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):
- Willow Pond in Aurora and Kentucky Lake – What the Two Have in Common!
- Blackened and Grilled Catfish at Willow Pond in Aurora
- Willow Pond (Aurora) Catfish: As Good as it Gets
- Where to Eat at Kentucky Lake
- Kentucky Dining by the Lakes
The Willow Pond in Eddyville
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?
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.
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.