Customers line up outside Z-Burger in White Marsh to claim their… (Baltimore Sun photo by Algerina…)
To get a free hamburger, cheeseburger, turkey burger, bacon burger or veggie burger at Z-Burger in White Marsh, all a customer had to say was "Super Bowl."
And that's clearly where the Ravens are headed, according to fans celebrating at the burger restaurant Sunday, especially after Saturday's against-all-odds defeat of the Denver Broncos.
"We are going all the way," said Darlene Burns of Middle River, dressed in a purple shirt that read "Let's Go All the Way," as she sat down to lunch with her husband, Allen, who wore a Ray Rice jersey. "Yesterday's outcome was due to the fact that everyone knew Ray [Lewis] is retiring [at the end of the season]. The Ravens put everything into it for Ray."
The couple was among the throngs of purple-clad fans taking advantage of a promotion by the burger chain's co-founder and CEO, Peter Tabibian. Tabibian had announced Friday that if the Ravens won their bid to move on to the AFC championship game, the White Marsh location would give one free burger to each customer in the door between 11 a.m and 2 p.m. — double burgers included. Customers merely had to divulge the password: Super Bowl. But even those who hadn't heard about the deal were tipped off when ordering.
Tabibian said he figured free food and love for the Ravens would draw extra business. But he could not have predicted the over-the-top excitement generated by this particular game, won in double overtime on a field goal by rookie kicker Justin Tucker.
By Sunday morning, Tabibian had ordered 2,000 extra rolls and an extra 1,000 pounds of beef and brought in additional help to handle the crowds. By noon, he had given away more than $1,000 worth of food. By 1 p.m., the line stretched out the door. Tabibian estimated he gave away about 600 burgers, or nearly $4,000 worth, during the three-hour window.
"Any time you associate yourself with a winner, you come out ahead," Tabibian said. "It's a nice thing to do to give back to people."
Tabibian, who runs six Z-burger locations, mainly in the Washington area, said he made a similar offer when the Redskins made the playoffs. The password was RG3, the nickname of Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III.
"It didn't turn out too well," Tabibian said, noting that the Redskins' loss to the Seattle Seahawks meant no D.C. burger promotion.
But on Sunday, Ravens fans at The Avenue at White Marsh couldn't have asked for a more satisfying outcome. As they ate grilled burgers and onion rings washed down with milkshakes, many relived the highs, lows and ultimate victory of Saturday.
Maria Habacon, a special education elementary school teacher in Baltimore and a Ravens fan since arriving from the Philippines eight years ago, said she watched the game with a group of friends, also teachers from the Philippines.
"Our hearts were pounding," and they had to keep switching channels to relieve the stress of such a nail-biter, she said. Finally, she resorted to waiting for reports of touchdowns from a friend following the game on her iPhone. Only then could she watch.
The win meant more to her than a possible Ravens trip to the Super Bowl.
"As a teacher, I want my students to be inspired," Habacon said. "Despite the snow, this is what they did to overcome difficulties. It's not just the Ravens. It's a story of success."
Adam Schluter, 28, said he watched Saturday's game with a big group of friends at his White Marsh house.
"It was an eruption," he said. "We were going crazy. I couldn't believe we won."
On Sunday, he and a friend were on their way to the Verizon store at The Avenue when Tabibian spotted Schluter in purple Ravens pants. The restaurant owner told them about the special.
Andrew Ginn, a Towson resident and Z-Burger regular, said the Denver game convinced him the Ravens are Super Bowl-bound.
"It was a thrill from beginning to end," he said.
He said he'd heard about the Z-Burger promotion last week and headed there soon after the doors opened at 11 a.m.
Even those whose lives don't revolve around football had reason to celebrate Sunday.
Adiah Phillips, a New Orleans native who considers herself a Saints fan first and a Ravens fan second, was unaware of the Ravens' win when she and a friend stopped in at Z-Burger for lunch Sunday.
No matter. She ordered a turkey burger and was charged the same as any die-hard Ravens fan: nothing.