Monday, November 15, 2010

First Watch: It's not Cora's but it's Pretty Darned Good

Is it fair to compare a restaurant in Altamonte Springs to one in Canada that most Seminolians will never visit? Maybe not but I'm going to do it anyways. Why? Because when I first heard about First Watch I immediately imagined Cora's. Ahhhhh...Cora's (*big happy sigh*). And truly, these two chains have a lot in common. They both started out small in the 1980s and then expanded throughout their respective countries. They are both breakfast/brunch/lunch places that don't do dinner. They have interesting menus with fresh, unique and fun items to choose from and they offer many healthy alternatives to the usual greasy breakfast fare. Note also the striking similarity between the Crepegg and the Crepomelette. They are different in one big way and it was this that caused my disappointment at First Watch: Cora's mounds glorious fresh fruit onto most of their breakfast items (here's one of my favorites from Cora's. And yes, the food actually looks exactly like this when it arrives at your table, no exaggeration at all). At First Watch, the food was lacking all of these bright colors and juicy flavors; it wasn't as pretty or as exciting. But, after my disappointment faded and I accepted that First Watch is not Florida's answer to Cora's, I did enjoy my meal; First Watch is not Cora's but it is pretty darned good.

The Altamonte Springs First Watch is spacious and bright with a large front window overlooking a treed parking lot. It has a clean and organized open kitchen that is fun to watch (less fun to listen to: There was a lot of banging going on). We were greeted warmly and seated promptly in the busy restaurant. A highchair and kid's menu were promptly offered for our toddler. The pot of strong rich coffee ($1.99 per person) that arrived at our table went into solid heavy mugs and was accompanied by many creamers, even a few International Delights flavors (our son promptly began building  pyramids). The menu was delightful to read since it contained many unique and tasty-sounding options. We particularly enjoyed reading the declaration of inalienable rights afforded to all breakfast people, especially #10: "The right to take your sweet time and enjoy every minute of your First Watch experience." The menu is lengthy and a tad overwhelming but it does offer something for everyone, containing the usual breakfast suspects (omelettes, french toast, waffles and pancakes) while also having some more unique breakfast choices (Crepeggs (where crepe and scrambled eggs meet), breakfast burritos and skillets), some healthy options (oatmeal, a fruit and yogurt parfait and an egg white burrito and egg white omelettes) as well as a variety of brunchier and lunchier salads, sandwiches and wraps.

I ordered the Burrito Vera Cruz ($7.49), my husband ordered the Traditional Breakfast (he's boring like that: bacon, scrambled eggs, potatoes. He did get a little wild by going for the english muffin rather than his usual white toast) ($6.79) and our son chose a pancake (we quietly asked the waitress to make that wheat germ rather than chocolate chip) and sausage ($4).

J's pancake was massive and massively fluffy. The sausage was thick and flavorful (I snuck a taste when he wasn't looking) with a hint of spicy heat. He wasn't as thrilled with the pancake as he usually is (maybe because of the wheat germ?) but he did gobble up the sausage.

My burrito was spectacular. It was full of scrambled eggs, chorizo, green chilies and cheesy goodness. The chorizo was not over-powering but offered a mild smokey flavor. Don't be afraid of the green chilies either since it wasn't hot at all. The Vera Cruz sauce poured over the burrito was creamy with a tangy vegetable taste. The Burrito comes with First Watch Potatoes and fresh fruit. You already know I was disappointed by the small amount of fruit (mostly melon) but I was also disappointed by the potatoes. They've trademarked these potatoes and I have no idea why. They seem to be basic, bland and pale, skin-on little rectangles of deep fried home fries. We were told however that there is no deep fryer on the premises. The homogeneous light brown color makes me wonder if they are deep fried somewhere else and then grilled or baked to warm them up. Actually, these potatoes remind me of home fries you buy in the freezer section at the grocery store. While the potatoes and the fruit were not very good, the burrito saved the meal and I would definitely order this again (but maybe I'd ask about side dish alternatives next time).

My husband was much less happy with his breakfast. Since he orders the same boring breakfast almost everywhere that we go, he is a bit of a basic-breakfast-connoisseur. He likes his bacon thick and meaty and cooked medium-well (not too crispy but not limp either). He likes his scrambled eggs to be a bit shiny showing that they're not overly dry. And, he likes his potatoes to be pan-fried hash browns. You can already guess that he was not a fan of First Watch Potatoes®. But he wasn't a fan of much else either. The scrambled eggs were not scrambled. Instead, the cook had made a plain omelette and then chopped it up. Scrambled eggs are meant to be slowly and lovingly stirred while they're cooking to give them a creamy melting texture. He was not impressed. (Note that he has also ordered the Traditional Breakfast at the UCF First Watch location before. They didn't even bother to cut up the plain omelette; it was served to him in one rolled up piece). The bacon was also a bit strange. It was a nice thick cut but was uniformly flat and crisp. The lines of fat were slightly orange and also crisp. This is the texture bacon has when it has been deep fried. However, as we know, they don't have a deep fryer at First Watch so it is unclear how they managed to achieve this undesirable bacon state. 

In sum, do try First Watch but while there don't be boring and order the Traditional Breakfast: Go wild and choose from one of their many many more interesting selections (oh, and avoid the potatoes and the bacon too!).

Savor it Seminole!

Restaurant Details:

Address: 249 W STate Rd 436, Altamonte Springs, FL, 32714
Phone: 407-682-2315
Hours: Everyday 7am-2:30pm (closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving)

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