FRANKLIN — If you like surprises, visit the Franklin Veterans Club for dinner on a Friday night.
For just $5, you get an all-you-can-eat home-cooked meal. You just won’t know what kind of food it is until you get there.
“It’s kind of a surprise to see what you’re going to have for dinner,” said associate club member Teddy Giles. “You’re welcome to eat ’til the food is gone.”
What guests will know ahead of time is that everyone is welcome. The Franklin Veterans Club is open to the public and is not just a bar.
“We also have a bar because that’s part of it,” said member Kenda Bellatty. “But it’s not the main focus of the club anymore.”
Within the last year, club leadership has made a concerted effort to turn the building at 4 Cards Crossing into a community center, she said, adding that the place used to be a “rough and tumble bar.” Activities such as the weekly Friday night dinners have made a big difference.
“I just love that the community comes out here,” Bellatty said.
The weekly meals are prepared by Giles, Bellatty, Veronica Abbott, Wendy Lamothe and Julie Mosley. Diners can buy chances to win a homemade dessert, usually made by Giles. Residents have even donated vintage cookie jars and fancy dishes for dessert presentation, she said.
The five volunteer cooks take turns providing the food at their own expense so that the dinners can serve as a club fundraiser. Even during a snowstorm Dec. 27, the lightly attended meal still brought in $110 plus $70 from the dessert raffle.
“That helps pay the gas bills and the light bills,” Giles said. “A lot of people say, ‘you should charge a lot more than $5,’ but we say no.”
“We just want the people to come out and enjoy,” she said, adding that the $5 price makes dinner out affordable for families.
Most Friday nights average about 40 regulars, who come not only for the food but also for the after-dinner activity.
“There’s something every Friday night and it brings a lot of people in,” Giles said. “It’s good because you get a lot of people from Sullivan and Hancock.”
On Jan. 3, dinner guests enjoyed an open mic session. Jan. 9 will be karaoke night and a trivia game is scheduled for the following Friday. A band will play after dinner Jan. 24, Giles said.
The Friday $5 meals were started about a year ago as a means of getting people to visit the club and socialize, and club members hope more people will start coming.
Holly Green of Franklin came for dinner for the first time Jan. 3 after moving to Franklin from another state in June.
“It’s a family affair tonight,” she said, introducing husband Daniel and children Sterling, 13, and Parcher, 10. She also brought her mother, Diana Coles, who was visiting from Fair Haven, N.Y., and Daniel’s mother, Diane Green of Franklin.
Diane Green is a regular, as are many others who live near Holly on General Cobb Road in Franklin.
“It’s [popular with] our whole road. It’s pretty funny,” Holly said.
The Friday meal provided an option for a meal out in an area that has few restaurants, Holly said, adding the food — the entree was tacos — was good.
Holly said she hopes club activities will provide her with a good way to meet people.
Giles and Bellatty hope other club activities provide the same incentive. Among them is a special meal the first Saturday of each month. Lasagna was on the menu for Jan. 4 and stuffed baked haddock with scallops and shrimp is set for Feb. 1. The cost for these is usually around $10 for the complete meal.
The club had been doing prime rib dinners once a month but decided to suspend those in December, January and February for fear of interference from the weather. If there’s a snowstorm, the meals will probably not be well attended and the meat would go to waste. Winter meals will consist of dishes that are a bit less expensive to prepare, Giles and Bellatty said. Prime rib dinners will resume in March.
Bellatty said a nondenominational church run by Kevin and Kim Jones holds services on Sunday mornings. It has made more people aware that the club is more than just a bar.
“It’s totally transformed the club,” said Bellatty. “It just opens us to another whole element in the community.”
For more information on activities at the Franklin Veterans Club, visit franklinveteransclub.com or the club’s Facebook page.