I go there pretty much every year for the Sunflower River Blues and Gospel Festival, which just happens to be the best free blues/gospel festival in the nation. But that's a different forum...
This year I decided to make a little report on the food, although I know I'm far from the first to dine there and file a report, and I'm just a Junior Burger.
It was between 102 and 106 F with a blistering sun and cloudless sky when I was there in August, so driving around in my airconditioned rental car looking for food and drink held a bit more of an attraction than usual. Being a photographer, I go down a few days early and stay a few days late.
I suppose that the first place everyone mentions is the Rest Haven. The breakfasts are great, and the camraderie with the locals is good, too. Whether you need a banker, lawyer, plumber, modern day gandy dancer, or just want to know the latest on the soybeans, cotton, corn, and cattle prices, this is the place to get your info. If you get up to refill your coffee just keep walking around and fill up the cups of everyone else - it's the pleasant and sociable norm. The kibbie omelets are a bit special and quite filling, a bit of a derivative of the current owner's Lebanese heritage. Nothing wrong with the french toast, pancakes, omeletes, or anything else.
Going down (headed south) on State St/Hwy 61, go past the legendary crossroads, under the bridge, and it will be on your right.
(sure hope I post these links right)
If you're a bit north of Clarksdale I'd recommend the Blue and White in Tunica. Goooooood breakfast. Also ate breakfast in the hospital in Clarksdale one year, but that's another story - the food wasn't very good, although it was basically all-you-can-eat.
Hick's is right next door to the Rest Haven, known largely for their tamales. Generally speaking only drivein service is available at Hicks. I like both the tamales and the catfish. It's the south, so you'll get a couple of pieces of white bread to sop up the juice.
(fact: some 80% of the farm raised catfish in the U.S. comes from Mississippi)
Big Mama's. Keep heading south on State Street. Take a right on Anderson Blvd. Keep going through a small industrial area, a middle class area, and an upper middle class area. You'll see Big Mama's cattycorner on your right. I ate lunch there two days in a row. Got the catfish sandwich (when in Mississippi...). You get your choice of white bread or hamburger bun. I opted for the bun. He took it outside and fried it. I have to say it was a bit soggy and therefore not to my taste, but there were two big ol' slabs of catfish in that small bun. One would have been plenty. The second day it wasn't as greasy. Both days the tomato slice was thin. I'd try it again, and they have lots of other stuff on the menu. As usual in the area, they sell beer, but there's no real way to eat in. There were a couple of tables outside. For the uninitiated, 24oz cans are the normal beer down there. I have a great story from Red's about that, but it's off topic at the moment.
Delta Amusement. This is in the business district, or what used to be the business district. Clarksdale's been on the upswing the last several years, at least concering the festival and general tourism, so the business district has seen a bit of a revival, and some new merchants.
Delta Amusement has been there quite a while. Bobby owns it. His dad is quite the character, and some of his kids work there. You can find yourself in a card game if you please. I like the food (the catfish platter isn't greasy). It's nothing terribly special, but a good port in a storm. Bobby remodeled a bit recently. Beer is always available. Heading south on State St., pass the crossroads, take a right on Sunflower, cross over the train tracks, take a right on 2nd Street, and another right on Delta. Cattycorner from Ground Zero.
BTW, Ground Zero's food is every bit as bad as everyone says. Don't know why. For true gourmet dining head to Madidi's a couple of blocks away - but it's not roadfood.
Red's. Not a true dining establishment, but Red occasionally cooks sausages, BBQ, or fish on the smokers. Red's is really a juke joint. He's fishing buddies with Big Jack Johnson, a legendary bluesman and local resident. Again, the beers are 24oz cans. No bottles for safety reasons. The doorman may purposefully display a gun. Red's a nice guy, and it's really quite safe inside, if unsanitary. If Big Jack's in town and playing, it's worth a few bucks just to hear the real boogie.
I tried to eat out at Lunchbox, east of town out New Africa Road, but they were closed both times I went out there. The food is supposed to be pretty good. Open only for lunch, I believe, hence the name.
Abe's BBQ. Like the Rest Haven, it's an institution. At the crossroads, behind Delta Donut (another institution). Pretty good BBQ. This being the south your sandwich will come with cole slaw in the bun, so make sure you tell them ahead of time if you don't want it. Good fries.
In all these years I've never actually had a donut at Delta Donut (I partake of breakfast at the Rest Haven), but I hear they're quite tasty, and bad for your arteries.
So - head to Clarksdale, tune the radio to WROX 1450 AM, and soak it up.
www.wroxradio.com - They currently have a couple of deadbeat (non-paying) advertisers) on the front page. You can listen to them in streaming audio (WinAmp really does work well - doesn't have the dropouts that Windows Media Player and RealPlayer do). Stop by the Cat Head and say hi to Roger. Get Bubba to sell you some real estate. Say hi to Sam at the Rest Haven. And have some good roadfood while you're at it.