The fifth-grade classmates of Mary Matthews received a surprise lunch Tuesday when a group from LongHorn Steakhouse in Athens showed up at Colham Ferry Elementary School with a tray packed with barbecued baby back ribs.
The surprise lunch was in response to a letter that Mary, an 11-year-old student at the Watkinsville school, had written for a class assignment on opinion writing.
The students wrote letters to their favorite restaurants explaining why they enjoyed dining there, according to fifth-grade teacher Elizabeth Sikes.
“I like it because their service is good and I like ribs — and they make really good ribs,” said Mary, who was not expecting the lunch or a visit to the school by her parents Mitch and Nicki Matthews.
The Matthews, who have five children, occasionally visit LongHorn after church on Sundays.
“It was a great assignment because all of the kids have gotten letters back or a thank you note,” Nicki Matthews said.
“This lunch is her acknowledgement of a well-written letter,” her father said.
Ryan Mull, the managing partner for LongHorn, said he took the letter home to show his wife, who is also a teacher, and told her he was going to write the student a thank-you message.
But his wife suggested he feed the class instead.
“It was a great idea,” Mull said, so when he found out Mary enjoyed the ribs, the menu was set.
“We cooked them yesterday, slow roasted four hours and this morning I charred and barbecued them,” Mull said.
Sikes said she wanted the students to use positive words and opinions in their letters.
“They really had to think through it,” Sikes said, adding that the students had to mail the letters. “Surprisingly, many kids don’t know how to address a letter.”
The teacher told her students “how exciting it will be when someone opens the letter and sees their positive opinions.”