2 Fun Foodie Picks in Clarksdale Mississippi

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Travel the back roads between American Highways 49 and 61 in search of Lost Superstitions and the spirits of Sam Cooke, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters and wind up in Clarksdale Mississippi, the home of the Delta Blues. I covered unique “stays” in this charming southern city (and the photos are fabulous), one of which includes the Shack Up Inn, which has a restaurant called Rust Restaurant — yes, really. That will give you an idea of the ambiance of this oh so not luxurious but oh so authentic place.

In a city that has a restaurant called Rust, you might be wondering what kind of food is served there or anywhere in Clarksdale for that matter, a place music lovers flock to for things like the Juke Joint Festival and authentic blues at RED’s, not for its food. Clarksdale is surrounded by original cotton plantations, so you’d assume there’d be plenty of home grown cooking and southern fare and well, you are right for the most part…..with a twist. We quickly learned that Clarksdale seems to have a lot of surprises and twists!!

Two restaurants foodies should know about are Yazoo Pass on Yazoo Street and Oxbow on 3rd Street, both in downtown Clarksdale, which btw, is only an hour or so from Memphis Tennessee for those who have an inkling to take an easy side trip when in Memphis.

During our ever so delicious dinner at Yazoo Pass, we mainly opted for seafood, which we paired with a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. They offer a delicious seared Ahi Tuna with shaved cucumber, lemon vinaigrette, hummus, wasabi cream and ginger beer sauce, Maple Glazed Salmon which is made with garlic and ginger infused jasmine rice, roasted asparagus and a maple vinaigrette and an exquisite Pan Seared Snapper made with garlic sautéed spinach, brown rice, with a garlic tomato reduction. You’ll notice the southern influence, but on the healthier and lighter side, even with the chef’s tasty sauces, whose nickname is Doc. He was apparently named after Dr. Julius Irving who once played for the Philly 76’ers.

More classically southern choices include a Chicken Basket, which are three hand battered jumbo tenders & pomme frites with a dipping sauce of your choice, Stuffed Shrimp with Lump crab, sautéed mushrooms and bread crumbs, broiled to perfection and the Hot Onion Soufflé Dip which is made with sun-dried tomato relish and homemade bruschetta (Yum!). Also worth mentioning are their Fish Tacos made with blackened snapper, sweet pepper pico and lime creme and their Crab Cakes served with fresh peppers and chives.

Since it is the south, they do have crunchy Pickle Frites and a variety of potato chips varieties but they also offer soups and plenty of healthy salads, including a fabulous baby spinach salad with shaved fresh pears, shredded parmesan, toasted nuts, balsamic vinaigrette and a wedge salad with grape tomatoes, crumbled bacon, grated egg, pimiento cheese croutons and house bleu cheese.

If you want to go for meat, they have filets and ribeyes, which you can get with classic Rustic Mash (love the name), roasted asparagus and mushrooms. They even have sandwiches on the menu as well, such as kaiser rolls, sour dough melted cheese and burgers with crunchy fried red onions and Worcestershire aioli. And, because you’re in the south, go for some real homemade down southern cookin’ regardless of what you order — in other words, don’t forget to order a side of mashed potatoes.

Ambiance at Yazoo Pass, is a mixture of rustic (earthy colors and a massive brick wall facing you as you enter), healthy (salad bar is integral to their menu) and modern. The staff is incredibly friendly and the service top notch! (Thanks to Blake, our waiter for making us feel at home)

The restaurant got started via a unique joint mission. In 2011, a local attorney named John Cocke saw a need for a place that Teach for America folks could come in have coffee and use the Internet.  At the same time, Meri Tenhet, a trained chef, was looking for the opportunity to open a bakery and restaurant.

Together, they opened Yazoo Pass Espresso Bistro the weekend after Thanksgiving of 2011.  For the first couple of years we were only open for breakfast and lunch but they have grown. Even with a deep fryer in the kitchen today, they proudly tout that they use the best ingredients they can get their hands on, including rice bran oil. Two thumbs up!


Yazoo Pass

207 Yazoo Street

Clarksdale, MS 38614

(662) 627-8686

The Oxbow is tucked away along 3rd Street in the center of town! By tucked away, I don’t mean that it’s off the beaten path, but it doesn’t have a loud or big sign calling you to its entrance. When we arrived in Clarksdale, it was raining, so we ran from our car to get warm and dry at the Oxbow, planning to fill up our hungry tummies with some old fashioned southern fare.

The place is funky and I’d add, rustic in its design and ambiance, completely decorated with salvaged industrial materials repurposed for art and function.  While Oxbow might be about as casual as it gets, wooden picnic tables and all, don’t let that fool you – the food is out of this world! They even have a chalkboard of specials with their Twitter handle prominently displayed, so they’re not behind the times either.

The food experience is so fabulous largely to the talents of chef and owner Hayden Hall, who traveled around and studied culinary arts elsewhere before returning home to bring all that he learned to his hometown. A native of Clarksdale, he runs the restaurant with his wife Erica, their joint passion for food shining through from every dish. We got to hang with Hayden briefly while we were there, and he made sure to soup up a few things for us we hadn’t planned to order, just for fun and hell, why not be surprised by the chef?

While I avoid fried food as much as possible and never eat it at home, I do partake in the occasional fried dish, whether that be fish prepared in a uniquely southern way or fries on occasion — love sweet potato fries as one example and who doesn’t love garlic fries? Hayden makes a mean and oh so delicious batch of handcut garlic parmesan fries! A must order when at Oxbow, even if you keep everything else lean and healthy.
And, get this….they’re only $1.95 on the menu at the time of writing this and sodas were only a buck. Mississippi kept taking me back in time in more ways than one and their prices was one of those things — did I mention the $1.77 a gallon gas station prices we saw en route?
Oxbow is only open for lunch and their dishes reflect this — think sandwiches, salads and burgers! That said, what they’re most known for is their Tuna Tacos, where they wok-sear ahi tuna and serve them with a homemade citrus ginger slaw and sriracha aioli on grilled flour tortillas with fresh lime. Yum!!!
Additionally, they have a Southern Salad sampler plate, which includes a scoop of chicken salad, scoop of Pimento cheese and a scoop of pasta salad (also offered as a side) over Balsamic vinaigrette tossed greens.
A side of cabbage anyone? Below, Anthony’s palate is in heaven on that very rainy afternoon.
Hayden’s homemade soups are also to die-for, and have a uniquely southern style, but like most things in Clarksdale, with a twist!
I loved the down-to-earth wholesome ambiance of this little eatery – it’s a unique place with fresh ingredients that remind you how the South is changing as tastes do and as we are hit with more and more global influences in food.  Two thumbs up!
Oxbow Restaurant
115 3rd Street
Clarksdale, MS 38614
(662) 627-6781
Note: we were hosted by the restaurants during our stay but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.
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