Hero food writer Marilyn Hagerty triumphantly returns to Olive Garden in Grand Forks

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Marilyn Hagerty, you are the best. Grand Forks Herald; Olive Garden

Yaaas queen!

Really, what more is there to say about Marilyn Hagerty?

OK, quite a bit actually. Hagerty has been the no B.S. food writer at the Grand Forks Herald since the '70s, dutifully reporting on restaurants that actual people enjoy, always with zero pretense and surplus warmth. In 2012, Hagerty penned a matter-of-fact review of the hotly anticipated new Olive Garden, only to see it explode in the blogosphere. Here's a snippet: 

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

Most readers celebrated the review as a refreshing departure from the smugness of foodie culture. Others -- let's go ahead and call them literal monsters -- took snobby hater stances, or, worse yet, even mocked the 85-year-old journalist. Ya know, these people. Hagerty drank it all in, appearing on the TODAY Show, CNN, and Top Chef.

Now, six years later, Hagerty has made her triumphant return that very same Olive Garden in eastern North Dakota. Under the headline "Branch out with shrimp scampi," Tuesday's column checks back in with the thriving chain location, which now features a tablet-based ordering system. 

That particular Olive Garden "stirs wild memories" for Hagerty, who ever-so-briefly acknowledges her brush with fame. But she gives the scampi the spotlight, writing: 

"I branched out when doing lunch recently with friends Susie Shaft, Sue Huus, and Donna Gillig. With the promise of asparagus, tomatoes, and angel hair pasta, I ordered shrimp scampi ($15.99). And I will go back for more."

It's vintage Hagerty. Celeb chef Anthony Bourdain praised her as "the antidote to snark," and even wrote the foreword to her 2013 book, Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews.

"Ms. Hagerty is not naïve about her work, her newfound fame, or the world. She has travelled widely in her life," Bourdain writes. "In person, she has a flinty, dry, very sharp sense of humor. She misses nothing. I would not want to play poker with her for money."

Asked by the Wall St. Journal in 2012 about her viral celebrity, Hagerty offered the perfect response.

"I write my columns. I go play bridge. I go to all the sports events at the University of North Dakota. Life is too busy for me to worry about things like that."

Amen, Marilyn. 

Because we just can't get enough Hagerty, please enjoy this clip featuring her son, James R. Hagerty, who's a reporter for the Wall St. Journal.


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