Date of Visit: Friday, May 21, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.
IMPRESSIONS: It’s been a while since I’ve been to a First Watch. With all the breakfast options available in Columbus, it can be easy to forget First Watch, especially given that it’s a small chain spread across several states. And I will admit that First Watch doesn’t top my list of Columbus breakfast, but they do offer a consistent and pleasant dining experience at their seven locations across the city.
ATMOSPHERE: First Watch really aims at the casual atmosphere. In fact, when someone asks me about a casual joint in town, I automatically think of FW. They also seem to have rebranded recently: their locations and menu are now a little more colorful than their former Florida retirement community look.
First Watch serves breakfast, brunch, and lunch. The menu terms these Half Asleep, Waking Up, and Wide Eyed. Made me laugh.
They are also fantastic at accommodating children with all the standards: kids’ menus, crayons, and fun cups. I can’t think of many Columbus breakfast joints that don’t welcome kids, but First Watch really makes it easy. Again, the consistent and comfortable experience.
FOOD: First Watch’s menu is pretty safe – not the place for crazy signature dishes or wild experimentation – but if safe is what you want, you’ll be satisfied.
Eggs Benedict is one of my favorite breakfasts, and I figured you couldn’t go wrong when paired with turkey and avocado. This one was good, but it could have been warmer and spicier, and it need more hollandaise. I don’t need my eggs benedict drenched, but half the fun is the hollandaise, right?
To break it down a bit… they used shaved turkey – I was surprised by it at first, but it worked well. I guess I don’t know what I was expecting… chunks of oven-roasted turkey? Might not work in the construction of the sandwich. Back to the dish… the eggs and muffin were very good, but overall the dish needed a little more spice. They were also served with a side of those perfectly square-cut potatoes, bland and obviously frozen out of a bag. This is a big pet peeve of mine. It’s always worth the extra effort to have freshly-cooked potatoes. Part of the charm is their uneven size and browning.
My wife ordered the Huevos Rancheros special. This featured eggs over easy, black bean chili, avocado, cheese, and tomato cooked in a tortilla with an extra one tossed in. It could have more black beans and salsa to scoop up; it was surprisingly spicy given their normally safe food – but a pleasant surprise.
SERVICE: When we walked in to First Watch, we got the friendliest greeting we’ve had in a long time. The manager held the door for us and helped us get seated. Our server was super friendly, made great conversation, and picked up on all the small details of what we seemed to want or need (this scores big with parents of a 2-year-old). While we waited we watched the manager pour coffee, check in with customers, and generally help out where he could. The food came out quickly, it was presented well, and the sides were served in separate dishes in case you don’t want your meal to mix. In general, First Watch has a great setup that smoothly includes customers in the process, even with a handy table setup that’s always ready to go: jelly, creamer, hot sauce, sugar, etc. all laid out already.
OVERALL: First Watch is a good stand-by. It’s easy to like, consistent, and seriously welcoming. It’s a chain but doesn’t always feel like one. When I plan to go out for breakfast, I don’t often think of First Watch: a.) because there are so many other places to explore, and b.) because you find a more adventurous breakfast in town. If the regular customers and consistent food are anything to go by, you really won’t find a bad breakfast there, just not the most adventurous one.
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