Imagine Cookie Monster finding out he could no longer eat cookies, or Popeye being told, “Buddy, spinach is making you sick. If you want to feel better, you can’t ever eat spinach again. Ever. Sorry, bro.”
That’s pretty much the way it was for me when I had to give up fried catfish. Fried catfish had become a great chunk of my culinary identity. Put another way, it was a glorious addiction.
When I first realized I could no longer eat fried catfish (because of an unkind thing called gluten intolerance), I honestly felt a loss. Think about your own favorite food for a minute – now imagine you couldn’t eat it anymore.
The thought of giving up bread, on a scale of 1-10, hurt around a 2. Pizza measured around a 5 and doughnuts were an oh so painful 8. Cookies would have been a 10 but there are tons of gluten free cookie recipes that are just as good, so I’m okay there.
Then there’s fried catfish… the pain threshold exceeded 10. Blew right past it and hit upwards of 100.
I even wondered if I’d ever go to my favorite restaurants in Kentucky for catfish anymore. I figured, why bother?! However, we happened to be around Kentucky Lake a short while back and, for us, that means Willow Pond. My husband and one of our closest friends have always ordered the blackened and grilled catfish and have never (once) left a single bite behind on their plates, so I figured it’d be worth trying. So we decided to go to our beloved Aurora Willow Pond.
As luck would have it, plate after plate of fried catfish passed by my table on their way to other diners. “Lucky dogs!”, I kept muttering under my breath.
Ge this: I think I actually prefer catfish grilled and blackened – and I would have NEVER thought that was possible. While fried catfish is still one of the most delicious things in this world, when it’s blackened or grilled, you can actually taste the juicy and tender catfish better. There’s no breading to get in the way – just the best fish in the world and you.
Just how it should be.
Let me say this in my husband’s defense – if I’d wanted him to, he’d have asked the server not to bring ANY hush puppies to the table. Fortunately for him, I’m nowhere nearly as mean as gluten intolerance is – well… maybe right after a UK Basketball loss… but only then.
Everything about the Willow Pond Restaurant in Aurora is perfect. Everyone is warm, friendly, and genuinely glad to see your hungry face walk through the door. The food is absolutely delicious and you can’t beat the prices – no way, no how. I love the quirky, down-home country charm of the decor almost as much as I do the food.
As we were enjoying our meal on this most recent visit, I realized something else I love about Aurora’s Willow Pond:
- It’s quiet.
- It’s peaceful.
- It’s relaxing.
- It’s the ideal setting for enjoying a meal.
A lot of restaurants play so-called background music so loud you find yourself chewing to the beat – not exactly relaxing. Some are also just, somehow, incredibly loud. You know the restaurants, right? Where it seems you can hear everything going on in the kitchen and everything the people at the next table are talking about. If you add the “background” music on top of that and the clamoring of the servers buzzing around, it isn’t any wonder that we all tend to quicken the pace of our eating to keep time with our busy surroundings.
I’ve even gotten to my car after a particularly loud meal and just wallowed in the quietness and stillness of my vehicle!
Willow Pond (Aurora, Ky) is the complete opposite of the typical busy bee restaurant. It’s a lovely step back in time to when the meal and the conversation over the meal were the main event.
Again, just as it should be.
No matter where you live, a trip to Aurora is always a beautiful idea. Not only does Aurora have the famous Hitching Post Country Store and Kenlake State Resort Park, it’s also mere minutes from Land Between the Lakes and Kentucky Lake.
After a day enjoying all the area has to offer, just look at what you have to look forward to! The best catfish you ever ate and…..
Willow Pond’s ridiculously delicious hush puppies, vinegar coleslaw, and white beans (with red pepper relish available).
- Read more about the best catfish restaurants in Kentucky.
- Find more restaurant options for Eating Gluten Free in Kentucky.
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