CLEVELAND - It always pays to be at the right place at the right time. Saturday was one of those moments, as I enjoyed a great dinner and unforgettable experience, compliments of Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.
As part of the Cincinnati Bengals weekend trip to Cleveland, Ochocinco treated a lucky group of 85 fans to a top-notch dinner at XO Prime Steakhouse
I was one of the fortunate attendees.
Ochocinco announced the event on Twitter, where he has over 1.3 million followers, by naming XO as the location of the dinner party. I was downtown with a friend when I saw the tweet, so we decided to give it a try.
Within two minutes of sending out the tweet, people were rushing to XO, and a line quickly formed along the side of the restaurant. Five minutes later, over 100 people were in line, and only the first 85 received the free meal.
The staff at XO had received advance notice from Chad, so they were ready for the rush. After about 40 minutes of waiting outside, the staff started letting people inside the restaurant and handed out tickets to the recipients of Ochocinco’s dinner.
I was number 80.
Once everyone got inside, the group relished the chance to spend money they don’t have. With Ochocinco buying, few people exercised restraint with their drink orders. I’ve never seen the top-shelf liquor ordered so liberally at a restaurant.
XO started letting people into the restaurant around 4:45, and Chad arrived a little after 6. He showed up in a non-descript taxi van with a television crew, and walked into a chorus of cheers from the crowd.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Browns opponent get that warm of a reception.
As soon as he walked in the door, fans mobbed Ochocinco with photo and autograph requests, but he had no problem with it. He welcomed the attention and struck up conversation with the fans as cameras flashed in his face.
He walked through the restaurant and thanked everybody for coming, and then brought the group together for a prayer. It was tough to hear him during the prayer, but the part that stuck out is when he said, “Dear God, we look good.”
He joined a family during the meal, and occasionally made his rounds through the restaurant to joke around with the fans, take pictures and shake hands. Despite the mob scene, he made sure to personally greet every person in the restaurant.
The meal at XO was fantastic, and guests could select an appetizer, main course and a dessert. I went with the crab bisque, prime beef filet and cheesecake. It was one of the best meals I’ve enjoyed in a while, and everyone at my table agreed.
I asked our server how much each meal costs, and she said that it was about $40 a person, not including alcohol. Add in the cost of drinks and a tip, and I’m guessing Ochocinco dropped around $10,000 by the end of the night.
Before he left, he came through the restaurant one more time to say goodbye and take any last-minute photos. I’m not sure of many other athletes with that kind of attitude, and Ochocinco connects with fans on a personal level that is unrivaled by most of today’s stars.
As people walked out of the restaurant, I heard people say the same thing over and over: “What a great guy." And after having a wonderful meal on Ochocinco's dime, I definitely couldn't disagree.
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