First Watch, Tampa, Fla.
When it comes to lunch and dinner, there are about 20 different kinds of specialty places out there. However, breakfast, despite its status as the “most important meal of the day”, tends to get overlooked quite a bit in the restaurant world. Most places put their focus on the later, more expensive meals, only serving breakfast for the earliest part of the day. When places do serve breakfast all day, most of them devote equal focus to dinner, hoping to shine in more than one area.
First Watch, on the other hand, takes the complete opposite approach. Much like the Pancake Pantry, First Watch’s goal is to be successful at one thing and one thing only: breakfast. Thirty years ago, First Watch began with a commitment to breakfast only, even down to its name. First Watch refers to the first shift of the day on the sea, tracing back to the restaurant’s roots in both California and Florida, and that’s the only thing that has ever mattered to a place that starts bringing fresh quality breakfasts at the crack of dawn.
Amy and I weren’t quite up that early, but we also weren’t about to sleep in too late on this place. As you might expect with a place that focuses only on the first meal of the day, First Watch doesn’t stay open for very long and it’s usually packed when it is open. That’s life when you pay attention to high-quality, and First Watch’s singular focus allows it to do exactly that.
First, there’s the fact that First Watch gives the nutrition info for every meal and uses only the freshest ingredients possible, which explains why they start work at the crack of dawn. In turn, that allows First Watch to put a stamp of creativity onto its dishes, a trait that is pretty much universal among top breakfast places.
Some of the exclusive dishes include the Chickichanga, a breakfast burrito that features all-white meat chicken, green chiles and chorizo, the Key West and Turkey Chive crepes with eggs, which feature eggs, meat and vegetables inside a sweet crepe and the Swisshroom omelet, which would seemingly speak directly to me with its combination of ham, Swiss, onions and cremini mushrooms. Honestly, there’s not a word of that sentence I didn’t like.
But that’s also an omelet I’ve had many times before, and one of my rules is to never get something that you can get anywhere else when you go someplace special. If I was going to get an omelet (and let’s be honest, I was), it was going to be something that I don’t see every day. Enter the Bacado omelet, featuring bacon, avocado, Jack and sour cream.
Being the mushroom lover that I am, I couldn’t let this one go without throwing some of those into the mix, and the combination still worked wonderfully. What I love about avocado and sour cream is the cool, smooth and creamy tastes they both provide to whatever dish they’re in, and they counteract beautifully with the bacon. As an outsider in the dish, the mushrooms worked out great, meshing well with the creamy Jack cheese. Along with the eggs, this was as good as omelets get.
First Watch delivered well on its sides as well. One of the best things about getting breakfast is when you get treated to quality home fries, and that’s exactly what I found here. The potatoes are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, and you can’t really ask for anything more than that. Throw in a well-buttered English muffin, and you’ve got an excellent breakfast.
Amy, a veteran of First Watch, opted for an avocado, bacon and tomato hash with fresh fruit and loved it. As usual, I got to sample a slight bit of it, and the combination is excellent. Cheese and potatoes are never a bad idea, and with vegetables and bacon in there as well, a good idea becomes a great one.
I’ve said it many times, when you focus on only one thing, you become an expert at it. First Watch has taken that philosophy with breakfast, and it’s working. Even after expanding across the country, First Watch knows who and what it is, and holding that identity is what makes it great.
Time to go: Breakfast only. First Watch closes its doors at 2:30 p.m., opting not to serve anything past lunch. You have to make sure you’re here early.
Wait during my visit: Somewhat, but not too bad. It gets busy, but it does move quickly.
Location: First Watch is all over the country, but our visit was at 3712 Henderson Boulevard in Tampa, Fla.
Parking: It’s in a shopping center. There’s plenty of it.
Cost: Average. You’ll get out for about $7-8 a person.
Seating arrangement: It’s booths and chairs.
Website: First Watch