Bud & Gene’s Pops Up in the Former Ruby’s Diner at Huntington Beach Pier

August 01, 2022

A new pop-up restaurant, Bud & Gene’s just opened at the end of the landmark Huntington Beach Pier, in the former home to
Ruby’s Diner. 

Bud & Gene’s serves a casual, seafood-focused menu highlighting the day’s catch, plus a separate take-out window for beach-inspired eats, by Chef Jason Witzl, best known for Long Beach favorites Ellie’s, Lupe’s De La Mar, and Ginger’s. 

Bud & Gene’s is named for Delbert “Bud” Higgins and Gene Belshe, two friends who became inspirational Huntington Beach watermen and longtime public servants. After observing a surfing demonstration by Duke Kahanamoku in nearby Corona del Mar in the late 1920s, they were inspired to construct their own 135-pound California redwood surfboards, becoming Huntington Beach’s first surfers (and later were the first to “shoot” the iconic pier). 

In 1927, they were hired as Surf City’s first full-time, year-round paid lifeguards and went on to serve the City of Huntington Beach for their entire careers with great distinction, Higgins as the first fire chief and later city historian, and Belshe as assistant police chief. Naming the restaurant “Bud & Gene’s” is not only in recognition of the two local icons but also a tribute to the lifesaving tradition in Huntington Beach, where today as many as 68 lifeguards protect and serve along 3.5 miles of Main Beach shoreline, one of the busiest beaches in the world. 

Higgins and Belshe loved the ocean and the people of Huntington Beach. Inspired by their devotion, Bud & Gene’s will offer to the community affordable, family-friendly fare, prepared with local, seasonal, and sustainable ingredients. Given its location — not by the ocean, but on the
ocean – the restaurant will serve the freshest, responsibly-sourced seafood from SouthernCalifornia waters.

At Bud & Gene’s, Chef Jason Witzl has created a menu ($10 - $36) that includes Shrimp & Melon aguachile (Persian cucumber, serrano chile, mint, creme fraiche), Oysters on the Half Shell, and Shrimp Cocktail, plus Head on Prawns with Calabrian Chili Oil (served with brioche roll, bread and butter pickles, and chili butter), Baja-style Grilled Whole Fish (served with handmade tortillas, guacamole, and tomatillo salsa), and Whole Filet Fish & Chips. Wine, local craft beer, and cocktails will also be served.

"Growing up in Whittier, I have fond memories of coming to Huntington City Beach and walking down the Pier with my family," said Chef Jason Witzl. "Opening Bud & Gene's is a full circle moment for me and I'm looking forward to welcoming generations of beachgoers to this iconic

Prior to striking out on his own, Witzl held the executive chef post at Herringbone Santa Monica and worked in some of the world’s finest kitchens, including the James Beard-nominated M.B. Post (Manhattan Beach), three-Michelin-starred Martín Berasategui (Spain), Campanile (Los Angeles), and The Water Grill (Los Angeles). At Bud & Gene’s, he’ll apply his scratch cooking and fine dining culinary techniques, dedication to seasonality, and a passionate commitment to responsible and sustainable sourcing — leveraging his longtime relationships with local growers and purveyors, butchers, and fishermen.

The 1,850-foot National Register of Historic Places-listed Huntington Beach Pier dates back to 1904 and is one of the longest piers on the West Coast. It’s been home to a number of restaurants throughout its history, including Sun Parlor (also known as The Sunshine Cafe which opened in 1933), the End Cafe operated by the local Gustafson family until 1988, and Ruby’sDiner from 1996 through 2021. During World War II, the Pier was used as a submarine lookout post by the U.S. Navy. It has been reconstructed a number of times due to storm damage, most
notably the “Great Storm of ‘88” that caused destruction so extensive it shuttered the Pier until 1992.

The Bud & Gene’s pop-up is open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to close for take-out and 2 to 9 p.m. in the dining room. 

Greer's OC
Blogger | Journalist

Since 1993, Greer has been writing about fashion, dining and trends in Orange County, as a popular columnist for the Los Angeles Time Community Newspapers (Daily Pilot, Coastline Pilot and HB Independent) and now as founder of Greer’s OC.

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