Blackened Catfish at The Pond in Aurora
Because Kentucky restaurants tend to change over the years (some get better and some get worse) and because I find NEW restaurants on a regular basis, this particular article, “The Best Restaurants in Kentucky for Catfish,” is frequently edited and adjusted.
As of 11/22/2013, I’ve changed it over 10 times since it was first published! I’ve had to adjust my “angle” as well since (for health reasons) I had to stop eating gluten. I now have to enjoy all of my catfish grilled or blackened instead of fried. Fortunately, if a restaurant makes exceptional fried catfish, they’re just as capable of making exceptional grilled catfish and blackened catfish. Usually.
I’ll let you in on a little secret… I often prefer catfish blackened or grilled. You actually taste the catfish, itself, more as opposed to the breading and (sometimes) the oil it was fried in.
The restaurants listed below aren’t in any particular order. I once tried to do that, but to be perfectly honest, my favorite Kentucky Restaurant for Catfish is usually the one I just ate at, so that throws clarity right out the window.
I will say this, however, you will always find the The Pond in Aurora (near Kentucky Lake) and Catfish Kitchen in Benton (also near Kentucky Lake) on the list. You Know how certain restaurants just feel like “home” to you? You love everything about the restaurant, from the servers to the food to the atmosphere? These two restaurant hit on all cylinders for me and I could easily eat at either restaurant 7 days a week. They’re special restaurants with special people.
And, man oh man, is their catfish amazing?!
The Best Restaurants in Kentucky for Catfish:
The Pond Restaurant in Aurora
Fried Catfish, Hush Puppies, and BIG Baked Potato
The Pond in Aurora was previously named Willow Pond – for many, many years. There are new owners, now, but they’re still in the same location and the food is still exceptional. I’ve often wished there were more restaurants exactly like this one throughout Kentucky. Oh, well, I love any reason to head to the Lakes and Land Between the Lakes, so I guess all’s well that ends in catfish.
A Tale of Three Restaurants: At one time, there were three Willow Pond Restaurants in the greater Kentucky Lakes area. There was the one in Aurora (now called The Pond), a really good Willow Pond Restaurant in Calvert City (that has been closed for some time now), and one in Eddyville. The Willow Pond in Eddyville is still (somehow) open. We have had hideous experiences at the Eddyville restaurant. Bad food, bad service. Drive to Aurora if you’re in the area and want good food and service.
The Pond in Aurora is consistently fantastic. Great service (always very sweet, friendly, and warm) and extraordinary food. The beans, coleslaw (the vinegar coleslaw is my personal favorite), baked potatoes (or fries), hush puppies, and catfish are always amazing.
Something The Pond has that most other catfish restaurants don’t is their wonderful red pepper relish. You’ll find a bottle on each table and it’s a DELICIOUS addition to the beans. They even sell this relish in mason jars – and I never leave without one. It’s so dang good I even eat it with eggs at breakfast.
The fried catfish at The Pond is done exactly like it should be. It’s coated in a cornmeal mixture that seals in the flaky, juicy goodness of the catfish. With just the right amount of crispiness and mouth-watering juiciness, their catfish makes you glad to be alive.
As I said earlier, thanks to a health issue, I’ve had to start eating catfish blackened or grilled instead of fried. When I first faced the realization that the change was imminent, I heard the Everly Brothers’ song in my head, “You’ve lost that loving feeling… Whoa, that loving feeling…” but, after eating blackened and grilled catfish at Willow Pond (Aurora and Calvert City), I realize I’m going to survive.
Good to know.
Make no mistake about it – the fried catfish at The Pond is the best option. The grilled and blackened are good, mind you, but the fried is just better.
However, if you happen to like shrimp, their grilled shrimp (pictured below) is every bit as tasty as their fried catfish… and that’s saying something. The flavors are out of this world!
The Pond Reviews on Genuine Kentucky:
Previous reviews will often still call The Pond by its old name (Willow Pond). I’m trying to edit these reviews and posts but when you’ve written so many love letters about a restaurant, it’s hard to get to them all!
- Best Fried Catfish at Kentucky Lake
- Blackened and Grilled Catfish at Willow Pond in Aurora… Delicious!
Bottom Line: If you’re in the Kentucky Lake, Lake Barkley, or Land Between the Lakes region, you have it made in the shade if you’re looking for a great place to eat. The Pond is an excellent restaurant – VERY affordable, delicious, and the service is above par. The catfish is excellent fried, blackened, or grilled and the sides don’t know how to be anything but perfect. Remember – buy a jar of the red pepper relish to take back home with you.
Catfish Kitchen in Benton, Kentucky
Catfish Kitchen is a legendary restaurant in and around Kentucky and for a great reason – the eclectic restaurant is as entertaining as the food is delicious. It’s just a “fun” restaurant. As of a year or so ago, there are new owners, but I’m thrilled to say the change never effected the quality of the food or the service.
One of the things I love BEST about Catfish Kitchen is the fact that it’s the only restaurant I know of that has gluten-free fried catfish. It isn’t listed on the menu, but I order it each and every time and haven’t had a single problem. I’ll let you in on an unexpected little secret – it might be even better than their traditional fried catfish!
The sides are always perfection, too. Beans, potatoes, coleslaw, hush-puppies – everything’s delicious. There are other menu items, of course, but I wouldn’t dream of ordering anything other than catfish. In fact, I never have!
The only, only, only negative thing that I could say about Catfish Kitchen is that – during the peak Kentucky Lake season – you have to have a reservation. If not, you’ll never find your way to a table before you starve. It’s that popular.
In fact, we’ve been in the area on non-peak season Saturdays and still couldn’t get a reservation for a decent time. There are some weekends, during the summer, where you have to start calling and keep calling because you get busy signals. It’s a headache that’s all but forgotten once you start eating the wonderful food.
Catfish Kitchen Reviews and Posts on Genuine Kentucky:
Catfish Kitchen at Kentucky Lake Review
Picture of the Day: Gorgeous White Herons at Catfish Kitchen
Catfish Kitchen at Kentucky Lake: One of a Kind!
Catfish Kitchen – A Kentucky Legend
Bottom Line: If you have to eat gluten-free and want to enjoy fried catfish in a restaurant, Catfish Kitchen is a dream come true for you. If you do NOT have to eat gluten-free and want some of the best fried catfish you ever tasted, Catfish Kitchen is a dream come true for you! The food is consistently delicious. Something else they do that I really like is simple but tasty – they serve their food with a green onion and piece of lemon. Looks beautiful and goes with the food perfectly.
Sometimes it’s the big things (having gluten-free fried catfish) and sometimes it’s the small things (green onion and lemon). Catfish Kitchen excels at all the things!
Feed Mill Restaurant in Morganfield, Kentucky
The Feed Mill (Morganfield): Fried Catfish, Baked Beans, Loaded Mashed Potatoes, and a Yeast Roll
By the way, did you know that June 25 is National Catfish Day? I’ll let you in on a little secret, for me, national catfish day is any day that ends in a -y. Including yesterday, today, and tomorrow-y.
You know, we’ve got it awfully good here in Kentucky. For a lot of reasons, of course, but when it comes to fried, blackened, or grilled catfish – you’re just not going to beat the bluegrass state. And when it comes to the title of best catfish in Kentucky, my answer often changes – a lot of times it comes down to this: Where I ate last.
The Feed Mill has consistently excellent fried catfish, sides, and dessert.
The Feed Mill has outstanding fried catfish (as well as fried chicken, steak, shrimp…). The breading is always flavorful and perfect, and the fish is never anything but excellent. Each and every time. Some restaurants have catfish that’s frustratingly different from visit to visit. One visit, they’ll “skimp” on the size, the next visit, the portions are fair. One visit, the seasoning is killer, the next visit there’s absolutely no flavor at all. Not the Feed Mill! The fried catfish is delectable (and BIG) each and every time – and I’ve been scads of times. How amazing is their fried catfish?
I’ve never even tasted their tartar sauce. That should tell you something.
Their sides are also fantastic – and, again, each and every time. Their onion rings, baked beans, green beans, and loaded potatoes are all out of this world. So many restaurants limit your sides – you can either have fries or a baked potato… and that’s pretty much your choice in the matter. The Feed Mill has a huge selection of sides that are all excellent. Actually, they redefine excellent.
The star, however… for this catfish fanatic, anyway… is the excellent fried catfish. It’s juicy, flavorful, and will make you dance in your seat. Their hush puppies are sweet and taste like they’ve been made with yellow cake mix. Personally, I’m not as passionately in love with them as I am the catfish, but the rest of my family adores their hush puppies. I simply ask for a roll instead – they’re yeast rolls and will make your eyes roll back in your head.
The Feed Mill has a WIDE variety of food choices and I do mean WIDE. To make matters even trickier, absolutely everything is out of this world. If their catfish wasn’t a dream come true for me, I’d get something different every trip.
EDIT: Since I had to give up gluten and wheat, we don’t eat at The Feed Mill nearly as often as we used to. They do have non-fried options, however, and will even bake your catfish for you if you request it. There is a delicious baked tilapia dish with rice that’s outstanding, too.
Bottom line: The Feed Mill’s fried catfish is a work of perfection. Consistent perfection. Bonus – They have a GREAT selection of sides. If you love fried chicken, you’ll be transported to culinary Heaven with just one bite.
Read my Feed Mill Restaurant Reviews on Genuine Kentucky:
- Some of the Best Fried Catfish in Kentucky, the Feed Mill Restaurant in Morganfield (Review)
- The Feed Mill in Morganfield, Read the Review, then Rush to the Restaurant!
- One of Kentucky’s Best Restaurants: The Feed Mill (Morganfield, Ky)
- Picture of the Day: One of the Best Desserts in Ky is at the Feed Mill
The Shady Cliff Restaurant in Lewisburg, Kentucky
One of the best “off the beaten path” restaurants in Kentucky, The Shady Cliff Restaurant in Lewsiburg
EDIT: We ate at The Shady Cliff a few weeks ago and the food was not as good as it once was. They are currently transitioning owners and the new owners have not taken effect yet. The old owners, it would appear, currently have different cooks because, as I said… it was nothing like it once was, which is especially sad. I will come back here and edit all of this once we’ve tried the restaurant under new ownership.
Holy cats. There’s only one reason Genuine Kentucky isn’t as populated with hundreds of Shady Cliff Restaurant Reviews: We just discovered this charming, delicious, beautiful, and unique restaurant. We actually visited it for the first time this past summer (2013 – yes, this is one of the “edits” I needed to make to this page) but we’ve already been about a half dozen times. Even though this restaurant is new to me, it’s already jumped up to one of my “Top Dog” spots!
The Shady Cliff’s fried catfish is phenomenal. They give generous portions each time and the catfish is always amazing. Perfectly seasoned and impossible to put down. The hush puppies are great and each of the sides are fantastic. When it comes to choosing between the tossed salad and coleslaw, I’m always torn – each are uncommonly good.
The secret to the tossed salad is their “in house” made dressing. The French is so amazing, I could drink it. It has pretty much ruined all other French dressings for me. Anytime I order French (or Catalina) dressing in a restaurant, I inevitably take one bite and tell my husband, “Not as good as The Shady Cliff…”
The thing is… their coleslaw is also fantastic!
There are always homemade pies of varying flavors for dessert – so, no matter how much you’ve pigged out on all of their amazing food, you’ll want to order dessert.
Bottom Line: I don’t care where you live in Kentucky, The Shady Cliff is worth the drive. You won’t be sorry. The catfish is ridiculously amazing. The people couldn’t be friendlier, the restaurant is the epitome of charming, and everything is off the charts delicious.
Below are the reviews I’ve written (so far) on Genuine Kentucky for The Shady Cliff Restaurant:
- One of the Best Kentucky Restaurants: The Shady Cliff Restaurant in Lewisburg (Yes, Lewisburg)
- Chocolate Pie at Shady Cliff in Lewisburg
The Miller House (Owensboro, Ky)
The Miller House (Owensboro, Ky) Fried Catfish, Slaw, and Fries
The catfish coating at The Miller House has more of a “fried chicken” feel than a traditionally southern “fried fish” feel. Even though this flies in the face of what I normally prefer, somehow The Miller House makes it work. Their fried catfish is delicious.
The sides at The Miller House are mind-boggingly delicious. How they can take something as commonplace as coleslaw and make it EXTRA special is beyond me. They also make fries that taste unlike any others. When you go, and you should plan to asap, be sure to have their sweet potato rolls, if they’re in season. You’ll find yourself craving them all year.
Read my Review of the Miller House Restaurant here.
Bottom Line: When you’re ready for an uncommonly delicious meal in a gorgeous setting (very much unlike any other restaurant), The Miller House in Owensboro is your place.
Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park’s Clifty Falls Restaurant
The best Fried Catfish Sandwich in Kentucky: Clifty Falls Restaurant at Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park
The fried catfish sandwich at Clifty Falls is the best catfish sandwich in the state. Possibly the world. This is what I order for lunch any time we’re visiting this beautiful Kentucky State Park. The catfish is always so huge, it spills off the sides of the bread (which is incredibly delicious, itself).
The catfish, itself, is huge, juicy, flavorful, and delicious. The bread is even outrageously good. It’s always soft and fresh (something some other catfish sandwiches are missing). Even their fries are extraordinary!
This is just the type of great restaurant a state park as beautiful as Pennyrile Forest should have. It’s excellent.
EDIT: We used to eat at the Kentucky State Resort Park restaurants several times a month – even more during the summer! However, when I had to stop eating gluten/wheat, I had to (for the most part) stop eating at the Resort Parks. They don’t have a “gluten-free” menu (most restaurants that are not “chain restaurants” don’t) and don’t, unfortunately, have grilled or baked fish on their menu. If they were to add grilled or baked fish (with gluten-free seasonings.. which is easy enough, because most seasonings are), it would be a dream come true because I absolutely LOVE eating at Kentucky State Parks. They’ve always been very special to me and, frankly, we just don’t visit them as often as we used to and the reason is I’d have to travel for supper.
Bottom Line: Everything I’ve gotten at Clifty Falls has been fantastic. Of all the buffets in the State Park System, this one just might be the most consistent. We normally aren’t fans of buffets (they’re costlier and the food’s not normally as good as “off menu” food), but their buffet’s an exception – as far as the food quality is concerned. Friendly people, great buffet and – hands down – the best fried catfish sandwich in the state.
There are many wonderful restaurants I’ve eaten at and loved dearly, dearly, dearly. If you don’t see them here they either do not have fried catfish on the menu (a sin they should “fix” immediately, if not sooner) or I (for some unknown reason) have not had their catfish yet. You know, maybe I’d had it for breakfast and lunch and wanted to mix things up a little…
DISCLAIMER: Many pictures and restaurant reviews on Genuine Kentucky were done BEFORE I had to give up wheat and gluten. Not all pictures or foods mentioned are gluten-free. For example: hush-puppies and other fried foods certainly are not gluten-free. Also, something I learned the hard way – most loaded baked potatoes (like the one pictured at the top) are not gluten-free because of the bacon bits most restaurants use. Who knew?! Please do your homework and ask questions before ordering anything in any restaurant if you have a disease or intolerance that it effected by certain foods.
Sondra Steger says
Your hush puppies are the best I’ve ever eat anywhere. Problem is, I live about 2 hours from your closest resturant. Would it be possible for me to get the recipe? I know most places don’t give away their secrets, but I promise I would not pass it on to anyone and it would make the meal so much more tasty when I fix fish. I hope to get the chance to get back to your resturant in the very near future.
joe elliott says
What about Barren River Catfish restaurant?
Joi Sigers says
Hi, Joe! I have never eaten there – is it good??
Coes steakhouse in russell springs has great catfish.
Joi Sigers says
Deez – never tried it! Thanks for the info, we need to visit Russell Springs and try them soon.