowing that Minneapolis, 4 hours from home, was a city he used to visit with his parents, I asked him if it made him homesick to be so close. He said, "Yes."

I said, "Would you say that being from North Dakota shaped you in certain ways? Like being from the South stays with people forever? That there is a certain kind of person who comes from North Dakota?"

He said, "Yes."

After a very very long pause, I said, "And would you call that kind of person laconic?"

He laughed.

His mother grew up in Philadelphia and was a member of Daughters of the American Revolution. She used to mail-order food she couldn't get in North Dakota, like escargot.

Sometimes we talk about moving to North Dakota for a year or so, so our kids can get a sense of where their dad is from, and because he misses it, and because I find it kind of fascinating.

Also, we are not entirely unsophisticated people--my partner especially is an adventurous eater whose idea of a good vacation is to go to a city with lots of ethnic food we can't get around here--but we agree that this thread made both us go, "Mmmm, Olive Garden! We should go there soon."
posted by not that girl at 8:14 AM on March 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


The one thing I don't get when people keep talking about how cheap Olive Garden is.

It isn't cheap.

Yes, endless salad and breadsticks are just $7, but a plate of pasta starts at $10 — and that's for your standard "pasta with tomato sauce". You're not going to pay more than that at any routine cheap Italian restaurant.

True, you don't get the crappy "authentic" molded resin ambience of the Garden, but other than that you get better food for the same price.
posted by Deathalicious at 6:48 AM on March 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


"authentic Italian food"

My parents are both second-generation Italians who grew up in the Bronx in the 50's and 60's. My great grandmother had such a thick accent her care providers had to tell me what she was saying when I met her. My late nana's calzones were the size of baseball gloves and were the dopest thing imaginable.

When my folks want to go out to dinner, they have more than a few times picked The Olive Garden.

People who talk about "REAL Italian food" or "in New York, every other hole in the wall is a million times better than Olive Garden/Sbarros/etc" are transplants or hipsters: sure, NY will have your little mom n pop places, or local delis that will put eveything you know to shame, but they also have their share of generic ass greasy spoons and pretty shit pizza

It's like people who talk about how awesome all the music of the 90's was without thinking about shit ilke OMC or No Mercy.

I'm sure that there are people who really believe what they are saying, that Olive Garden food really IS disgusting to them, but I can't help but see it as a pose.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 8:54 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm sure that there are people who really believe what they are saying, that Olive Garden food really IS disgusting to them, but I can't help but see it as a pose.

Is it "posing" for me to genuinely be of the opinion that I don't want a lot of cheese and cream sauce all over everything? I mean, yeah, I like carbonara and alfredo now and then, but it just seems like Olive Garden kind of knee-jerk adds "and then add a cup of melted mozzarella or a cup of cream" to just about everything they make.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


My partner says that we have too many trees here in Michigan

But at least they're the right height.
posted by Bukvoed at 9:42 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed this from the Baltimore Sun about the Olive Garden.
posted by josher71 at 9:52 AM on March 12, 2012


This is really the only place where I've seen the review correctly understood. Many people seem to be under the impression that someone who has been a professional writer likely longer than their own parents have walked this earth could never, ever utilize snark or sarcasm.

There's no way to know her history from the context. She could be a sweet old lady that graduated from writing the church bulletin yesterday for all the casual reader knows.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:00 AM on March 12, 2012


Uther Bentrazor makes a good point about availability. Whenever a new mom-&-pop restaurant opens in my hometown area, I have to overcome staggering skepticism in order to try it because I've learned that there is a 99.99% chance it's going to be terrible. More costly than Olive Garden and less appetizing than McDonald's. Believe me, I want these places to be good. I frequent the tolerable ones as often as I can—a neighborhood bar in the next town with decent steak tips...and this is me struggling to think of a second example within five miles. (The two I went to most frequently closed, a Japanese hibachi place last year and a hole-in-the-wall bar with spectacular Italian food that got sold about ten years ago.)

We were talking earlier about doughnuts. I love 'em. There's a mom-&-pop doughnut place in the next town over, and just on general principle, I'd much rather go there than Dunkin' Donuts. But by 8 am, they have sold out of chocolate-frosted. I asked them a couple times. "I come in every day, and half the time you're sold out of chocolate-frosted but still have two racks of plain. Why don't you make more chocolate-frosted?" They shrugged. So I patronize the chain, which has comparable quality and actually pays attention to what I want.

I love the good, local restaurants around Boston and Providence. But I also eat at Olive Garden and Texas Roadhouse, because sometimes the locally owned places aren't convenient and contrary to what some have argued, my world is not littered with mom-&-pop places that are actually halfway decent.
posted by cribcage at 11:17 AM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


cribcage: "I love the good, local restaurants around Boston and Providence. But I also eat at Olive Garden and Texas Roadhouse, because sometimes the locally owned places aren't convenient and contrary to what some have argued, my world is not littered with mom-&-pop places that are actually halfway decent."

Huh, I guess I've just always been blessed in where I've lived, because I have never, ever encountered difficulties in finding a really good local restaurant that easily outshined any comparable chain. Of course, I've never lived in towns with a population under 35k or so, and that smallest one was a college town (Charlottesville, which has so many good local and cheap restaurants that it should be a crime to go to a chain, which my cousins nonetheless did when visiting. Drove me up the wall).

The only time I predictably go to chains to eat is when I am starving and in a shopping mall, where they are the only option, and when I am stopping along the Interstate, where they are almost always the only option (but even then, not always and when this is the case, I opt for the non-chain).

I really used to like the Olive Garden. But after spending some time in Italy I guess I got broken somehow, I couldn't stomach anything they served. It didn't help that the eggplant parm I was served tasted like it had been created long, long ago and then had been nuked for my order (which is probably what actually happened). Not only Olive Garden is guilty of this. I actually went to a fancy, expensive hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant and my heart sank when I saw the waitress take my cold, already prepared entree, peel off the saran wrap, and pop it in the microwave. I know that a *lot* of food isn't cooked to order but actually seeing and hear it happen made it taste worse somehow. And I know probably many restaurants do this, but at least I can't palpably taste it like I could at the Garden.

Anyway, I just -- sorry -- I just can't believe that if you live in the immediate Boston area that the only good places to eat are chains. Is the Philadelphia area really that much better culinarily equipped? I could probably name a couple dozen excellent cheap places within a 20 minute drive where someone could eat before resorting to a chain.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:40 AM on March 12, 2012


I really used to like the Olive Garden. But after spending some time in Italy I guess I got broken somehow, I couldn't stomach anything they served.

Exactly.
posted by The World Famous at 11:48 AM on March 12, 2012


When Mom Goes Viral: After Review of Grand Forks Olive Garden, Marilyn Hagerty, 85, Is Talk of Social Media

Her son apparerntly writes for the WSJ.

Others, including media and news websites Gawker and Huffington Post, chimed in. Soon news hounds from Minneapolis, New York and even Fargo were calling Mom and demanding interviews. Basically, they wanted to know whether she was for real and how she felt about being mocked all over the Internet.


She felt fine about it. But she didn't care to scroll through the thousands of Twitter and Facebook comments on her writing style. "I'm working on my Sunday column and I'm going to play bridge this afternoon," she explained, "so I don't have time to read all this crap." She didn't apologize for writing about a restaurant where many people like to eat. Her poise under fire endeared her to people who do read all that. Strangers started sending me emails about how much they loved my mom.

Her phone line was tied up, so I emailed her: "You've gone viral!"

She replied: "Could you tell me what viral means?"


I thought I liked her before, but now I'm pretty sold.

Also, confirmation of what we all pretty much assumed.
My mom has her own style of reviewing restaurants: She doesn't like to say anything bad about the food. Her regular readers read between the lines. If she writes more about the décor than the food, you might want to eat somewhere else.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:11 PM on March 13, 2012 [8 favorites]


The coda, as written by Marilyn Hagerty.

holy shit she has a hammer named Margo that lady is cool as fuck
posted by suckerpunch at 6:21 PM on March 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I love how she mentions someone being like "your column sucks" and her response is "I braced myself and responded with a 'thanks for your interest. I appreciate your input.'" Seems pretty appropriate from the person who wrote the column, ha. I also loved her "The Village Tattler or whatever" remark.
posted by ifjuly at 7:53 PM on March 16, 2012


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