Willow Pond in Aurora, Kentucky
Last weekend, Michael and I planned out a great Saturday. We’d go to Paducah and check out a new coffee shop (in the Old Coca Cola Plant). Then we’d look around Paducah (we love their downtown), visit Kentucky Lake, and finish a great day off with supper at Catfish Kitchen.
We normally eat at the Willow Pond Restaurant in Aurora when we’re near Kentucky Lake and the Land Between the Lakes. It’s simply one of our favorite restaurants in the entire state.
However, since I had to start eating gluten free, there are only two places in the world I can get fried catfish – Catfish Kitchen and my own kitchen. As far as I know, they’re the only restaurant that serves gluten free fried catfish.
I’ve been eating so much grilled or blackened catfish lately that I was eager to switch it up a bit and have some fried catfish.
Well, you know how “great plans” go! First of all, the espresso machine in the coffee shop was down, so we had to leave without a single drink. Then, when we drove to the downtown (thinking we’d visit the coffee shop down there, then peacefully stroll around with our drinks), we found that everyone within 7 states seemed to have descended on Downtown Paducah for the day!
I was thrilled to see so many people having a great time, but there was no where to park and, if there had been, it was honestly elbow to elbow down there and that didn’t strike either one of us as peaceful.
Soooo, we headed toward Kentucky Lake and enjoyed the beautiful scenery. We sat at Lighthouse Landing in Grand Rivers for quite a while (I’ll add the pictures tomorrow) and Kentucky Lake reminded us what relaxation meant.
The earlier disappointments had completely vanished by the time we drove up to Catfish Kitchen. All we knew were that we were perfectly relaxed and outrageously hungry!
By this point, I was dying for some fried catfish. They open at 4:00 and we pulled into the parking lot at 4:25. Even though the parking lot wasn’t entirely full, we were told that we’d have “at least an” hour long wait.
Hello, disappointment, nice to meet you again.
We stepped out of the restaurant and an older lady overheard us talking about the wait. She was beyond exasperated and was having to stand out in the heat because the waiting room was packed. She said she and her husband had driven hours to Kentucky Lake, wanting to eat at Catfish Kitchen but that she couldn’t wait any longer.
When we were walking to our car, a group headed past us and a woman said to me, “I hope there isn’t a wait.” I told her, “I’m afraid it’s an hour long wait.” One of the men in their group laughed and said, “Oh, I hope not!”
I started to say, “My good man… I do NOT joke about catfish,” but I decided to let them find out for themselves. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, they were walking out of the restaurant shaking their heads.
They found out.
Coleslaw and Beans at the Willow Pond in Aurora
Neither one of us had to even discuss Plan B, we knew where we were going – Aurora! Like Kentucky Lake, Aurora’s Willow Pond never lets us down and, after the day we had, we needed that in the worst possible way.
Here’s the thing, I prefer Willow Pond’s coleslaw to anyone else in the region’s. I also had rather have their beans because they have this amazing red relish that you can put on top…. and it is delectable. So, the fact that we were actually “having” to go to a favorite restaurant wasn’t even a problem.
I was even able to change things up by having something other than grilled catfish – I ordered grilled shrimp and it was out of this world good. I’ve always been a fanatic when it comes to shrimp and catfish… no wonder I love Willow Pond so much. They work magic with shrimp and catfish like few could ever hope to.
Delicious Grilled Shrimp and Perfect Baked Potato
But it’s more than just that (as if that wouldn’t be enough!). Their beans, coleslaw, baked potatoes, and hush puppies (I remember them SO well) are excellent. They don’t just try to get by with average sides like some restaurants do – their sides are extraordinary.
Great food, uncommonly friendly servers, and a charming, genuinely Kentucky atmosphere. Is it any wonder this beautiful Kentucky Lake restaurant is one of our favorite restaurants anywhere?
There’s A LOT to be said for people, places, and things that never disappoint you. I’m looking at you Willow Pond and Kentucky Lake.
Willow Pond Menu (Aurora, Kentucky)