New Huntington Beach Pier restaurant honors lifeguards

Chef Jason Witzl standing by the kitchen of Bud and Gene’s. Photo by Chris MacDonald

Replacing the old Ruby’s on Huntington Beach’s Pier is a restaurant honoring the city’s first lifeguards, Bud Higgins and Gene Belshe. Bud and Gene were the first local surfers, surfboardmakers and lifeguards. In the 1920s, after meeting Hawaiian Surfer Duke Kahanamoku, the two made their own 135-pound redwood surfboards and later became the city’s first official lifeguards, according to City Historian Jerry Person.

Chef Jason Witzl, known in Long Beach for Ellie’s, Lupe’s De La Mar and Gingers, is owner of Bud & Gene’s. “This is a full circle for me,” Witzl said.

“Having grown up in Whittier, I have fond memories of coming to Huntington City Beach and walking down the Pier with my family. It has always been such an iconic location. I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to provide Surf City with my special menu, which includes shrimp and 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 and chips,” Witzl said.

“We thoroughly enjoyed the grilled Baja-style whole fish, it was wonderful,” said Tina Viray, co-owner of the Surf City Store on the Pier. “Eating there is definitely worth the walk!”

“I loved the brioche rolls and B&G burger,” said Terry Tintle, the city’s Beach Maintenance supervisor.

“We’re stoked to welcome Bud & Gene’s to HB,” said Visit Huntington Beach CEO Kelly Miller.  “It’s a perfect destination for locals and visitors looking for panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean with carefully curated menu offerings. You can stop by the take-out window or grab a table inside!”

City officials and Chamber of Commerce members recently held a ribbon-cutting event and were awed by a giant wave mural inside the restaurant, painted by local muralist, Melissa Murphy.

The current 1,850-foot pier, the fifth longest in California, has been rebuilt several times. The first pier opened in 1904. In 1933, it featured the Sunshine Cafe (also known as the Sun Parlor). During World War II, the Pier was used as a submarine lookout post by the U.S. Navy. Later, the End Cafe served meals until 1988. From 1996 through 2021, Ruby’s was the pier’s top eatery. The pier has been reconstructed a number of times due to storm damage, most notably the “Great Storm of ’88,” which caused so much destruction, it did not reopen until 1992.

For more information, follow Instagram @budandgenes.