Grand Forks is a collection of newspaper columnist Marilyn Hagerty's reviews of her local restaurants. Anthony Bourdain helped Hagerty publish and promote this book.
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For my birthday this year my kids gave me this book: Grand Forks: A History of American Dining in 128 Reviews by Marilyn Hagerty. They discovered it in a small bookstore in downtown Burlington and recognized Anthony Bourdain's name on the cover (he wrote the foreword and the book was published under his imprint, Ecco Press) as an author/chef that I've read before.
Marilyn Hagerty writes for the Grand Forks Herald in Grand Forks, ND. She writes five columns each week including the "Eat Beat" column where she reviews the local restaurants in Grand Forks. She has been writing this restaurant column for over 25 years. Grand Forks is a collection of her reviews. Bourdain's foreword mentions when in 2012 Marilyn Hagerty's review of a new Olive Garden restaurant in Grand Forks went viral.
Bourdain swooped after Hagerty was mocked online
After a straightforward and positive review of a local Olive Garden, Hagerty was mocked in snarky tweets and Facebook posts. People made fun of her quiet praise of the new franchise in her town, and from there they moved on to tear into some of her other local reviews.
Happily, the story does not end here, as a wave of positivity soon overtook the wave of snark. Thousands of people and the media took notice and came to her defense. She landed interviews on The Today Show and NPR. Then Anthony Bourdain, chef and author of Kitchen Confidential, joined in to laud Hagerty's years of local restaurant reviews.
Bourdain arranged for her to dine at Eric Ripert's La Bernardin in New York City, and made plans to work with her on a book—this book! Bourdain said, "This is a straightforward account of what people have been eating-still ARE eating-in much of America."
When I read this book the restaurants she describes made me think of the places where I would eat out with my grandparents or restaurants that our parents would take us to on special occasions. Small, local restaurants that exist for years and years without ever really changing the food or the decor, and locals love them for it.
Hagerty wrote about all kinds of local restaurants and their food
These local eateries served soups, half-sandwiches, salad bars, and hosted Sunday brunches with steam tables holding French toast, eggs, and bacon.
Hagerty's reviews in Grand Forks include truck stops, diners, family restaurants, and other chains in the Grand Forks area such as Shakey's, Player's, Dairy Queen, and even McDonald's.
Hagerty's reviews are honest, yet kind. She shares the prices of dishes she tries and a bit of what else is on the menu. She likes to share about the folks with whom she dines: her "constant companion", friends, and children.
Occasionally a review will mention something about a dish or about the establishment that could use a change. There are also one or two dry-humored jabs at misspellings on menus. But she's not out to skewer anyone. "What point, I wonder, is there in tearing down hard-working restaurant people?", Hagerty notes. "And if a place is just too bad, I move on."
In a Wall Street Journal article titled "When Mom Goes Viral" her son James R. Hagerty shared, "If she writes more about the decor than the food, you might want to eat somewhere else." I have eaten in many, many more places like the ones reviewed in Hagerty's book. And the food in these restaurants is good! Filling, comforting, and affordable. A lot like the food I cook at home and the recipes I share on this website. I love good food, and I love to share good food with good people.
I love that books capture this piece of American history. There are so many places I remember from my own childhood that are now long gone.
I agree Stephanie, so many of those restaurants have gone out of business. The reviews in this book are decades old, and the author notes on many of them that they have "long since left" Grand Forks.
Ha! Thanks for the chicken pie supper shout out.
This book sounds like a lot of fun. I agree with you: comfort food restaurants are way under-appreciated.
The Armchair Squid
Looking forward to the chili cook off!
Me too me too!
Sounds like a really interesting book, with a cool backstory! Thanks for sharing it!
It has been a fun read, and funny to think of this 87-year old woman at the center of a media frenzy!
Sounds like a fun read, the diners version of the kind of travelogue I like reading (the books of William Least Heat-Moon).
Oh interesting, I haven't read his work. Is there one in particular you would recommend?
His most famous one is "Blue Highways," in which he travels the whole country. I would personally recommend "PrairyErth," which sees him explore an entire county.