When Marilyn Hagerty, 87, decided to write reviews about the restaurants in her community, she ran into a problem. Her small town of Grand Forks, N.D., had only five fine restaurants.
Undeterred, Hagerty titled her column "Eatbeat," and became committed to covering a range of establishments, including chain restaurants familiar to Americans across the country. She said she's been writing the column for thirty or forty years now.
“I go to the truck stops,” she said. “I’ve been to McDonald’s, you know it's really very interesting.” She said she talks to the people in the kitchen and those who take the orders, all to get an idea of the place.
"I like to tell my readers how much things cost, how clean the place is, how the food tastes," she said.
Her latest review, which featured the chain Ruby Tuesday, went viral, just as her review for Olive Garden went viral before that. She doesn't understand all the fuss about her reviews, and said she was just impressed by the salad bar at Ruby Tuesday.
“It’s a fine salad bar,” she told Holt, but also mentioned the women’s bathroom was not up to scratch. “It needed help,” she said.
Hagerty doesn’t think of herself as a food critic, and said those who say she is one don’t understand her work. Even her son is critical, saying that focusing more on the decor than the food is a tip to eat somewhere else. Hagerty didn't mince words when responding to the criticism.
“My son is full of prunes,” she said.
Holt hadn't heard of the saying before. “Is that a Grand Forks expression?" he asked.
She said she supposed it was.