CLEVELAND, MISSISSIPPI—JULY 2020–It’s in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, a region known for a culture all its own. Life moves to a unique cadence in the Delta, but there’s a different vibe here in Cleveland. Midway between Memphis and Vicksburg, Cleveland has been called the ‘hip little town’ of the Delta. Here, they celebrate the legacy of great music, from the Delta and beyond. Here, a mix of yesterday and today combine in a downtown filled with opportunities for shopping, dining and fun. And here, visitors get a delicious taste of Delta culinary influences old and new. Yes, Cleveland has a lot on its plate. And every bite is worth savoring.
Food is a big part of life in the South, a fact that’s nowhere more evident than in the Mississippi Delta. From the rows of rice fields and the depths of the catfish ponds a culinary tradition has risen. Thanks to a mix of generations-old recipes and creative culinary artists, a new assortment of flavors fills the eateries of Cleveland. Some more refined, some less fancy, some just down-right delicious.
The restaurant options are as plentiful as the Southern hospitality, each serving up local favorites and regional specialties. One look at the variety of flavors and settings of these local favorites is enough to make mouths water and bellies growl.
Cleveland is home to James Beard Award nominated Chef Cole Ellis. In 2013, after spending 13 years in Charleston, Nashville and Kiawah Island, Ellis returned to his hometown of Cleveland to open Delta Meat Market (215 Cotton Row, Cleveland, Mississippi 38732), a butcher shop, restaurant, bar and boutique grocery. Located in the Cotton House Cleveland Hotel, his menus, as well as his retail shelves, feature fresh local produce, proteins and homemade specialties. The market is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and, upstairs, the rooftop Bar Fontaine features dinner service and an extensive spirits menu, all to be enjoyed with a view of downtown.
Just up the street, Hey Joe’s (118 East Sunflower Road, Cleveland, Mississippi 38732) is known for burgers and beer. It’s also known for good times, good music and good works. This modern-day juke joint is the epitome of the hometown local hangout and it is committed to feeding both the body and soul of this town. Hey Joe’s, has a commitment not only to quality food–specialty burgers and sandwiches are the fare–but to craft beer and live music, also. Profit from monthly specials is contributed to selected local charities and the restaurant and its sister eatery, Mosquito Burrito (118 East Sunflower Road, Cleveland, Mississippi 38732), are active in local community efforts to produce annual events aimed at keeping downtown vibrant.
Airport Grocery (3608 Highway 61 North, Cleveland, Mississippi 38732) is touted as a “quintessential Cleveland establishment” offering true soul food that continues to withstand the test of time. What began as a Depression-Era grocery store has been passed down among generations and families. Rustic and comfortable, the full bar and pool tables entice folks to stay and enjoy the company, but it’s the hot tamales and crawfish tails, the barbecue, the burgers and the ribs, that have kept people coming back through the years. House-smoked pork, Mississippi catfish po’ boys and legendary gravy fries are tops on the menu.
The Senator’s Place (1028 South Davis Avenue, Cleveland, Mississippi 38732) has become another soul food staple in these parts. Family-owned and -operated since 2003, the restaurant features daily lunch and Friday evening buffets allowing customers to dine-in or take-out. Proprietors Senator Willie Simmons and his wife Rosie are hands-on in creating a classic menu of Southern soul foods including fried chicken, smothered pork steaks, turnip greens, cornbread, peach cobbler and banana pudding. He aims to provide favorites “prepared like mama and grandmama,” to be enjoyed in a family-friendly environment.
There are more options for good food, seemingly at every turn and Cleveland has an abundance of flavors to share. From special family recipes to contemporary creations to tasty twists on everyday favorites, there is more to enjoy here than can be taken on in one sitting. Find out more about dining, as well as shopping and entertainment options, online at VisitClevelandMS.com.
If you go
Downtown is the heart of this hip town. Mainstreet is centered around an original rail line and features a historic depot, housing a visitors’ center (101 South Bayou Avenue, Cleveland, Mississippi 38732). Next door is the Martin & Sue King Railroad Museum (115 South Bayou Road, Cleveland, Mississippi 38732) and a 1941 caboose. Museum exhibits capture the history and influence of the railroad in Cleveland and the region and the museum also houses the largest O-gauge model train replica in Mississippi. The town green features an open space for outdoor events and is looped by a multi-purpose trail used by locals and visitors alike.
Of course, music is a part of the Delta. And it’s a big part of Cleveland, home to the GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi (800 West Sunflower Road, Cleveland, Mississippi 38732). Celebrating the music of all genres, this amazing facility has two dozen exhibits, films, memorabilia and more, as well as a 130-seat state-of-the-art soundstage.
Where to stay
Visitors will find a choice of nationally branded hotels along historic Highway 61 in Cleveland. Downtown, the one-of-a-kind Cotton House Cleveland (215 Cotton Row, Cleveland, Mississippi 38732) is a 95-room boutique hotel on Cleveland’s Cotton Row.
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