Should Northern Virginia Magazine Review Chain Restaurants?

Posted by / Monday, March 12th, 2012

Marilyn Hagerty, an 85 year old restaurant critic for the Grand Forks Herald, reviewed the town’s 6-week-old Olive Garden. Hagerty notes the opening was much anticipated, with waits stretching an hour long at lunch.

She compliments the “attractive bar area” near the entry way, as well as the Italian-American classic, chicken Alfredo, which she called “warm and comforting on a cold day.”

Hagerty’s review has since gone viral, landing the critic on national television shows (see video above). The attention rotates between out-right mocking (who would eat at an Olive Garden, let alone take it seriously enough to write about it for a newspaper) and endearing condescension (oh, look, that little old lady is so cute and so out-of-touch with current food trends.)

But does Hagerty have a point?

Chain restaurants are by nature not supposed to vary from location to location. Jack Daniels flavored ribs should taste the same in Birmingham as in Oakland. This type of restaurant, where consistency is valued over creativity, would not normally deserve editorial ink. 

Unique, locally-owned restaurants open with regularity in Northern Virginia, allowing this magazine to focus on these community-building businesses instead of a new TGI Friday. But do occasional check-ins at chain restaurants offer any incite into the dining scene? Is it important to eat how “corporate America” wants us to eat, to understand mass-appeal, nationally-enjoyed dinners? 

Should Northern Virginia Magazine ever review a chain restaurant?

[tips for the food desk / follow @gansie]

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