Clarksdale, Miss., can lay a pretty fair claim to being the capital city of the blues — Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Son House, and Ike Turner, among many other musical luminaries, lived here at one time or another; Bessie Smith died here; and Clarksdale is the site of the legendary "crossroads" where blues pioneer Robert Johnson reportedly sold his soul to the devil in return for guitar prowess — but nobody has ever mistaken it for a gastronomic destination.
Nonetheless, it was here that actor Morgan Freeman — who was born in Memphis, but grew up partially in Charleston, Miss., 40 miles or so southeast of Clarksdale — opened a sophisticated, handsomely appointed eating place 10 years back, dubbed Madidi. While it was to be applauded for seeking to bring a high standard of dining to the area, I have to say that when I ate there a couple of years ago I was unimpressed. The dining room was undeniably attractive, the table settings were first-class, and the staff was courteous and adept — but the cooking was barely acceptable, with tepid shrimp and grits, quail deep-fried in leaden batter, and a beet and goat cheese salad made with soggy beets and almost no goat cheese. The bare-bones wine list was uninspired.
Now, like such better-known establishments around the nation as Nozawa in Los Angeles and Le Bec-Fin in Philadelphia, Madidi has called it quits.
The restaurant, which Freeman opened in partnership with attorney Bill Luckett, apparently never made money and became too much of a drain on the two men, financially and otherwise.