Menuplease: Buz’s Crab Stands, But Doesn’t Deliver

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It was 1968 that Buz’s Crab Stand opened for business in a slightly grotty location between a dry cleaner’s and Safeway. Back then, after placing an order, customers had to keep one ear peeled for staff yelling through the noisy restaurant that their order was ready. The menu was short and sweet: fish and chips, a few broiled fish dishes, clam chowder. Though they claim to be a “funky fish joint,” nowadays Buz’s is more genteel and calculatedly funky than in their early days. The amount of available seating has expanded and servers now bring food to your table. You still order at the counter — usually standing for a few minutes reading the enormous menu board behind the cashier — and get your own non-alcoholic drinks, but now diners are given a table marker saying Swordfish or Halibut to ensure food is delivered to the right table. Service has been friendly and prompt.

Buz’s menu has expanded wildly since those early days, which may appeal to a broader demographic with more adventurous palates than was had forty-some years ago, but very often the execution is uneven and disappointing. There doesn’t seem to be one chef overseeing operations and ensuring consistency. Pastas, wraps, fish burgers, Southwestern, Cajun, cioppino, Mexican, fish kebabs, grilled/fried/broiled — Femme de Joie feels that while trying to please every taste, the kitchen has spread itself too thin.

The signature dish at Buz’s, fish and chips, $7.75. The batter was crisp but bland; the fish was fine the first few bites while still warm from the fryers. After that it became apparent the fish inside was dry and overcooked. Chips — which appear to have been pre-cooked en masse and kept warm; they certainly are not freshly fried — are under the fish so any crispness they might once have had is steamed out by lying under the hot filets.

Crab chowder, left, $5.49. This rich and creamy soup was filled with new potatoes and loads of crab. Unfortunately, the delicate, sweet crab taste was lost due to a heavy hand with dried herbs.


Salmon bisque, above, was much more successful than the crab bisque; the stronger flavor of meaty salmon chunks stood up nicely in a not-too-creamy base.

Two fish tacos supreme. Nuggets of deep-fried fish were crunchy but tasteless and covered with guacamole from a jar, cheese, olives, salsa from a jar, scallions, and a very runny creamy sauce that saturated the flour tortillas and eventually made the entire taco a soggy mess.

Open-faced crab sandwich on sourdough was one of the better offerings: lots of hot crab under a not-too-heavy coat of melted cheese on a thick slice of sourdough. The sweet crab — mixed with bits of celery — came through nicely and the sandwich was kept hot on a metal platter. There were plenty of those soft, pasty chips on the side.

The best thing Femme de Joie had at Buz’s: a fresh green salad.

Generally, M. de Joie doesn’t care much about presentation as long as the food is good. But when she pays a fairly hefty price for lunch and then finds the food isn’t all that wonderful, she starts to notice things. For instance: a $5.50 cup of soup served in a plastic bowl, runny and drippy tacos served in a plastic basket with a sheet or two of paper to keep the flood from spilling onto the table, cheap plastic forks. It wouldn’t be so noticeable if other restaurants did the same thing, but if you’re paying sit-down prices and getting takeaway plastic and paper, you start thinking about whether you’re getting the best value for money.

Buz’s Crab Seafood Restaurant and Market, 2159 East Street, Redding, CA 96001. 530-243-2120, fax 530-243-4310. Open Sunday-Wednesday, 11 AM – 8 PM, Thursday-Saturday 11 AM – 9 PM. Seafood market open Sunday-Wednesday 9 AM – 8 PM, Thursday-Sunday 9 AM – 9 PM. Beer and wine. On-site parking. Cash, local checks, cards. Overnight delivery of fish via FedEx; see website for details.

Website at http://www.buzscrab.com/index.php

Femme de Joie’s first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Femme de Joie
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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17 Responses

  1. Avatar Penny says:

    Too true … lost my business years ago…though I occasionally return, only to be disappointed again. Mediocre food, greasy spoon presentation and prices all keep me away. Fresh fish, cooked correctly, is heaven … Come on, Buz's, you can do it!

  2. Avatar Grammalyn says:

    I just took my young granddaughter there on Saturday, and the food was so bad I'm thinking of writing them a letter. They had no child menu offered, but the lady at the counter said they would make her up some popcorn shrimp. Her order came and it was waaay too large for a child. In looking at my bill, I realized they charged me $9.95 for her order, plus an adult drink price when I was lead to believe that they would pare the portion and the price down somewhat since no children's menu was offered.

    The popcorn shrimp had some odd spice on it, so we didn't eat much of it. My fish and chips was okay – LOTS of chips, not too much in the fish department.

    The up side of the visit was the man at the fish counter who took out a lobster and explained all it's body parts to my granddaughter. If it hadn't been for him, it would have been a real disappointment.

  3. Avatar Troy Hawkins says:

    It used to be my favorite place as a kid to go with my family and dive into the best food in town. We loved it. It was hot, fresh and HUGE. They've skimped on portions which is bad but when they skimped on taste, texture and quality our monthly visits became the occasional visit with the topic of conversation turning to the "good old days" when the portions, taste and kitschy ambiance was part of the whole experience.

    Please bring back the old, good Buz's, please.

  4. Avatar gamerjohn says:

    I can't stand going there anymore. It used to be better, but now nobody there cares, so why should we?

  5. Avatar Carolyn Jones says:

    We used to be Buzz's regulars not any more for all the above reasons and then some. We still buy fish and fresh cooked crab in the market. It's pricey but dependably fresh.

  6. Avatar Matt Grigsby says:

    I admit, I still like it. It's not as good as it used to be, but I like the greasy food.

    Great article, as always!

  7. Avatar Staci Bertagna says:

    Last time I went there to get take-out I got all the way home and didn't have all of my food. I went back and the girl argued with me, refusing to fix my order. Eventually, she gave me the rest of my food when she realized it was still sitting on the counter. Once home, everything was greasy, tasteless and the horrible customer service just made it that much worse. Never again.

  8. Avatar Grammalyn says:

    I'm wondering why we haven't heard anything from Buz's owners. Sounds like there are some unhappy customers.

    • Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

      Dear Grammalyn,

      It's Femme de Joie's guess that as long as a restaurant's books are in the black, the owners aren't really interested in complaints.

      Buz's has been listed in Jane & Michael Stern's 2005 book "Roadfood" as an essential place to visit in Northern California, as well as a couple of (mostly years-old) positive reviews on Chowhound, so if tourists come in and leave their money, why bother listening to the locals who used to support them?

      Femme de Joie hopes she is wrong and that Buz's will pay attention to local customers who have supported them for many years.

      Cordially,

      Femme de Joie

  9. Avatar Darbagnome says:

    I'm sorry to hear my experience is actually the norm. Swordfish so dry and leathery it was inedible. Lukewarm chowder. Bland fish and chips. And to compound the evening the people at the counter told me that swordfish is supposed to be like that!

    I've been twice hoping that I had shown up on a bad day.

    I have been getting my fresh seafood there and preparing it myself at home. The fresh has met my expectations for quality.

    But never again at the restaurant.

  10. Avatar Micki says:

    Ditto to all of the above comments. In addition, at my last and final visit to Buz's they gave me some spoiled shrimp (the display), warned me that I'd probably get sick and then charged me for the meal! Bummer – it could be such a great place given the right owners/management.

  11. Avatar Cindy says:

    Take note peeps it's BUZ's CRAB STAND. The Crab is fresh, delicious and reasonable. It comes straight from the coast and it's the freshest in town! Also I recently had fish & chips there,the serving was ample and yummy! I love the sour dough bread, I thought I was in san Francisco. Check it out you wont be disappointed….

  12. Avatar big mr. L says:

    the last two times i ate there it was not good . Ive grown up here and it was one of best places in town. havent been in a year or more

  13. Avatar P.G. Saint says:

    Been eating at Buzs for many years, and the food has always been wonderful, the best fish I have had any where. My diet is primarily seafood, as I travel for a living and eat all over the coast, and can't wait to get back home to eat good fish. The prices are extremely reasonable, and the menu will satisfy everyones taste fish lover or not. It's nice to go to a place where the people seem to really enjoy where they work and always have a smile for you.

    P.G. Saint

  14. Avatar Matt C. says:

    I rarely comment on these but this is such an unfair review of a great restaurant I felt it was needed. My friends and I have eaten at Buz’s regularly for years. It’s a great place with a unique menu, fresh food and that unlike most other restaurants that warm up pre-packaged garbage loaded with preservatives and artificial flavors, it won’t poison you with every bite.

    The atmosphere is casual, the place is fast enough to go to on a lunch break, they offer food to go, the market is the best in town, and their sourdough bread is the best I have ever eaten.

    Regarding cost, if you are looking for a $5 lunch you should probably stick to McDonalds. Seafood, especially that provided by a restaurant that trucks in its own fish and prepares it on site is not going to come in a happy meal.

    It’s a shame that of all the positives that Buzs has that a critic would only write about what their personal tastes dictate as negative without even encouraging people to try this place on their own. As if locally owned, non corporate funded businesses in Redding, CA don’t have enough problems already.

    Buz’s Crab is absolutely worth giving a try. It has been around longer than me and if it weren’t a good restaurant this probably wouldn’t be the case.

    • Femme de Joie Femme de Joie says:

      Dear Matt,

      It is indeed true that food critics write based on their personal tastes since they have nothing else to make a decision by. As you alluded to, popularity is certainly not a reliable indicator of quality; neither is cost. If they're going to be honest and not just fawning advertiserers, restaurant reviewers are obliged to tell it as they see and taste it despite the very real possibility of verbal brickbats being thrown. As the Duke of Wellington said, publish and be damned.

      Femme de Joie is acutely aware when she writes a negative review (which, by the way, she dislikes doing) that some people will agree with her and some will not. Dissing someone's favorite restaurant is also dissing a patron's memories of good times with friends at said restaurant, as well as poking a sharp stick at their personal tastes. Every person has very individual preferences and set of standards about what they consider good food.

      No restaurant can please every patron, and neither can every restaurant critic. Some of the above comments agree with you and some agree with the review. Femme de Joie does agree with you on one important point: it's very difficult for non-corporate, locally owned restaurants to make a go of it in this town, and she does encourage readers to skip the chains and eat instead at a local place.

      But Femme de Joie also hopes that restaurant owners will listen to the negative comments and consider if there is any truth in them. Chef Jeff at the now-sadly-closed Pio Loco did read the many negative comments here at A News Cafe; he responded by making huge changes to the service, food, and pricing. The owner of Bonney's Burgers took steps to deal with an employee who threw F-bombs around within earshot of patrons.

      When the server asks if everything's okay, most of us say, "fine," when in fact it wasn't fine. How will a restauranteur know why business isn't as good as it was if they don't hear the bad along with the "fine"?

      Thank you for your comment and feel free to comment again, whether you agree or not.

      Cordially,

      Femme de Joie

    • Avatar Bob Hammond says:

      Buzz?