How a North Dakota Newspaper’s Review of the Olive Garden Went Viral

Mar 9, 2012  •  Post A Comment

A seemingly routine restaurant column turned into a surprise hit for a small North Dakota newspaper after it was posted Wednesday on the paper’s website.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the review of the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks by 86-year-old columnist Marilyn Hagerty, published by the Grand Forks Herald, went viral overnight, quickly reaching about 10 times the number of views of the newspaper’s previous top story of the year.

The story reports: “The review, which Hagerty sums up by calling the Italian eatery ‘the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks,’ sparked a following on blogs, Facebook and Twitter while becoming the latest demonstration of how the Internet both highlights and erases geographical differences around the country.”

The review was picked up by sites such as Boing Boing and Gawker, while various publications ran interviews with the writer. A site called hypervocal ran a tribute to Hagerty’s piece under the headline “Ernest Hemingway Reviews Marilyn Hagerty’s Review of New Olive Garden in Grand Forks, N. D.”

The broad enthusiasm for the review appears to stem from its earnestness and attention to detail, the WSJ piece reports.

The story notes that some, but not all, of the Internet conversation is approving, such as Boing Boing’s comment: “If you grew up in places where Olive Garden and Red Lobster really were the best restaurants in town, you can’t help but feel a warm twinge of homesickness reading this.”

In other cases, the treatment has been less sympathetic. A City Pages interview with Hagerty, for example, ran under the headline “Marilyn Hagerty: Interview with genius Olive Garden reviewer” and included the question: “Do you go on the Internet at all?”

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