You know Marilyn Hagerty, the 88-year-old small-town food critic who wrote a viral review about Olive Garden? She charmed us all with her realness, her unabashed honesty, and her lack of snobbery (and let’s face it guys, we all love those breadsticks and unlimited salads). Not only did we fall in love with her, but she also gave Anthony Bourdain, professional “snarkologist,” a case of smitten kitten and they ended up writing a book together. Well, she’s back, and this time she’s got a few things to say about one of our favorite guilty pleasures: McDonald’s.
For her review in the Grand Forks Herald, Hagerty visited four McDonald’s locations in her hometown of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Her first order? A 47-cent cup of coffee, which she says, was “strong and not too hot.” She didn’t wax poetic about the sausage egg McMuffin, but said that at $2.99 and 370 calories per sandwich, “you know you have eaten, and I like that combination.”
McDonald’s is nothing if not a place that offers something for everyone, and Hagerty was pleased that the crowds shifted from early-morning coffee chatters so they can “exchange the news of the day,” to a playground haven for kids, and even let us know that it was “open all night so that customers can drift in before going to bed.”
Hagerty is no stranger to indulging in what she calls her “secret sin”—the Big Mac—”something I only do once every couple of years.” Though she admits that the burger itself is better suited to active folks, saying that they “almost overwhelm lethargic people like me.” Me too, Marilyn. Me, too.
While none of the McD’s locations that Hagerty visited served the holy grail of McDonald’s offerings, the McPizza, she was pleased with a recent promotion that offered an “order of nuggets for the price of the temperature at noon on the day before,” and since North Dakota tends to be colder than the Grinch’s heart, sometimes that ends up being free chicken nuggets, people!
Not only is Hagerty pleased with the whimsical promotional offerings, she also recognizes the shift into modernization: you can now get your daily gourmet coffee along with that order of fries. She says that “the lattes cost less than those I enjoy at Starbucks. But they are worthy.” The only problem? Sometimes the machines are broken, which does not make her happy: “’Not working?’ I think. I almost foam at the mouth in disgust, but I try to be pleasant.” (P.S. After the review went viral, McD’s promised to fix their latte machine.)
Even an angry Marilyn Hagerty is a nice Marilyn Hagerty, which just warms my heart to the core. Although, Hagerty herself will be the first to say she does not care if people like her or not. In an interview for the Village Voice, she says, “I do not have time to let myself be bothered or read all that stuff. . .I don’t have time to sit here and twit over whether some self-styled food expert likes, or does not like, my column.”
Hagerty has been writing for the Grand Forks Herald since 1957, and another reason to love her (not that we need another one), is that unlike Bourdain and the other food critics, she’s not going to be quick to write a negative review, saying in an NPR interview, “I’ve never really raked anyone over the coals, because I don’t know how long my restaurant reviews would last if I did that.” And the secret to her approach? “I like to look around and observe. I think that all of this sends a message to the customer about how the owners feel about setting a scene and making it a comfortable place when you’re eating.”
And this is why we cherish you, Marilyn Hagerty. If you ever need a lunch date, let us know.