“Hey Norm.” Those famous two words, characters, and audiences exhaled when Norm Peterson entered the bar on the hit television show Cheers -a place where everybody knows your name. That’s what I felt when I visited The Willard in Franklin. Places like The Willard, a non-fictional Cheers, are hard to come by in today’s fast paced society are establishments where customers are referred to simply as “regulars,” a title earned by their frequent patronage and confirmed by the server inquiring if they want the usual.
History is a big deal at The Willard, and even if you don’t hear about it from the staff or one of the “regulars,” you can not miss the signs all around you. There is a huge neon sign that hangs inside the restaurant announcing the heritage of the business! The building itself was built in 1860 and has served as a hotel, a bar and a restaurant.
The owner of the Willard, Tony was kind enough to take time out of his busy Friday night to talk to me about food, history and his restaurant. One of my favorite things to ask a restauranteur is of all the dishes they prepare and offer, what is their personal favorite. They create the menus with their chef and work with the food day in and day out. After all of that hard work, what is the one dish that to this day still makes them salivate.
My assumptions about the Willard were confirmed. Whether it was to enjoy the good food and plethora of on-tap options, live music on the patio or to have a dinner in their nostalgic rooms before catching a movie at the historic Artcraft Theater next door, it is a place where people in the community gather and become regulars. It was in fact, a place where everybody knows your name.