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Bites Nearby: First Watch, The Daytime Cafe

Fresh ingredients distinguish breakfast/lunch offerings.

Overview:  

Open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every day except Thanksgiving and Christmas, First Watch serves breakfast/brunch and lunch. It has a "2 for You" lunch special from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. that includes a half-salad or half-sandwich or a cup of soup (choose two) for $6.89. There is a kid's menu.

First Watch is a restaurant chain that opened its first spot in 1983 in California. It now has around 100 restaurants spread across 13 states. The restaurants use only fresh ingredients, so some items may be seasonal.

Décor:

Bright and cheery, as you'd expect from a breakfast place. Lots of big windows. Large, primary-color paintings of fruits and vegetables. Very pleasant and very clean. 

The Drinks:

Coffee is served in a pot that is left at the table -- $2.29 for all you can drink. Water is served in small glasses with no added ice, but the pitcher of iced water is left at the table. The restaurant also serves tea, hot chocolate, milk and juices.

Breakfast: 

An extensive selection of breakfast items, including traditional eggs, Crepeggs (crepes combined with eggs), biscuits and gravy, frittatas and omelets.

There is one section called "Eggs-clusives" with very interesting items such as the Chickichanga (whipped eggs with spicy chicken, chorizo sausage, chilies and cheese) and Caps Etc. (sautéed mushroom caps topped with cheese). First Watch also offers pancakes, French toast and waffles.

On the "Healthier Side" there are egg white omelets, cholesterol-free offerings and vegetarian offerings. There are 16 sides available, including Pure Maple Syrup, which is available for an extra charge of $1.29 and comes in an adorable little bottle.

I have a friend who loves breakfast for any and all meals, so naturally I enlisted her for this review. She decided on a custom omelet, mushroom and cheddar cheese ($7.39), with one pancake on the side ($2.99). The pancakes are seriously delicious - crunchy around the edges and light and fluffy in the middle. The omelet was very good as well. They obviously used fresh mushrooms -- not the nasty canned stuff often found in omelets. Her omelet came with an English muffin and a side of home fries.

Lunch:

I opted for lunch since I'd already had my omelet for the day. Full disclosure -- I have eaten at First Watch more than once and never had a bad meal there. When they say their ingredients are fresh, they mean it. There is no wilted lettuce in their salads, their fruit looks like it was just cut up when you ordered it and meats are not flaked, formed, processed, or otherwise fake-seeming. They look and taste like meat.

On this particular visit I ordered the Chicken Salad Melt ($7.49) and a soup side. I am not normally a soup person, but I had a cold on this day and thought the Chicken and Rice soup would be comforting. It did more than comfort. It was like having your mom rub Vicks on your chest, tuck you in on the couch and turn on cartoons. It was hard not to lick the bowl. I would order it again even if I am well. In fact, I would make soup myself if I could make it taste like that.

The sandwich didn't go over quite as well, although I love chicken salad. The bread was burnt and, while the chicken salad was wonderfully fresh and contained real, chunked chicken, it is served open-faced. There are not really enough binders added to the salad to make it easy to eat with a fork.

The good news is that the chicken salad is a much healthier version than traditional chicken salad, which is generally creamy and gloppy thanks to mayonnaise binders. First Watch's version is also filled with water chestnuts, apples, raisins and celery, all intended to amp up the healthiness factor. I'm not saying it's not good, I'm just saying it's different from what you might expect.

To be honest, I don’t think it's the salad, I think it's me -- I like the traditional, unhealthy stuff with mayo and a little less fruit in my chicken salad. But the burnt bread? That’s all them. 

Desserts:

Who needs it? Order a chocolate chip pancake or a Belgian waffle with cinnamon sugar.

Service:  

Friendly and efficient. When I set my plate aside, however, the waitress asked me if I was done and I said yes -- AND SHE TOOK MY FRIEND'S PANCAKE! I was too surprised to react and my friend had her mouth full of pancake, which she wasn't done eating. She also wasn't very happy about it being snatched away. There could not have been any confusion as to the owner of the pancake. The pancake plate was right next to her omelet plate, so I don't know why the waitress took it.

Cost: $

First Watch - Cranberry

20424 Route 19, Suite 420. Tel: 724-741-0581

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