Marilyn Hagerty has had a busy couple of years, what with penning the Olive Garden review heard round-the-Web and releasing a book last August. But the 87-year-old Grand Forks Herald columnist still makes time to write a restaurant review each week, covering the eateries few food critics find themselves frequenting.
Her latest is an endearingly earnest assessment of an “upscale” establishment familiar to many outside the Grands Forks, N.D., area: Ruby Tuesday. The Internet, of course, ate it up.
Overall, Hagerty was impressed with the chain restaurant, especially its salad bar — which was the reason she reviewed Ruby Tuesday in the first place.
"I had been over there a couple times recently and was interested in the salad bar because I think some salad bars are kind of sad or even pathetic," Hagerty told TODAY.com. "Ruby Tuesday is quite appealing and it has a good variety, especially in this wintertime when we don’t see as many vegetables as we do in the summer."
Hagerty made special mention of the glass that hangs over the salad bar, preventing germs from mingling with the vegetables. "The glass over the salad bar seems to keep the foods protected," she wrote in the review.
That line is in there for a reason, she said: The salad bar's placement — right down the middle of the restaurant — initially gave her pause. "At first I thought, 'Yack, everyone walks by there,'" Hagerty said. "But I’ve studied it, and it’s pretty well protected there, so I decided to write about that."
Fair enough. Regarding the salad bar, she wrote in the review that she would "go back any time just for the good tastes it offers and the good nutrition there."
Hagerty returned to Ruby Tuesday on a separate occasion — this time to sample an entree off one of the restaurant's "almost overwhelming" menus. She ordered the baked ravioli, which "arrived in a hot — very hot — state," so she "approached it with caution."
"It was very well-seasoned and laced with spinach and topped with sharp-tasting cheese," she wrote. "With the two dainty baking powder biscuits that arrived promptly, it was a very adequate meal."
After those two visits, she decided that "there is a lot to like and a little to criticize at Ruby Tuesday." In particular, Hagerty liked "the cloth-like napkins that come wrapped around the silverware," the restaurant's "appealing art" and the "well-trained and courteous" servers.
Misses were an "off-putting" carpet sweeper and a ladies' room in need of some attention. Ultimately, though, Hagerty deemed Ruby Tuesday "one of the stars in the restaurant scene in Grand Forks."
So where is the viral restaurant reviewer off to next? Well, even Hagerty doesn't know that yet, but she already has a few ideas.
"I might go someplace where I can get seafood since Lent is coming up," she said. "On the other hand, I might go to a Chinese food restaurant that’s almost forgotten."