A Tale of Three Willow Pond Restaurants

Aurora: YES... Eddyville: NO... Calvert City: Gone

Willow Pond Restaurant in Aurora, Kentucky

Willow Pond Restaurant in Aurora, Kentucky

I’ve written A LOT about the three Willow Pond Catfish Restaurants near Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. Admittedly, I’ve written far more about the Willow Pond in Aurora, Kentucky than the other two simply because it has always been my favorite.

Unfortunately the “other two” is now the “other one” because the Willow Pond in Calvert City is no longer in business. I don’t have every single detail, only the fact that it closed down after being hit by lightning last summer, never re-opened, and that there are no plans to ever re-open.

This is REALLY bad news, for several reasons:

  • The restaurant had wonderful food. While the Aurora restaurant was always my favorite, the one in Calvert City was a close second.
  • The Willow Pond in Calvert City was perfect for diners who couldn’t get into the legendary Catfish Kitchen. The Calvert City Willow Pond was just minutes away and I’m sure, over the years, saved many people from starving when the wait was too long at Catfish Kitchen.
  • The wait at Catfish Kitchen will assuredly become longer (insert frowny face emoji).
  • The next closest Willow Pond is in Eddyville, and it’s just dreadful.

The only good news I can think of:

  • It’s not a bad drive to the Willow Pond in Aurora (near Kenlake State Resort Park). It’s a beautiful, quiet, and very friendly restaurant with delicious catfish, beans, grilled shrimp, hush puppies, and baked potatoes.
  • The Cracker Barrel in Calvert City is one of the best Cracker Barrels I’ve ever been to (and I’ve hit MANY in my time). Quite frankly, the fried catifsh at Cracker Barrel is as good as anyone’s fried catfish and the grilled catfish might be the best you’ll ever have in a restaurant. The flavor is perfection.

The Willow Pond in Aurora

I’ve written MANY reviews of the Willow Pond in Aurora, Kentucky. You can find everything you need to know about this restaurant (which happens to be one of my favorite places to eat in all of Kentucky OR any state):

The Willow Pond in Eddyville

Eddyville Willow Pond Catfish and Baked Potato

Willow Pond (Eddyville): The Butter that Wouldn’t Melt

It always pains me to have to write a negative review about a restaurant in Kentucky. I’d much rather focus on the positive. However, restaurant reviews are meant to help people and, in that vein, I feel like I have to tell you this: Until changes are made, you’d be much better off eating somewhere other than the Willow Pond in Eddyville.

If we’d read the words above before we gave this restaurant a second chance, it’d have saved us time and wasted money.  That’s why I even bother to do negative reviews, to save someone else from making the same mistake we made.  After all, time and money are both too precious to waste.

A few years ago (it could have been as much as three), we ate at the Willow Pond Restaurant in Eddyville. Nothing was as good as the food in Aurora or Calvert City’s Willow Pond restaurants.  The baked potatoes were even “nuked” as the server said, as opposed to Aurora’s Willow Pond where they arrive at your table fresh and hot from “BAKING” – as a baked potato should be.

A few nights ago, we were in Calvert City and, before learning that it’d closed down for good, planned to eat at Willow Pond.  When we saw that it was closed, we headed on toward Owensboro (home) and figured we’d eat somewhere along the way. We realized that we could stop in Eddyville and give their Willow Pond a second chance – after all, a couple of years can make a lot of difference, right?

Wrong.

The restaurant is beautiful, I will give them that, and our server was perfectly sweet. The young girl who seated us, although friendly enough, did what I call one of the cardinal restaurant sins – the restaurant was completely empty except for one single couple sitting at a booth. Did she seat us somewhere where we (and them) could enjoy a little privacy? Heck to the no.. she put us directly at the booth behind them – back to back.

In an empty restaurant.  Why can’t managers train their staff to do anything but that?  It’s as though they think they’re collecting diners… “Oooh, I’ve got a set! Better put these together…

If they don’t arrive together, don’t put them together.” – (apparently said no manager ever)

The menu is a little bit different from the Willow Pond in Aurora or the one that was in Calvert City, but the “mainstays” are the same.

Well, in theory.

I ordered the blackened catfish – which oddly enough was far redder than black. I immediately wondered, what’s he so embarrassed about?  I’d soon learn it was the potato. You can’t really tell from the picture above, but the “blackened” catfish was as red as could be.

Thing is, though, he was the highlight of the meal. He didn’t taste bad. As I told my husband, he kind of brought about feelings of indifference – not so bad that you’d spit it out, but not so good that you’d order it again.

The beans weren’t that great, to be honest. Watery and flavorless. Fortunately, the red pepper relish on the table saved the day. Pour enough of that onto beans and suddenly it doesn’t matter how they taste… or in this case, don’t taste.

The coleslaw was okay. Chopped to high Heaven, but at least it tasted alright.

The biggest problem, ironically, was again the baked potato. With each miserable bite, I kept wondering, “How do you mess up a baked potato?!?!?”  I bake potatoes and sweet potatoes at home all the time and I can tell you that a baked potato is as simple as turning on the oven (conventional, not microwave), piercing and oiling up the potato, salting him (my personal approach), and baking him either in or out of foil for an hour.  Take him out of the oven, let the butter melt across him and have yourself a baked potato party.

SIMPLE.

Yet, here my husband and I both sat trying to cut through cold potatoes.  We had to “cut” the butter in with our knives because neither potato was hot enough to melt the butter.  The potato tasted like it’d been cooked a day (or two… not saying three is out of the question) beforehand and had been kind of sitting around waiting for its big moment.

I’m not saying that IS what happened, I’m just saying that’s what it tasted like. Fresh was the last thing I’d have accused this potato of being. No, actually, I take that back, warm is the last thing, but fresh was right there with it.

As I’ve said in my restaurant reviews before, when people choose your restaurant, they’re trusting you. They expect their experience to be pleasant, their food to be good (and warm!), and their money to be well spent.  As things are, the Eddyville Willow Pond is simply not a good choice.  If this ever changes, I’ll let you know.

If you’re in the Kentucky Lakes area and want catfish, these are your best options:

  • Willow Pond in Aurora (grilled catfish, fried catfish, grilled shrimp..)
  • Catfish Kitchen  (fried catfish and even gluten free fried catfish!)
  • Cracker Barrel in Calvert City (fried or grilled catfish)
  • Kenlake State Resort Park (fried catfish)
  • Lake Barkley State Resort Park (fried catfish)
  • Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park (fried catfish)

The Majestic Pizza & Steak House in Benton is also a great restaurant. Outstanding pizza, steak, salads, and their buffets are legendary.

When the couple we were practically seated with left, three really loud adults and a child came in and were seated… you guessed it… in the booth the couple had just vacated.

It just boggles the mind – to have that many seats and keep sitting people on top of one another. It does not hurt a server to  have to walk an extra couple of feet to take care of her diners. Her tips depend upon her diners having a great experience, after all. Set her and the diners up for success.

And, for crying out loud, bake your baked potatoes.

 

 

You May Also Like:

OPINION: Is the College Basketball We Grew Up With Gone Forever?

Fallout from the One and Done

Opinion
 

First of all, I want to bring attention to the big, all-capped word at the front of the title above: OPINION. What follows breaks away from the news, events, and reviews found on Genuine Kentucky and stands apart simply as it says, an OPINION.

I point this out for a few reasons, but the main one is because, in Kentucky, the subject of college basketball is serious business. We take our basketball seriously in these parts and when we disagree with someone… well, let’s just say it isn’t always pretty.  This is simply my opinion.

Like many of you, I was born a UK fan. It was in my blood and I’d be surprised if “Go Big Blue!” wasn’t the first sentence I actually managed to put together. I remember being glued to the TV watching Macy, Givens,Turpin, Bowie, and all the greats who came after them. When a UK basketball game was on, our entire small town came to a grinding halt.

Everyone was as glued to their TVs as my parents and I were to ours.

We all knew the player’s names, numbers, stats, idiosyncrasies, strengths, and their weaknesses (not that we’d admit there were any weaknesses). We

knew all the players in the SEC, truth be told, and over the years we came to know what to expect with certain match-ups.

It was fun to watch a player grow and improve over the course of their time with a program. You know, years not months. The team chemistry improved the longer they were together and it wasn’t surprising to see a point guard pass it to a teammate without even looking – he KNEW his guy would be there.

And he, too, knew his name and number.

Don’t get me wrong, I most definitely still love “my Cats.” In fact, Tyler Ulis has become one of my favorite Cats of all time. His energy, talent, and passion for the game is what’s sorely missing in all of college basketball. You never get the idea he’s thinking about anything but WINNING.

I don’t know about you, but I kinda dig that. As in a lot.

Here’s what I don’t dig (why I’m suddenly talking like I’m in an episode of the Partridge Family is beyond me, but it is what it is) – I don’t dig players looking past the college game and peering into the NBA. I don’t dig them putting on the blue and white while thinking about the purple and gold (or green and white, red/black/white….).

I don’t dig the one and done.

There I said it. If a player knows they aren’t going to complete a college education, I’d rather they simply forgo the process. Not only is it a pain in the neck to memorize new faces and numbers each year (I gave up on averages and other stats several years ago), it’s simply not as fun to watch a whole new team each year.

For the young people who didn’t watch years ago (when we had a core team for more than two years) they don’t have much to compare it to.

Is it exciting to watch an NBA draft and hear “Kentucky” over and over? Sure.  Is it fun to follow ex-Cats in the NBA? You bet. Do we get a sense of pride when a top-rated player signs with UK? Absolutely.

But I’ll tell you what’s better than all of that strung together – championships.  I dig championships.

The NBA is hurting the college game and I think, to an extent, the majority of us know it.

College sports are special – they’re all about heart, passion, loyalty, and TEAM. They’re about putting on your school colors and leaving it all on the court.  They’re about team rivalries and pride, loud stadiums and “household name” coaches.

I certainly haven’t counted the number of times “NBA” is mentioned during a season of college games, but I’m sure the number would fry my brain.  Remember when we used to hear about a player’s major? Remember when we could talk about how the team would be even better “next year.” Remember when there WAS a next year for a team?

Fast forward to today and the talk is all about…

  • … is he ready for the NBA?
  • …. will he be here next year?
  • … one and done…
  • …. NBA scouts…

Over it. The college game is it’s own dynamic –  at least it should be.  It deserves better than to be turned into the minor league for the NBA.

I’m just not sure HOW we can or IF we can get back to the way things used to be… or, at the very least, get closer to how they were.

By the way, make no mistake about it, this is NOT solely a UK thing. Duke, Kansas, North Carolina…. all the schools are dealing with the effects of the one and done.  Anyone who thinks it is just a UK problem simply isn’t paying attention.

I’d love to see rules implemented that state a player cannot declare for the NBA after just one year.  I’d love to see rules implemented that state a player cannot declare for the NBA after just two years.  I’d love to see an announcer swatted with a rolled up newspaper if he/she even says, “NBA.”

Most of all, I’d love to see a mindset among college athletes that says, “I will finish what I start.”  If you start a college career, or anything for that matter, finish it. See it through.

That would be the most important thing they’d learn in life, let alone school.

Beautiful Day at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Cumberland River and Cumberland Falls Will Take Your Breath Away

Cumberland Falls

Beautiful Cumberland Falls at Cumberland Falls State Resort Park

Last Saturday (January 30) was just too beautiful to stay inside, so we took off for Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. Although the weather was perfect, it was surpassed by the beauty of Cumberland Falls and the surrounding area.  This is yet another one of those times where I have to say “it”: The pictures simply do not do it justice. You have to SEE and EXPERIENCE Cumberland River, Cumberland Falls, and Cumberland Falls State Resort Park for yourself.

I can (and usually do!) take hundreds of pictures and sort through to find the best to show you, but you don’t get the full effect from pictures alone. For example, sitting behind Dupont Lodge, looking down at the Cumberland River (below) while listening to a chorus of birds and rushing water is something you have to experience for yourself.

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park Behind Dupont Lodge

View of Cumberland River Behind Dupont Lodge

It will take your breath away, this I promise you. I kept thinking how perfect it’d be to sit there enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of sweet tea while thanking God for making me a Kentuckian.

Cumberland Falls, January 2016

Cumberland Falls

I’ll add more pictures and information tomorrow. I think we’re minutes from an epic storm here in Owensboro, so I’ve got hatches to batten down!

For information about Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, click the link. You’ll find events, information, more pictures, and a great 2016 Calendar of Moonbow Dates.

You May Also Like:

2016 Kentucky State Parks Family Adventure Quest

Fun Event for the Whole Family!

Time does nothing but flat out fly! 2016 actually marks the 11th year for the Kentucky State Parks Family Adventure Quest – the digital photo scavenger hunt for families or friends – and it seems like the first one was just last year.

The following is a great description of the Family Adventure Quest, straight from the Kentucky State Parks:

Kentucky State Parks Adventure Quest 2015

Team Avengers, 2015

Learn park history and search for the perfect photo op as you explore Kentucky State Parks at your own pace throughout 2016!  Teams will choose an east or a west booklet when registering.  This means that about one-third of the quests which are park-specific, will be in the eastern or western half of the state.

The remaining two-thirds are not tied to any particular park and can be completed wherever the team chooses to visit based on the challenge. You may be seeking an historic building, hunting for critter tracks, or exploring a golf course!  Let your quest booklet serve as a guide to a year’s worth of adventures with your friends or family.

Teams have until Dec. 2, 2016, to complete as many quests as they like in an effort to have fun and win prizes. It’s a great goal-oriented way to explore the natural, cultural, and historical resources of the nation’s finest park system.

A digital camera is necessary to capture your team’s fun along your journey, and your photos just might show up on the park website or Facebook page. In fact, you can earn a point just for sharing a picture of your team on a quest to the Kentucky State Park’s Facebook page.

Participants from 2 months old to 73 years young enjoyed the quest in 2015, and once they start, many teams repeat year after year. Thirty-four teams of the 142 that signed up in 2015 were repeat participants. One team has participated for 10 years now!

Team Avengers from Louisville completed their second year in 2015.

Our family enjoyed exploring parts of our beautiful state that we may not have ever made time for. Thanks!” said team captain Kriston Glasnovic.

The Avengers completed 11 quests, which earned them a lodging certificate and three passes to the park fort, house tour, or museum of their choice.

By correctly completing just 10 or more quests, a team will receive a certificate for a one-night stay at the park lodge of its choice (Sunday through Thursday) and free passes to park museums or forts. Complete 20 quests and receive the lodge stay and passes, plus a $25 Kentucky State Parks gift card. Complete 25 quests and get the lodge stay, passes and a $50 gift card.

There are actually four bonus opportunities, so if there is a quest you don’t want to do, you can choose one of the bonus quests to take its place.

Loved the bonuses. It was great to have options and be able to get 25 quests completed,” said Ivy Jones, captain of Team Wild Jones,’ from Elizabethtown, who also finished their second year of participation in 2015 and won the top prize!

Teams have until Dec. 2, 2016 to submit their quest booklet and CD of photos. If planned out properly, the first prize level can be attained by visiting as few as four different parks.

A $15 registration fee gets you the quest booklet, a commemorative bandanna map, a compass (yes, to be used for a quest), bonus coupons for some of the destinations involved, and informational materials to help you along your way.

More details and registration forms can be downloaded at www.parks.ky.gov (look for the “Family Adventure Quest” button), where you can peruse the photo gallery of past participants.  You can also pick up a registration form at any Kentucky State Park starting in February.

Photo Credit: Kentucky State Parks

You May Also Like:

The Iceman Cometh!

Well, Actually, it's the IceMen...

Genuine Kentucky would like to give a great big WELCOME to the IceMen – we are very excited that you’re bringing hockey to town!  The IceMen are an ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) minor-league professional ice hockey team and they’ll make their move to Owensboro at the end of this season.

Read more about the exciting news on Owensboro Living.

IceMen Hockey Coming to Owensboro!

You May Also Like:

Wasabi Express in Owensboro, Kentucky

If You Don't Love Sushi NOW... You WILL When They're Through With You!

Sushi at Wasabi Express in Owensboro, Ky

Sushi at Wasabi Express, Owensboro

Before Wasabi Express, I had never even considered ordering sushi. I’m not sure why but I never thought I’d like it. Fast forward to today… I could, honestly, eat sushi every single day of my life – IF it came from Wasabi Express.

There are actually two Wasabi Express restaurants in Owensboro now. The one I always go to is on Southtown (636 Southtown Blvd, right off of Frederica, near Wal-Mart). The new one is on Highway 54. I haven’t been to the new one, yet, but I hear that it’s just as excellent as the original.

I’m not sure how we got lucky enough to have two wonderful sushi restaurants in Owensboro, but I’m not going to question it, I’m just going to enjoy it. Often.

Wasabi Express also has great rice, and both their chicken soup and house salad are absolute legends. The menu also includes hibachi, appetizers, edamame, LOTS of sushi, and more.

It’s just a perfect, serene, and delicious place for lunch or dinner.

Sushi at Wasabi Express in Owensboro, Ky

More Wasabi Express on Genuine Kentucky:

You May Also Like:

2016 Job Fair at Beautiful Green Turtle Bay

Friday - February 19 from 1PM to 6PM!

Green Turtle Bay Job Fair 2016
 

Beautiful Green Turtle Bay Resort & Marina in Grand Rivers, Kentucky is hosting it first annual Job Fair on February 19, 2016 from 1:00 – 6:00 pm in the Green Turtle Bay Conference Center.

Whether you’re interested in a part-time, full-time, or seasonal job, mark your calendar today. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful “office.”

See their PDF by clicking here for more information (the PDF will open in a new window).

Green Turtle Bay Resort and Marina

Click through the gallery below for more pictures of Green Turtle Bay Resort & Marina!

See the official Green Turtle Bay Resort & Marina website for more information.

You May Also Like:

Fort Henry: 154th Anniversary in the Land Between The Lakes

Join the Celebration on February 6, 2016

Fort Henry
 

If, like us, you’re both a History Buff and fan of the Land Between the Lakes, the following news from the LBL will be of particular interest.

From the Land Between the Lakes:
The Homeplace 1850s Working Farm and Living History Museum in Land Between The Lakes and Fort Donelson National Battlefield are partnering to remember the 154th Anniversary of the Battle at Fort Henry with a program and walk on Saturday, February 6.

A program about local Civil War history will be presented from 1-2:30pm at the Homeplace. A guided ¼ mile walk follows the program from 3-4pm at the Fort Henry Trail parking area. Participants will drive and meet at the Fort Henry Trail. The walk is weather dependent. Registration and full deposit for the day is required:  $5/adults and $3/children. Call 270-924-2020 to make your reservation. Interpretive Center and gift shop will be open for this program; farm site will be closed. Doors open at 12:30pm.

Invited historian, Susan “Ski” Witzofsky, sets the stage for war “Between the Rivers.” In February of 1862, Confederate forces occupied Fort Henry as federal forces moved up the Tennessee River. The program will cover Fort Henry’s construction, battle, and legacy 154 years later. Individuals can relive the siege with a guided walk along the Fort Henry Trails and Confederate fortifications.

Fort Donelson National Battlefield will also host a Walk at Fort Heiman the same day from 10-11am. Meet park staff and volunteers for a brief walk around the historic features at Fort Heiman. For more information, contact 931-232-5706 x110 or visitwww.nps.gov/fodo. Program is weather dependent.

Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area manages more than 170,000 acres in western Kentucky and Tennessee as part of the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture’s public lands program. Land Between The Lakes offers outdoor recreation, lake access, land management, and environmental education to over 1.4 million visitors annually. The Friends of Land Between The Lakes works in partnership with the Forest Service providing program services, funds development, and volunteer support.

To find more information about Land Between The Lakes, log on to the official website at www.landbetweenthelakes.us or call toll-free at 1-800-LBL-7077 or local at 270-924-2000. For more information on the Friends of Land Between The Lakes, log on to www.friendsoflbl.org.

You May Also Like:

Columbia, Kentucky Becomes the 12th Official Trail Town

Joining Dawson Springs, Morehead, London, Jamestown...

Columbia, Kentucky has become the 12th official “Trail Town” thanks to its bicycle routes and paddling opportunities.

“We’re proud to add Columbia to the growing list of Trail Towns.  The presence of Lindsey Wilson College will help support and attract people to outdoor recreation in the area.” –   Bob Stewart (Tourism, Arts and Heritage Secretary)

The Kentucky Trail Town Program is designed to help connect communities to trail systems and develop them as tourist destinations. It will guide travelers to trails, food, lodging, campgrounds, museums, entertainment and other services. The designation will help communities improve their tourism economy, add more jobs and create more tourism opportunities for the entire state.

“Congratulations to all of the people in Columbia who have worked on the Trail Town certification,” First Lady Jane Beshear said. “Certification as a Trail Town will help Columbia develop its tourism businesses and will benefit the entire area.”

More than 30 communities have started the application process to become a Trail Town and are working with the Office of Adventure Tourism in the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.

Columbia joins Dawson Springs, Livingston, Morehead, Olive Hill, London, Stearns, Elkhorn City, Jamestown, Manchester, Royalton, and Berea as official Kentucky Trail Towns.

Some of the outdoor attractions that are offered in the Columbia area include 25 miles of paddling on Russell Creek, which flows into the Green River; Green River Lake; a new local outfitter, Longhunter Outfitters; and Lindsey Wilson College, which has supported award-winning cycling teams.

The Office of Adventure Tourism will provide guidance to interested communities on issues such as trail development and signage, information and resources from other state agencies and how other communities have been successful by linking trails and services.

Once a community receives the Trail Town certification, the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, the Department of Travel and Tourism and Office of Adventure Tourism will help promote and market these communities and the services being offered. They will be highlighted on maps, websites, visitors’ guides and other state promotional material.

For more information about Trail Towns and adventure tourism in Kentucky, visit www.kentuckytourism.com

Kentucky Trail Towns

Kentucky Food: Gluten Free Wyld Strips

A "Sweet" Kentucky Proud Product!

Wyld Strips

I just wrote a review for Wyld Strips on my food blog.  Since this is a Kentucky food, I thought you might want to check it out. If you’re like me, you buy Kentucky Proud products as often as possible.

When the food is as delicious as these Wyld Strips, it’s a habit I thoroughly enjoy!

Click the link above for my review or go directly to Wyld Strips Website to read more about them.

You May Also Like: