Why Marilyn Hagerty Is A Better Writer Than You

Everyone is missing the point.

Hey, you, foodie with a blog and your browser always open to Eater. How’s your review of that new nose-to-tail restaurant coming along? Have you listed all the CRAZY PIG PARTS you ate yet? What’s your current word count, and have you even mentioned the food?

Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re no Marilyn Hagerty.

In March last year, Hagerty — the restaurant reviewer for the Grand Forks Herald — wrote a 468-word review of her city’s first Olive Garden. The review went viral because, you know, WHO REVIEWS AN OLIVE GARDEN? It was seen by 1.3 million people.

Today she posted a “one-year ” follow-up, with a brief recap about the first review. Then she gets down to business: what it’s like to eat at The Olive Garden.

Presumably the people who laughed at her the first time are laughing again. But everyone is missing one crucial point: In a world full of really bad food writing, Hagerty’s review is readable as hell. It reminds us what restaurant reviews should be.

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

Helpful, essential information. Clear, concise sentences. Most food writing these days is a mess of flowery language and overwrought analogies. Hagerty is doing a good job in a sincere way. Maybe if there were more reviews like hers, “foodie” would’t be such a bad word.

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