CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco hosted 85 of his closest Charlotte friends for dinner at an uptown steakhouse Saturday night.
Maybe "closest" is too strong a word. The diners were 85 strangers who rushed to Chima Brazilian Steakhouse after the outspoken Bengals star tweeted that dinner was on him for the first of his 1.3 million Twitter followers who showed up.
The Bengals, who play the Panthers today, arrived in Charlotte on Saturday afternoon. But even before the team's plane landed, Ochocinco's fans were staking out upscale restaurants.
The first five people outside Chima were a group of friends who had been closely following the receiver's tweets for days and had a hunch Ochocinco would pick Chima.
"We figured he would pick a nice venue uptown, not a Hooters or a Wendy's," said 24-year-old James Cunningham.
By 4:20 p.m., more than 100 people were in line behind Cunningham.
Just after 6, Ochocinco got out of the back of a black Lincoln town car on Tryon Street with Terrell Owens, another Bengals receiver with a penchant for theatrics, as fans screamed and held up cameras and cell phones.
Neither player spoke on the way into the restaurant, but Ochocinco later tweeted: "This dinner is awesome."
His plan had apparently been in the works since Wednesday, when a public relations firm hired by Ochocinco contacted Chima about hosting the latest in a series of free meals, said Chima's general manager, Amyn Bana. Bana said the guests dined in a private room, which can hold as many as 150. The restaurant is usually full on Saturdays, so employees didn't have to make many special plans. And they're used to celebrities, Bana said. "Michael Jordan lives upstairs."
It's not the first time Ochocinco has bought dinner for his Twitter followers this season.
When the team played the Colts, Ochocinco treated 64 people to dinner and shrimp cocktail at St. Elmo, the oldest steakhouse in Indianapolis.
The bill topped $8,000, including a $1,000 tip to the servers.