The Ravens like to say they celebrate their wins on Sundays and quickly turn their focus to the next game.
On Tuesdays, though, they relish the victory one last time by savoring the best of Baltimore’s food truck scene.
“You wake up on Tuesday, you come in, you’re first thinking about what food trucks are gonna be here,” left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “So, definitely, it’s like a cherry on top to the win.”
The real prize for winning the AFC championship game — to be played Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium at 3 p.m. — is a trip to the Super Bowl, of course. But Stanley — and others — are also thinking about the possibility of earning another visit from the food trucks.
A victory meal is common, Ravens Director of Sports Nutrition Sarah Snyder said. She’s been a part of several teams with varying traditions. But in 2019 Ravens coach John Harbaugh decided to bring in food trucks on Tuesdays to celebrate the win.
Four years later, it’s become a given. Harbaugh joked on the Ravens-produced show “Wired” that it’s an “entitlement at this point,” an “understood deal.”
Making an impact
On a regular wintry Tuesday, Jimmy’s Famous Seafood’s truck might decide it’s not even worth setting up — resulting in no revenue that day.
Unless the Ravens win. Then it’s time to prep to serve 100-150 people.
“This time of year, it’s tough on the food truck world,” said John Minadakis, president of Jimmy’s. “So for the Ravens to call you up … in a lot of cases, it can help you pay your bills for that week.”
The team’s decision to go with food trucks rather than a big, well-known catering company says a lot about the franchise and its dedication to the local community, Ephrem Abebe, one of Ekiben’s owners, said.
“They decided to go with small businesses like us,” Abebe said. “[…] That’s how you know they’re here for the city.”
Some of the businesses, such as Jimmy’s and Ekiben, already had a relationship with the Ravens; they provide catering on Sundays, as well. But the mini-food-truck festival has allowed the Ravens to host more than 20 different businesses over the course of the season.
It’s impossible to estimate how much the Ravens have helped these businesses, Minadakis said, because the impact goes beyond Tuesdays. From patronizing the businesses to spreading the word to bringing in fans from other places, Minadakis said, “if you could put an infinity logo on it,” that’s what he’d calculate the impact has been.
Baltimore’s restaurant community is tight, but this specific event has allowed those who serve the Ravens to make friends with other food truck owners and employees. It’s also given the crews a chance to get to know the team on a different level.
“We have a rotating crew [among four food trucks],” Minadakis said. “As you can imagine, everybody wants the Ravens one. … You see the smiles on every employee’s face when they get picked or when they get back from ‘The Castle.’”
Isaac Jolley, who has been with Ekiben for six years, has been a Ravens fan all his life. He was born the year the Ravens won their first Super Bowl, and they won their second on his birthday. But getting to know the Ravens through the food truck has changed his perspective.
“I watch them on TV every Sunday, so it kind of blows my mind every time we get to see them,” Jolley said. “It was always like, ‘I always believe in my guys.’ But now that I actually get to meet some of them and interact with them, it’s a little different.”
He has standing jokes with players, and they check in on his life. He enjoys the camaraderie and sees them as more than the men in helmets on the field.
‘It’s fat Tuesday’
The atmosphere at “The Castle” (a common nickname for the Under Armour Training Center) is electric on Tuesdays after a win.
It’s a family atmosphere, Jolley said; food truck owners are excited for the business and to catch up with players, while players are excited for delicious, unlimited food.
That’s right. There are usually five food trucks on any given Tuesday — and no limits. Members of the Ravens organization can order as much as they want from as many places as they want. And they take advantage, many even packing up food for their families.
“It’s fat Tuesday,” tight end Charlie Kolar said.
Sometimes, the Ravens will try to curate the trucks to prepare the team for a game, Snyder said, particularly if there’s a Thursday game. Then, they might bring in pizza for carbohydrate replenishment or Greek on the Street or a barbecue joint for protein to aid with muscle recovery.
But they’ve also learned they’ve got to have some staples.
“People get very stuck on what they like,” Snyder said.
For example, Stanley loves Ekiben. Punter Jordan Stout usually gets tacos.
Fullback Patrick Ricard likes barbecue, but he’ll mix it up. Kolar likes a taco truck that doesn’t come often, so he also switches it up, sometimes going for pizza. He also likes the ice cream from Miss Twist “when it’s not negative-12 degrees.”
And many do order from multiple places. So the food trucks come prepared, and they stock up on favorites.
Minadakis said quarterback Lamar Jackson and kicker Justin Tucker are regulars in line at Jimmy’s. The crab cake egg rolls are their most popular item, and they have probably gone through 1,500 of them this season. They also create an item tailored to the defeated opponent — they offered a barbecue special to celebrate beating the Houston Texans.
Outside linebackers Odafe Oweh and Jadeveon Clowney, as well as others including quarterback Lamar Jackson, are usually in line with Stanley at Ekiben. The players love the chicken sandwiches, but they also like getting the bowls because they know they come in bigger portions, Jolley said. Abebe estimates they’ve gone through 1,400 sandwiches and bowls.
Those 1,500 crab cake egg rolls and 1,400 Ekiben dishes are in addition to what the Ravens are getting from all the other food trucks.
There’s a chance that the season will culminate with an event that could set records for consumption, though.
Should the Ravens win Sunday, the players are hoping for at least one more victory food truck Tuesday.
Nobody is quite sure what would happen if the team returns from Las Vegas with the Lombardi Trophy; the Ravens haven’t won a Super Bowl during the food truck era.
Maybe only Harbaugh knows the answer to that. For now.