Olive Garden Reviewer Wins Super Serious Journalism Award

Marilyn Hagerty, the internet’s favorite food critic, will receive this year’s Al Neuharth Award! Previous winners: Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw and Larry King.

Congratulations are in order for 86-year-old reporter and columnist Marilyn Hagerty, this year’s recipient of the prestigious Al Neuharth Award for Excellence in the Media.

Though she’s been an award-winning journalist for six decades, Hagerty is best known for earnestly reviewing her local Olive Garden and Applebee’s for the Grand Forks Herald.

Neuharth, who founded USA Today, chose Hagerty for her commitment to “serving local communities through consistently fair, truthful and relevant coverage.” She was also his first editor at their college paper in the 1940s, so there’s that.

Here, a few of her Neuharth Award predecessors:

4. Walter Cronkite, 1989

6. Tom Brokaw, 1992

Brendan Hoffman / Getty Images

7. Larry King, 1993

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

8. Garrison Keillor, 2005

Janet Hostetter / AP

9. Katie Couric, 2009

MARIO ANZUONI / Reuters

10. Marilyn Hagerty, 2012

Mark Lennihan / AP

Hagerty on Olive Garden:

My first visit to Olive Garden was during midafternoon, so I could be sure to get in. After a late breakfast, I figured a late lunch would be fashionable.
The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway. There is seating for those who are waiting.
My booth was near the kitchen, and I watched the waiters in white shirts, ties, black trousers and aprons adorned with gold-colored towels. They were busy at midday, punching in orders and carrying out bread and pasta.

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.

Hagerty on Applebee’s:

“See you tomorrow,” said hostess Sue Prowse as I left Applebee’s after having lunch there the other day.
I was somewhat startled — wondering if I was forgetting something. Then she grinned and explained that is just the Applebee’s way of ushering customers out. “See you tomorrow,” is what they use as a promotion.

After all was said and done, I ordered the same thing I have ordered on previous visits to Applebee’s — the Oriental Chicken Salad. It features Asian greens tossed with an Oriental vinaigrette and topped with crispy noodles, toasted almonds and fried chicken tenders. I think asking for the crunchy chicken was my best decision.

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