John Reuben McIntosh and Audrey Forrow were both Marines at MCAS El Toro when they met. They married, and after leaving the Marine Corps they both started working in restaurants. In 1948, they both landed jobs at a restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway in Corona Del Mar -- John as a cook and Audrey as a waitress. They were there only two weeks when a kitchen fire caused a lot of damage and the owner decided to sell the place. The couple went to Audrey's father, John McIntyre, and asked him for a loan so they could buy it. Instead, he went into partnership with them. Together, they bought the place for $3,000.
The little restaurant, with only two tables and 10 counter seats, reopened on Oct. 19, 1948 as the first Snack Shop restaurant. Today, it still stands as the northern portion of what is now Ruby's Diner. (See photo above.)
|Snack Shop #3, at 17th St. and Flower, Santa Ana. (Now El Pico de Gallo Grill.)|
It was so popular and successful that a second Snack Shop opened in 1950 on South Main Street in Santa Ana. And by 1960 the chain had grown to include eleven coffee shops. The McIntosh's remained very hands-on about their business. John is said to have been very detail oriented, and Audrey created many of the recipes and designed the decor and staff uniforms.
(Click on the menu to enlarge.)
Thinking beyond coffee shops, they also opened the first Reuben's restaurant in 1960. Snack Shops and Reuben's were just the beginning of the Far West Services company, which ultimately included such restaurants as Coco's (1965), Isadora's, Moonrakers, The Plankhouse, The Sandpiper, The Mooring, Baxter Street (dinner theater), The Whaler, The Reuben E. Lee, and more. At the top of their game, Far West was serving meals to 45,000 customers a day.
The Reuben E. Lee restaurants , in particular, were real landmarks, housed in what appeared to be old paddle wheel boats in Newport Harbor and on Harbor Island in San Diego. The one in Newport was dismantled in 2007.
- Westcliff Plaza, 17th and Irvine, Newport Beach
- 2323 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu, Hawaii (shown in photo above)
- Pacific Coast Highway at MacArthur, Corona del Mar
- South Main St., across from the old Sears, Santa Ana
- Chapman Ave. at Shaffer, Downtown Orange (shown in photo below)
- 17th St. at Flower, Santa Ana
- Huntington Beach
Eventually, all the Snack Shops were turned into Coco's. Coco's, in turn, was ultimately sold to the Catalina Restaurant Group, which now also owns Carrow's.