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Monthly Archives: July 2010

First Watch (Polaris) | Columbus, OH

First Watch (Facebook / @First_Watch)
2103 Polaris Parkway (map it!)
Columbus, OH 43240
(614) 846-2738
Open 7 am – 2:30 pm daily
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Friday, May 21, 2010 at 10:30 a.m.

: 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.

: 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.

: 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.

: 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.

First Watch on Urbanspoon

Winchell’s Restaurant | Lexington, KY

Winchell’s Restaurant

348 Southland Dr. (map it!)
Lexington, KY 40503
(859) 278-9424
Serves breakfast Mon-Fri, 8-11 am; Sat & Sun, 8-11:45 am
Accepts cash and credit cards

Date of Visit: Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 9:00 a.m.

IMPRESSIONS: Breakfast in a sports bar? That’s right, folks. Typically, when I think of a sports bar, I think bright TVs, chicken wings, and pale beer. But Winchell’s Restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky defies these initial impressions, and when you see the Sunday morning brunch crowd descending on the strip mall restaurant, you know you’re on to something. Don’t let their motto of “Better Food, More TVs” fool you: they do breakfast well.

: That said, Winchell’s atmosphere is definitely that of a sports bar, although I’m guessing Sunday morning breakfast is a little quieter than your average weeknight sports extravaganza. But you’re still treated the lights, TVs, movie posters, neon beer signs, and sports pennants you’d come to expect. The handy thing about the sports bar setup is that there’s plenty of seating. I saw room after room of tables and booths, not to mention the bar itself. At the very least, they were able to seat a large family without a reservation that morning.

: Winchell’s has a sizable breakfast menu that’s made even bigger by a kinda ridiculous amount of specials. In the waiting area stood a big board listing the specials, and there must have been 12-15 of them! There were certainly too many for the servers to remember and too many for us to read. We jotted the list down on a napkin and passed it around. Even aside from the specials, their menu covers all the standards (omelets, steak and eggs, pancakes, what have you), plus a couple Southern specialties (like trout and eggs!). Everything’s in the $6-9 range, so it’s perfectly affordable, even with a big family.

One nice they do is to really push the a la carte ordering. You can order your main meal, and then choose from a big list of sides. For some reason, I always find that easy to navigate. Makes the meal infinitely customizable. Pictured above is the pork chop platter with eggs, potatoes, and toast.

Here you’re looking at a breakfast sandwich: fried eggs, cheese, and bacon on English muffins. With a side of potatoes.

My wife and I split two meals (awww…). First up is the country fried steak. It was a fairly thick piece of steak – we couldn’t cut it with a fork, which is usually my judging point. But the breading was nice and crispy, the gravy peppery enough. Came with eggs, toast, and one of the sides we ordered: jalapeno cheesy grits. Nice take on grits, with that delicious bite from the peppers.

Here’s my meal: the Blue & White pancakes. Also known as pancakes with blueberries and white chocolate chips. Um, yes. Great shot of comfort food. I chose the biscuits and gravy and country ham as my sides. All of it delicious. These pancakes, which had a great balance of sweet chocolate chips and tart blueberries, exemplified the rich, hearty food at Winchell’s. Same with the country fried steak. It’s big comfort food, and we couldn’t help but honestly tuck right in to it.

What everyone needs: a detail shot of the country ham. Oh yeah, zoom in. You can see the salt.

: Our server expertly handled a large group during an apparently busy rush. This is on top of all the a la carte orders that she had to remember with each meal. The whole restaurant seems to run fluidly, broken down easily by the separate rooms. I just can’t believe they list so many specials – no one can be expected to remember all of those!

OVERALL: Winchell’s is my favorite breakfast in Lexington so far, although I know I have more exploring to do. But if a sports bar is synonymous with comfort for you, then think of their breakfast as an extension of that. Big portions, rich food that’s easy to love. And, yes, more TVs than any other sports bar in town.


Winchell's Restaurant & Sports on Urbanspoon

BaconCamp – September 4, 2010

Join me on International Bacon Day (you read that right, folks!) to celebrate BaconCamp Columbus! I’ll be sponsoring it with a few Breakfast with Nick T-shirts and other giveaways. Tickets are open to the public and available at

BaconCamp is produced by Wild Goose Creative, the non-profit arts organization of which I’m a founder. This year it’s being hosted at North Market – more space means more people, more competitions, and yes, more bacon.

Tickets are on sale now, and going fast! Buy them soon at the BaconCamp website. If you want to read a recap of BaconCamp 2009, click here.

BaconCamp Columbus
September 4, 2010
2-5 pm
at the North Market
59 Spruce St.

Hope to see you there!

Breakfast Special this Wednesday!

This is the week! Tune in to PBS this Wednesday, July 14 at 8 pm for Breakfast Special, a new documentary by Rick Sebak of WQED Pittsburgh. Rick stopped by Columbus and asked me to take them around to a couple places. We stopped at The Best Breakfast & Sandwiches and Skillet, so this is a great shout-out to breakfast in Columbus!

Earlier that day, tune in to WOSU’s All Sides with Ann Fisher between 11 am and 12 pm. I’ll be there with Kevin Caskey from Skillet, Lisa Dillman (aka Restaurant Widow), and others, being interviewed by WOSU News Director Mike Thompson about the PBS special!

Photos: Knead Urban Diner soft opening!

Exciting news for breakfast in Columbus! This week sees the opening of Knead Urban Diner in Short North. Knead takes the place of Zen Sushi on High Street, in the Hampton Inn and across from the Convention Center.

This morning began a soft opening of offering discounted meals so owners Rick and Krista Lopez, and their crew, can start the restaurant running and work out the kinks. I met up with Bethia and Drew of Hungrywoolf, Taco Trucks Columbus, et al. this morning to try the breakfast.

We were greeted with two small cases of pastries at the door.

Views of the dining room…

A handful of chairs at the counter, a couple booths, and plenty of tables.

We started with a cinnamon roll. My son Will devoured it.

And then the biscuits and gravy, with two eggs, a homemade biscuit, prosciutto gravy, and their version of hash browns.

Magnetic map on the wall, showing the 88 counties of Ohio. The magnets will show where Knead’s local ingredients are sourced from.

If you want to visit:
Knead Urban Diner (
website | Facebook)
505 N. High St.

Columbus, OH 43215

(614) 228-6323

BREAKFAST SPECIAL coming right up!


Airing on PBS stations around the country
Wednesday, July 14
8 pm

I’m gonna be on PBS! Tune in to see yours truly make an appearance in the upcoming PBS documentary Breakfast Special. Producer Rick Sebak – famous for his documentaries on hot dogs, amusement parks, diners, sandwiches, and more – contacted me last November about a visit to Columbus. He and his crew visited for a weekend the following month, while I lead them to first Best Breakfast and Sandwiches in Westerville (one of my favorites) and then Skillet in German Village (another favorite).

Rick and his crew have been busy traveling the country since then, from Georgia to Maine to Oregon to Hawaii. He just announced that they have SO much good footage that the documentary is splitting into TWO parts. This allows him to spend more time in each place. Myself and the Columbus stops made the cut into Part 1, airing in two weeks.

So join me in supporting Rick, his crew, and PBS by tuning in July 14!


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