Great Southern Drives: Delta Blues Highway
Journey from Memphis to Merigold, Mississippi, for juke joints, hot tamales, and Morgan Freeman at the crossroads.
The soul of the Blues Highway―which follows the Mississippi River from Tennessee to the Gulf of Mexico―lies along the blacktops that connect Memphis, Tunica, Clarksdale, Mound Bayou, and Merigold. These are the places where the blues was born―and where you’ll find down-home restaurants, back-to-basics lodgings, one-of-a-kind shops, and (of course) blues clubs. Follow our map to this trip along a river filled with history, mystery, and―most of all―music.
- Trip Time: 2 Full Days
After you‘ve hit Beale Street, head to this speakeasy-inspired restaurant above B.B King’s Blues Club. It’s more upscale than down-home but worth a stop for the Blues Berry Martini.
145 Beale Street, Memphis; (901) 578-3031. See who’s playing and what’s cooking at ittabenamemphis.com.
The Hollywood Cafe Housed in an 83-year-old commissary, this spot serves Tunica-raised catfish and claims to have invented the fried pickle.
1585 Old Commerce Road, Robinsonville; (662) 363-1225. Watch a video about the restaurant and see a menu at thehollywoodcafe.com.
Clarksdale: Ground Zero Blues Club
Mississippi native Morgan Freeman owns this modern version of a classic juke joint. The crew serves up catfish BLTs by day and live blues by night.
0 Blues Alley, Clarksdale; (662) 621-9009. Live music until 11 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday and until 1 a.m. Friday-Saturday. Visit groundzerobluesclub.com for a schedule of musicians.
Clarksdale: The Shack Up Inn
You won’t find a more authentic Delta stay than in these sparsely furnished sharecropper shacks in Clarksdale. Think bottle trees in the yards, Baptist church fans on the walls, Mardi Gras beads wrapped around old jugs, and six-packs left in the fridge.
001 Commissary Circle, Clarksdale; (662) 624-8329. Room rates start at $60. Visit shackupinn.com for availability and reservations.
Clarksdale: Hicks Variety Foods
Ring the buzzer (or just open the front door) for entry into Hicks―a no-nonsense place where you can get a dozen hot tamales (“Beef ONLY,” the menu says) for $8.97.
305 South State Street, Clarksdale; (662) 624-9887. If you don’t like tamales, try the barbecue ribs and sandwiches. Visit hickstamales.com.
The three Woods brothers apprenticed under Mississippi master potter Lee McCarty before going out on their own. They use local clays and handmade glazes for their earth-tone rabbits, ducks, candlesticks, and crosses.
301 Fortune Avenue, Mound Bayou; (662) 741-2283. Prices range from $15 to $500. Visit peters-pottery.net.
Owner Willie Seaberry (aka Po Monkey, shown here) makes you feel at home in his juke joint near Clarksdale.
Just outside of Merigold. There isn’t a phone number, a Web site, or a road marker. Just head south down State 61 from Clarksdale, and turn right at the Pemble Farms sign. Take the immediate left fork onto a gravel road, and go about 1 mile; Po Monkey’s is on the left.