New England Patriot Chad Ochocinco Buys Dinner at Sylvia's for 200 Fans
HARLEM — It was a dinner invitation hundreds wanted to accept.
New England Patriots' receiver Chad Ochocinco tweeted a last-minute offer to buy dinner for 200 new friends at Sylvia's soul food restaurant in Harlem Monday night — and the line of hungry fans quickly stretched around the block.
Ochocinco, who will be the star of a new reality show announced by VH1 Monday, celebrated the news by tweeting his invitation at 4:13 p.m.
"Dinner in NY tonight --> 1st 200 people at Sylvia's Restaurant by 7 pm in Harlem. Leave ya money/credit cards at home. I got you this time."
Prospective diners appeared at Sylvia's, located at Lenox Avenue between 126th and 127th streets, within minutes, said Tren'ness Woods-Black, granddaughter of founder Sylvia Woods and the restaurant's head of public relations.
"This was totally unplanned. That's the cool thing about Chad," Woods-Black said.
VH1 announced Monday that they had signed Ochocinco and his fiance, reality television star Evelyn Lozado, to a new eight-part show titled "Ev and Ocho" that will chronicle the weeks leading up to the couple's September wedding.
Diners left the famed eatery with more than a belly full of ribs, fried chicken, collard greens and macaroni and cheese. Ochocinco gave out what he said was his phone number to all 200 diners.
"Being able to reach out is better than a picture," Ochocinco told about 100 people in one of Sylvia's dining rooms.
Darriel Flukers, 48, who was visiting New York from Houston with his daughter De'Asia so that she could try out for "The Voice," said they wandered into the free dinner.
Ochocinco joked with Flukers and his daughter when he found out she was a singer.
"You think you better than me? I paved the way for most R&B stars," he said to laughs.
"It's an awesome feeling to be around Ochocinco for his personality," Flukers said.
"Everyone got to witness a different side," De'Asia added.
Hemal Patel, 23, a student of osteopathic medicine at Touro College on 125th Street, said he follows Ochocinco on Twitter. He showed up with a fellow student when he saw the tweet and they both snagged a free meal and a picture with Ochocinco.
"A lot of celebrities could learn from him and how he interacts with the community," said Patel. "He shows all athletes are not just about themselves."
Woods-Black said Ochocinco has eaten at the restaurant before and that he's welcome back anytime.
"My grandma would say, 'Go champ,' " Woods-Black said.
As for the cost of the 200-person meal, she said she'd leave that to Ochocinco to reveal, but the fried-chicken-and-ribs combo goes for $18.95 on the menu.
Later Monday, Ochocinco was still talking about the dinner as he tweeted to cell phone operator Motorola on his way back to Miami.
"Just gave 200 new friends my Droid Razr number. Please excuse the increase in traffic to my device. Sincerely: 'The Black Guy,' " he wrote.