Although I have yet to write about my general opposition to chain restaurants, the main message of that piece will be: Avoid chain restaurants at all costs. I don’t care if you like Red Lobster’s cheesy biscuits! (yep those are the ones! stop drooling! ok…beyond their excessive saltiness, they can be tasty)
Well, that WOULD have been my soapbox speech.
However, one article recently published by an 85 year old in Montana has me rethinking the idea of dining at a chain.
Marilyn Hagerty, who pens the “Eatbeat” food column for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota, wrote an astoundingly simple, yet on point review of the Olive Garden that had opened in her home town this year. Many mainstream news sources have since both mocked and praised Hagerty on her article, which was published in March.
I suppose I would join this merry parade, but side on praise over mockery. (Despite the fact that I can count the number of times I have eaten at an Olive Garden, and it’s on one finger. This is where you can point your finger at me and declare “food snob!”)
But, it wasn’t the meal description that astounded me. It was how Hagerty described her experience that really drew me in.
Hagerty described first impressions of the decor, the accommodating wait staff, the “managable” menu (grumble grumble…see my last post), and of course, her food choices:
“The chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day. The portion was generous. My server was ready with Parmesan cheese.”
(just to give you a visual: Olive Garden’s Chicken Alfredo)
She goes on to cite the importance of the restaurant to herself and the people of Grand Forks. In a town that does not offer a variety that of the greater Phoenix area, of which I am privileged with, the Olive Garden means more than a place to chow down on some spaghetti. Like all restaurants, the Olive Garden provides their customers with a comfortable venue where you can get your grub on with people you (hopefully) enjoy spending time with.
And as obvious as that point seems to be, it is the simple truth of why we dine. And I have to thank Marilyn Hagerty for serving me up some humble pie on that note.
I am also reminded through her review that my food blog needs to be about food experiences, but not just my own. So to close, a quote from Hagerty’s review (read it up here: http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/231419/), that I think expresses what her Olive Garden late lunch meant to her:
“On a hot summer day, I will try the raspberry lemonade that was recommended.”
All Hail ‘Food that Somehow Embodies Humility’,
P.S. I think I might have a $20 Olive Garden gift card somewhere. Anyone want to join me for all you can eat bread sticks?