Pass Christian is a tiny, scenic city located along the 62 miles of coastline overlooking the Mississippi Sound. It’s also home to a gorgeous harbor whose history goes back to the beginning when French and Spanish explorers laid claim to the area. But Pass Christian really came into its own around the 1830s, years after Mississippi became a state.
Back in the day, Pass Christian was a thriving port city located between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama. It was a center of trade and a sister city to New Orleans, having both the looks and the flavor of the Big Easy. It was a lovely spot with fantastic views.
The proximity attracted wealthy cotton and cane plantation owners from Louisiana and Alabama. They decided to build their summer homes right on the four-mile stretch of the beach boulevard. It became the place to be. Hotels were popping up as well as other businesses, supporting the lively summer retreat. During that time, the first yacht club on the coast was established in 1849, adding to the posh ambiance.
After the Civil War wealthy people rushed to outdo each other to build the most enormous mansions along the waterfront. Sixty of the finest Antebellum homes were built in a year, giving Pass Christian the nickname the “Queen City” of Mississippi.
Wharves were built on high pilings extending out into the Sound, which provided docking for passenger boats from Mobile and New Orleans. The railroads brought winter residents such as Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Harry S. Truman to the glittering city.
Unfortunately, the weather took its toll on the Pass. Hurricanes Camille in 1969 and later Katrina in 2005 completely devastated the city both times. After each event, the town built back and recovered to entertain its guests. The hospitality industry always returns because the visitors always return for the stunning setting, the freshest seafood, and the warm hospitality in a town known for its legendary charm.
111W. Scenic Way // + 1-228-222-4852
Bacchus on the Beach is that place the locals love to go to. I stayed across the street at the Hotel Pass Christian (built-in 1831) when I heard music and laughter coming from the patio at the restaurant across the street. The views of the harbor were gorgeous, and it was a sunny afternoon. I walked over to check it out. They have indoor and outdoor dining at Bacchus, but since the day called for an alfresco meal, I sat at the bar and quickly met some locals.
I was chatting with a group of friendly folks, and I asked the bartender for a menu. I asked my new friends what they like to order. The regulars told me their favorites, and the resounding winner was the seared ahi tuna. I took the recommendation and ordered it as my starter, and it was a large portion. It was seared rare, drizzled with a soy glaze, a wasabi aioli, and a sprinkle of white and black sesame seeds. The plate was adorned with a side of house-made pickled cucumbers. I was impressed with the freshness of the rare sushi-grade tuna.
I loved the combination of the soy with the aioli and found the mixture absolutely delicious. I made sure to include some pickles with slices of fish, and I savored the tangy bite. The fresh tuna, the flavorful sauces, and the vinegar dressing on the pickle were perfect together. It was a total treat.
Full from my starter, I wanted to eat a lighter main dish. I ordered the Bacchus Caesar Salad with crisp romaine, croutons, and sprinkles of parmesan cheese. It was fresh and crunchy. The dressing had that tang of anchovy that I was looking for. It was the perfect meal to enjoy outdoors on the deck with a great glass of cold Sauvignon Blanc and the exciting company.
The menu at Bacchus is seafood-focused. You’ll find oysters cooked and raw, Blue Crab claws —a popular choice, and plenty of shrimp options (it’s Mississippi, and shrimp are caught right in the Sound). There’s a long list of Po’boys, including oysters, catfish, shrimp, and their famous pork chops and steaks.
I had a delicious meal at Bacchus and found that it was a happy accident strolling onto the deck. The fish is fresh, the service was friendly, and the atmosphere outside makes for the perfect evening. I loved the company and the experience. A great restaurant stop in the Pass.
120 South Hiern Avenue // + 1-228-452-9939
Shaggy’s is a fun beachy-themed restaurant that makes going to lunch or dinner a great time. Coastal Living Magazine named Shaggy’s “Best Seafood Dive Restaurant,” and Mississippi Magazine called it Top Outdoor Dining Restaurant in The Pass. Knowing the back story of Shaggy’s and how much the Ladner family gives back to the community, plus all the positive press about the food and ambiance, I wanted to visit.
In June of 2005, Ron Ladner was fueling his boat at the Bait Shop and was approached by the owner to buy it. Ron had just moved to the Pass full-time and wrapped up a career in the software business to focus on small real estate projects. He really liked the idea of expanding the Bait Shop and making it a restaurant, but wasn’t sure he was ready. He decided to go for it anyway with the idea of adding a kitchen to get bait and food right in the harbor. But two months later, Hurricane Katrina wiped out the entire town. Not a single home, business, or structure was left standing.
Months after Katrina, the Landers rebuilt on the same spot, and Shaggy’s was born. They opened in June of 2007, naming their place after a tavern famous in the Pass in the 1940s. It was a bright spot for everyone in Pass Christian and offered the city a ray of hope. Now, with three other establishments in Mississippi, Shaggy’s emphasizes hosting a fun environment for their customers. They help their community and win awards for their community service, and every Shaggy serves excellent food!
The menu is extensive but full of favorites – think Caribbean vibes and local seafood. There are tacos, platters of fish, flatbreads, and Po’boys. The menu offers burgers and filet mignons, fresh Mahi sandwiches, and epic wings. The restaurant ambiance comes as you are casual, and the specialty drinks are legendary. If you choose to sit outside, the views of the harbor are fantastic.
With so many choices, I opted for the special, which was a redfish Po’boy. I ordered it dressed, which means a smear of mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato, on crisp French bread with a generous serving of French fries. It came with two filets, so I cut my sandwich in half and took some home. It was caught and delivered that morning, so it was fresh.
The chef breaded and fried the fillets crisp. It wasn’t greasy at all. The flaky white fish with all the fixings was delicious on the specialty bread. The side of fries added to the crunch factor, but the fish was the real star. And, my crafted cocktail, the Biloxi Blue, was outstanding. The service and the atmosphere at Shaggy’s were fantastic. If you are looking for a relaxed place with great music (they often have live bands), it’s the place to go for great food in Pass Christian.
3 Hiem Avenue // +1-228-493-5999
Sea Level is famous for its tacos, but everything on the menu is fresh and made to order. I had to check out this unique restaurant concept and, in doing so, ran into the owners, Dana and Thomas Barrett, in the parking lot right next to their beach cottage restaurant.
One of the first questions I asked was why they chose to create the “cottage” concept. They put their restaurant on a trailer and parked it in a beachside cove located in the West Pass Christian Harbor. The fast answer is that it’s a perfect location.
There are scenic views and picnic tables on the sand next to the restaurant. Sea Level offers patrons cornhole, sand toys, and hula hoops for family fun. I visited twice because the food is fantastic. I caught the stunning sunset one evening, and during the day, I saw beautiful views over the Gulf of Mexico. The picnic tables have umbrellas to offer shade.
Since the water is nearby, you can enjoy cool breezes off the Gulf and, on occasion, see dolphins swim by. It’s a lovely setting.
The longer answer is the hurricane season. When Katrina hit, the only item left from their previous restaurant was a spoon. The tragedy taught them resilience and the idea for a new business model.
You can still have a waterfront restaurant, but when the weather looks like it’s going to turn, you can pack up the cottage and drive it to higher ground. The idea is brilliant, and the reputation drives customers to park in the adjacent parking lot and stroll a few feet over to the cove.
The burgers are freshly ground beef and dressed with all the fixings. You can also add chili, bacon, cheese, or nothing at all. They serve them on grilled brioche buns.
But it’s the tacos that people are raving about. Fresh-grilled blackened shrimp, blackened mahi-mahi, Jamaican jerk, or pork carnitas. I had the shrimp one night and the Mahi the next day; all the tacos are served on flour tortillas with finely shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, and lime crema. They are so fresh and absolutely delicious.
Sea Level also offers specialty hot dogs, grilled chicken sandwiches, hand-cut fries, and nachos. There’s fresh-squeezed lemonade, sodas, or beers to wash it all down. For dessert, they have Snowballs, a popular treat in Mississippi the includes shaved ice topped with sweet syrups in various flavors. It’s a casual place that’s easy and fun, especially for family dining in Pass Christian.
You can walk up to the cottage, place your order, and go play in the sand. When it’s ready, they call your name, and you pick up the tray. Then enjoy the views while you dine, for lunch or dinner. The food is made fresh per order, and the prices reflect the casual setting. It’s a delicious meal at a terrific price.
110 W. Scenic //+1-228-222-4796
Fill Up At Billups is not your ordinary breakfast restaurant. The name goes way back to 1927 in Carrolton, Mississippi when Rowell Billups built a full-service gas station with two pumps, premium, and ethyl. Over 36 years, the Billups family grew the operation and owned 600 full-service petroleum service stations in eight states, from Florida to Texas. The family sold the business in 1963 to Exxon, Citco, and Charter.
Guy Billups III was a little boy when his family operated the stations and still remembers them. As an adult, he started a coffee business and trademarked the Fill-up with Billups slogan for his new venture. Then Guy and his wife partnered with family friends who knew the restaurant business to start an upscale breakfast diner business in a garage setting. They open early and close late, and the slogan – Fill Up With Billups lives on.
The upscale retro diner looks like you are eating in a garage with gas pumps and chrome counters. The décor is all about cars. The menu is focused on breakfast items, but since they open early and close late, they also serve wings, burgers, sandwiches, and pizzas.
I wanted to have breakfast, specifically the waffles, so I came early. They craft waffles at Billups. They make Belgian waffles that are crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. The Bananas Foster Waffle, the house favorite, is topped with warm buttery rum sauce and finished with whipped cream.
I spied the Cinnamon Roll Waffle topped with cinnamon roll filling and cream cheese icing, but then I saw the Tomato-Avocado Waffle. I had to have it. It had smashed avocados, sliced tomato, sea salt, fresh cracked pepper, and olive oil on a waffle. It’s an avocado toast except on a waffle, and it was delightful.
I don’t really like sweet foods for breakfast, but I love waffles, so this was a win for me. The tomatoes were so ripe and sweet, and the avocado was smooth and seasoned well with salt, pepper, and olive oil. If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of other choices.
They also have a grit bar. You can add toppings like buffalo chicken, beefsteak smothered in brown gravy, bacon, egg and cheese, crawfish etouffee, huevos rancheros, and steak tips. Of course, there are egg dishes and giant Cathead biscuits.
Whether you want breakfast, lunch, or a late-night munchie, Fill Up At Billups has some incredible choices. I adored the setting and the waffles. One visit was definitely not enough, and I need to go back to try some of the other items.
115 Davis Avenue // +1 228-222-5172
Whiskey Prime is the high-end steakhouse of your dreams that also happens to serve the freshest seafood brought in from the Gulf of Mexico. The restaurant also has a full-service bar to pair with their unique creations.
Located on the ground floor of The Hotel Whiskey in downtown Pass Christian, Whiskey Prime is locally owned. The owners strive to provide the best service in a comfortable setting, right in the heart of charming Pass Christian.
Having arrived late for dinner, I really wanted a smaller meal. Since this is a steakhouse, I highly recommend ordering a Black Angus Filet ( the house specialty). While every item on the menu looked fantastic, I could think of nothing else when I saw the scallops.
I ordered a chilled Chardonnay and two tasty starters on the menu, the seared scallops and grits, and the steakhouse Caesar salad.
The scallops were cooked perfectly, gently seared, and placed on top of creamy grits. The portion was perfect for me. There were three scallops, and a generous helping of grits adorned with caramelized onions. It made a lovely presentation on the plate. The salad, topped with bacon and crisp croutons, was large enough to split. It was dressed perfectly with a Caesar dressing that was creamy and not too heavy on the greens.
I enjoyed my conversation with the bartender as we discussed Pass Christian and the history of the area. The service was so friendly and attentive, I really felt at home in this wonderful spot. If you are in the Pass, you must visit Whiskey Prime.
Jeanine Consoli is a freelance travel writer, photographer, and foodie based in Washington Crossing, PA. A retired elementary school teacher used her summers to feed her passion for travel and kept journals of all the destinations she explored. Today, Jeanine is working as a writer full-time. She loves uncovering the history and understanding the culture of each location, including the local flavors of each place. She has traveled extensively in the United States and Europe and is excited to keep adding to the list, finding special places that are off the beaten path both at home and abroad.