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Grand Forks Herald/Olive Garden (Twitter)

Legendary food critic Marilyn Haggerty takes on Olive Garden’s breadstick sandwich

North Dakota's most prolific food critic is back.


Marisa Kabas


Posted on Jun 4, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 4:23 pm CDT

Marilyn Haggerty danced her way into our hearts and stomachs back in 2012 with her cutthroat review of the new Olive Garden in Grand Forks, North Dakota. She has continued to provide searing reviews of other local establishments, and now America’s Octogenarian Grand Dame of Fast Casual is back with a review of the Olive Garden breadstick sandwich.

Her review of the Italian chain’s latest culinary monstrosity took the form of a letter to her sister, Shirley, a format she’s been wont to use

She begins by saying, 

“Dear Shirley,

Olive Garden’s new breadstick bun sandwiches are making their debut across America this week. And there are trucks crawling all over the nation to introduce them to everyone.

So one of these days in June, I think you should perch yourself somewhere and then follow an Olive Garden truck. I suppose they will make it to Tucson, Ariz., but I am not sure if any of them will get to the Forks.”

Haggerty is wistful—and realistic—about accessibility issues. She is truly the food critic of the people.

She continues,

“Actually, I tried the new breadstick bun sandwich this week when it was introduced at our local Olive Garden. I was curious because I have had calls from media people at CBC in Canada and Fox News.

They know I went viral three years ago after reviewing the Olive Garden that was then new in Grand Forks. The manager there now is Casey Pohl. He was going to treat me to the new creations this week, but he understood when I explained to him that as a news writer I do not accept free food.”

Actually, it’s about ethics in food journalism.

And then, her biting commentary:

“I tried the new Italian Meatball Sandwich with alfredo and marinara served on the signature breadstick bun. It had wonderful thin fries with it. It’s a lot to eat. There also is a new chicken parmigiana sandwich with chicken breast and Italian cheese on the new buns. I think I might like that version better.”

In the end, Haggerty would prefer to stick to the classics.

“To me, the basic lunch of soup and unlimited breadsticks and salad is good. The new buns may be better, but they are kind of big. I sort of like the original, thinner version. And you still can get them.”

There you have it. Olive Garden breadstick sandwich: decent. Olive Garden unlimited, skinnier breadsticks and salad: better.

It’s also nice to see that, despite her unexpected rise to fame, she’s still the same old Marilyn.

“Nobody at Olive Garden ever asked me what I thought. I just wrote down some observations three years ago and ended up on national television shows.

This is a crazy world we live in.”

Crazy, indeed.

H/T Grand Forks Herald | Photos via Grand Forks Herald, Olive Garden/Twitter

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*First Published: Jun 4, 2015, 12:36 pm CDT