I do not know if you remember the buzz last March surrounding the review of Olive Garden by Mary Hagerty, an 85 years old food critic for the Grand Forks Herald. Her article went viral and created a debate between those who thought that her column was hilarious, if not ridiculous, and those who defended her like Anthony Bourdain. Was it the start of a culinary war ? I do not know, but a lot of people were flabbergasted when Mary mentioned that the Chicken Alfredo was "comforting on a cold day", that the decor was "impressive" and that "All in all, it is the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks".
I ate at Olive Garden a couple of times and it was sometimes better than restaurants I went to! You want an example? I prefer their chicken alfredo than the linguine a la vongole at Intermezzo in NYC!
Like any restaurant, chains can be good or bad. I like fine dining and good quality food, but there is some food that suits perfectly a chain's menu, such as burgers, chicken wings or salads (I had a great chicken and pecan salad at Applebee's and a disgusting steak at Ruby Tuesday). I remember few years ago when Chili's was installed next to The Late Show with David Letterman (it is now replaced by Angelo's pizza): they use to have great chili either with meat (con carne) or vegetarian. I use to get their sampler that was not only a smart idea, but also delicious!
After, Mary Hagerty's critique has to be put into perspective: when you live close or in New York, there are so many restaurants. expansive or cheap, that you would probably not think about going to a restaurant chain. But when you live in suburbia for instance, it can be your only choice.
Anyway, everybody is entitled to their own opinion and columns, reviews and blogs only reflect the opinion of their authors.
In the next few days, I will be publishing some posts about chain restaurants I went to....Stay tuned!