Clarksdale Mississippi gets a nod from me for the second day in a row, oddly, after I read this morning that a restaurant there bankrolled by the actor Morgan Freeman, who is a Clarksdale native, is closing after ten years in operation. My meal there was about seven years ago,come to think of it, while I was doing a writing project in the Mississippi Delta and it was clear that Madidi, the restaurant which specialized in “Americanized French cuisine” (I remember it as Southern fine dining, with prices to match) would never break even in such an impoverished place. It was clearly a labor of love. Guess the cast and crew of “The Help,” which filmed in Clarksdale, also couldn’t save it from extinction. Last I heard Freeman does have another restaurant there – a popular blues bar, pool hall and restaurant called Ground Zero (see photos above). He opened another branch in Memphis, where my son and I listened to a very good female singer a few years ago.
Tag Archives: the blues
More suggestions for E’s roadtrip as she heads from Memphis two hours south to the Mississippi Delta and the “Home of the Blues” – Clarksdale, Miss. Here’s some of the highlights from my trip there with my son in 2008:
Where to stay: The Shack Up Inn (but then you know this already Em) is one of the most remarkable places I’ve ever stayed. Some Ole Miss grads run this unusual “inn” that includes six shotgun shacks that have been moved from their original out-in-the-field location to a spot just south of downtown Clarksdale. Once home to sharecroppers, they’ve been gussied up – most importantly with indoor plumbing and kitchenette added. Each has a lot of character – there are also rooms in a converted cotton gin on the grounds. European travelers in particular love this place. Fun fact: the shacks are on the site of the Hopson Plantation – home of the first mechanical cotton picker (circa 1941).
Another option is the Riverside Hotel, in town along the river, which has provided lodging for many famous blues musicians including Ike Turner (and was a brief hideaway for, of all people, John F. Kennedy Jr.). Even if you don’t stay here, you definitely should drop by and introduce yourself to the owner, a very nice man named Rat, who, if he has time, will take you on a tour of the old place, filling you in on the history. He’ll even show you the room where blues singer Bessie Smith died, in 1937, when the hotel was a hospital for blacks.
For more info (and a photo of Rat) see: http://www.ratpackstlouis.com/riverside_hotel.htm. Rat is very used to visitors – and couldn’t have been more generous when we dropped by! So don’t be shy.
More tomorrow on what to see/do/where to eat.