Seafood and Shakespeare
Henri fuels a midsummer road trip at Buz’s Crab
I thought I was dreaming. A day before I’d been lying on my couch in Chico, nearly delirious, sweating and sweltering and trying to read my new Olivia de Havilland biography. It had been 108 degrees every day for a week. Now here I was in a cold, wet parking lot in Redding having visions of the summer I spent on the southern coast of England. Fog and salty sea breezes. Rubbers and raincoats. And shore leave.
I’d had enough of the Chico heat and had to get out. A little drive over to the coast and then up into Oregon sounded good. Therapeutic, in fact.
Imagine my chagrin when I woke the next morning and it was raining chats et chiens. Probably the nicest day of the whole summer. Thunder booming in the distance, misty water dancing off sidewalks and driveways and even flooding on street corners. I almost decided to stay.
But I had a reservation for a room in Arcata and tickets for two plays in Ashland, and I’d already promised Miss Marilyn a road trip. So I threw an umbrella in the car and we left Chico about 10:30 that gorgeous wet Saturday morning and headed north.
It was still raining in Redding as I pulled off the interstate. I thought I’d just stop at Safeway and get a handful of Nestle’s Crunch bars, a wedge of decent Stilton, a couple of baguettes, some apples and one of those roasted chickens and have myself a little picnic right there in the car, but as I pulled up to park a familiar smell transported me right back to Dover.
I looked up through the mist. A little seafood stand with signs advertising fresh fish—salmon, lobster, crab, halibut. What! In Redding? Not San Francisco. Not Seattle. Not Boston. Redding, Calif. Buz’s Crab, “the northstate’s own Fisherman’s Wharf.” Surely, I was dreaming. I told Miss Marilyn I’d be right back, opened up the umbrella and dashed across the parking lot.
Buz’s Crab, which has been in business since 1968, is an informal sit-down restaurant—though you order and pay at the counter—combined with an adjacent seafood market, where you can buy not only fresh fish, but also a wide range of sauces, seasonings, cookbooks, smoked salmon and albacore, and San Francisco-style sourdough bread. Buz’s also offers cooking classes.
Buz’s specialties, fish and chips, range from $4-$9. Choices include cod, halibut, shark, oysters, calamari and prawns. The rest of the menu features everything from shrimp louie and scallop kabobs to cioppino, lobster fettuccini and shrimp quesadillas. I went with the three-piece cod ($5.69). Delicious.
The fish market had some of the best-looking salmon I’ve seen in years (not farmed), as well as fresh mahi-mahi, swordfish, trout and a wide range of shellfish, including Buz’s jumbo shrimp, which were the size of bananas. All very reasonably priced.
The rain had let up a little as I left Buz’s, and the drive over to the coast was absolutely delightful. In Eureka, I stumbled upon the Redwood Curtain Theatre and saw a wonderful production of a little play called If Memory Serves. The next morning, I wound up Highway 101 to Crescent City, then cut over to Oregon on Highway 199 and pulled into Ashland in the late afternoon. That night I saw a lovely Romeo and Juliet—with a minimalist set and a stunning, dreadlocked African-American as Romeo—and then the next afternoon saw an even-more-whimsical-than-usual A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I left Ashland for Chico about 10 and hit Buz’s again on the way home, hungry as a roaring lion. The crab cakes ($12.50) were out of this world, though the attendant “vegetables” were barely edible.
When I woke the next morning, all was mended, the daily high temperatures having dropped 15 degrees, and I felt, in some strange way, like I had but slumbered, while visions did appear.
Buz’s gets fresh fish almost daily, flown or trucked in from both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and they’ll ship fresh fish anywhere overnight. The restaurant is open every day from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. and also serves food to go; the fish market is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.