Liver and onions is the apparent favorite dish of the senior citizens who dine for lunch at the Hilliard Park Café.

Liver and onions is the apparent favorite dish of the senior citizens who dine for lunch at the Hilliard Park Café.

"We have 120-130 people every time we have liver and onions. By far, that's the biggest crowd," said Dick McKeever, who, with his wife, Barb, do the home-style cooking at the café, at the Phyllis A. Ernst Senior Center, 3810 Veterans Memorial Drive.

Spaghetti, meatloaf and hamloaf are popular, too, typically drawing 80 to 100 people when they're served, McKeever said. Freshly brewed ice tea and homemade soups are other attractions at the Hilliard Park Café, which could draw 150 people during events like the monthly Happiness Club or holiday-themed lunches.

McKeever said he and his wife started volunteering at the center last June, and although they didn't have any formal restaurant experience, they decided to become cooks at the café last fall after the previous cook went to the Greenbriar in West Virginia.

"We just enjoy cooking and being around people," McKeever said. "For some reason, they seem to have fallen in love with our cooking. When we started as volunteers, there was probably an average 25-30 a day for lunch, and I would say we average 50-60 a day now."

"It's like you're eating at a restaurant," said Heather Ernst, deputy director for the Hilliard recreation and parks department. "The seniors love (the McKeevers) because they are seniors themselves, and the seniors really enjoy their cooking. They're doing a very nice job relating to the seniors. If they have somebody who doesn't like salt, they will leave a portion unsalted. They give a little extra service."

The Hilliard Park Café, which opened in September, is the new name for the city's senior lunch program. "When we remodeled (the senior center), the staff put together a list of names and chose the Hilliard Park Café," said Beth Simon, program manager at the senior center.

The Hilliard Park Café served 500 more lunches between January and March in 2012 than in 2011, Simon said.

"One of the reasons is, we have great consistency now with our food," she said.

The café serves lunch promptly at noon Tuesdays through Thursdays and two Fridays a month. The cost is $4 for senior center members (the fee is $15 annually) and $6 for others.

Simon said one need not live in Hilliard to be a senior center member. The menus are printed in the senior center's newsletter. Call 614-876-0747 before 4 p.m. the day before to get on the list. People may dine in the café or pick up the meal.

"It's a wonderful program that we offer," Simon said. "This way, no one ever has to eat alone. They're eating with friends, getting a healthy meal, and they don't have to cook. We do have regulars that come every day, and then we do have people who look at the menu and will come four times a month to their favorites or special themes. A lot of seniors come here for their big meal of the day."