Olive Garden Review Creates Sensation Despite Bland Subject
Grand Forks, North Dakota has been put on the viral map thanks to a review of the Olive Garden. Columnist Marilyn Hagerty writes a food column for the Grand Forks Herald called The Eatbeat. On March 7 she wrote about her observations on the new Olive Garden that had just opened up in her city of roughly 100,000 people. This short, seemingly positive, review has gone viral with almost 300,000 hits, thanks, no doubt, to The Olive Garden name.
An Olive Garden recently opened up near me and I was amazed at the anticipation people felt for this overrated restaurant. For months after it opened, the lines could be seen snaking around the building. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised that just the name could elicit such a response, but I am. This restaurant has been overrated for far too long. Ms. Hagerty concludes her column with the words: “Olive Garden has gained a following since 1982 with its ample portions and relaxed ambience. It’s known for its classic lasagna, fettuccine Alfredo and chicken Parmigiana.” (Grand Forks Herald) It’s ironic that the most humdrum choices on their menu are what they are known for. I have tried every one and they are all tasteless. The other irony hidden between the lines of her column is a total absence of comment regarding her estimation of the taste of the food. She describes the busy atmosphere, the ample portions, and crisp uniforms, but nowhere does she mention she thought the food was actually good. Comforting, yes; warm, yes; Tasty, no.
I have been forced to eat at the Olive Garden numerous times by rabid supporters who have obviously never tasted real Italian food. Every time, I have not only been disappointed by the lack of flavor in the food, but I usually leave feeling like poor white trash. Every Olive Garden I have ever set foot in gives me the feeling that the staff is pompous and condescending. I thought it was just me and my social neuroses, but when I tried the local Olive Garden after the hubbub had died down; my stepson noticed the same thing. From the moment we walked into the restaurant I felt uncomfortable. All the other diners were sitting in booths along the walls, yet the hostess wanted to seat us at a table in the center of the room. I asked for an empty booth two feet away from the table and she and the waiter acted like I had just asked for free range beef. Once we had won the battle of the table, we sat quietly at our table afraid to speak. Finally, my sixteen year old stepson says, “Is it just me, or do you get the feeling they don’t think we belong here?”
Suffice it to say, it will be a long time before I go back to an Olive Garden. Thanks to Marilyn Hagerty’s article, however, Olive Garden is getting a lot of free publicity. No doubt she will receive a gift card for a free meal or two, where she can try the raspberry lemonade, eat some more bland food, and enjoy a healthy portion of inferiority complex.