First Watch, 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd, Ste 280, FW. 817-731-3447. 7am-2:30pm daily. All major credit cards accepted.
Maybe the best description I can give of First Watch is that my parents have been eating there for years. The Florida-based brunch chain has had numerous locations across the country, but only recently has it made its way to the cozy confines of Tarrant County after establishing a beachhead on the far side of Dallas a while back. With its rough-hewn wooden interiors, plentiful sunlight, music playing at low volume to facilitate conversation, and 2:30 p.m. closing time, the place does give off a definite older-person vibe. The contrast with the aggressively hip demeanor of Snooze A.M. Eatery could not be more pronounced.
And yet, when I visited the place’s Fort Worth locations (one on the Northside and another in the Village at Camp Bowie), I found plenty of young people. That’s because the chain manages to keep up with food trends, emphasizing healthy fare without shortchanging the IHOP crowd that wants their comforting pancakes and bacon. Why, they even have avocado toast. This eatery is only as stodgy as you want it to be.
I should say that my parents don’t care for the pancakes here, because they prefer their flapjacks pillowy, the way IHOP tends to do them. Me, I tried the lemon quinoa blueberry pancakes that were on the spring menu and found the texture from the trendy grain quite pleasing in this context, with the flavors coming together well. Sadly, these are no longer available, but most of the pancakes on the menu are multigrain, and if you crave the tartness of citrus, the lemon ricotta pancakes are mainstays that will make a good substitute until spring comes around again.
Instead, seasonal items for summer include the Million Dollar Bacon, baked in brown sugar and drizzled with maple syrup and chives. Now, any 5-year-old can figure out that maple syrup and bacon go well together. The defining touch was the cayenne pepper, providing some subtle heat to contrast with the richness of the smoky meat and the sweet syrup. The attention to detail here lets you know that you’re in good hands.
More spectacular was the Floridian French toast, which is piled high with kiwi fruit, seasonal berries, wheat germ, and cinnamon sugar. I have found no evidence that actual Floridians are partial to taking their French toast this way, but who cares when the result is so delicious? The brioche is a decadent base for the dish, while the plethora of fruit (enough to put Carmen Miranda’s hat to shame) will make you feel good and wholesome for eating it. Like all their pancakes and waffles, this comes with a side of berry compote that provides a little tart note.
On a recent visit, my guest was in more of a mood for lunch than breakfast, so he ordered the Monterey Club Sandwich and found turkey breast that was warm and moist like it had just been sliced fresh out of the oven. The meat was right in the sweet spot, not dried out like cold cuts from the refrigerator but not so moist that it dampened the bread. I preferred my roast beef and Havarti sandwich.
Unlike Snooze, First Watch does not serve booze, nor does it have a TV. However, all the kitchen’s eggs are cage-free, and the coffee is grown on small farms in Colombia, for which the chain says it doles out a fair compensation. If you’re on a juicing kick, the restaurant can accommodate you with a kale tonic or a Morning Meditation drink colored by beets and flavored with orange and lemon juices and various spices. Practically the only thing missing here is kombucha. All of this comes at a price point that’s competitive with the major chains, to say nothing of Ol’ South Pancake House. Whether you’re looking for a chia seed pudding superfood bowl or an old-fashioned bacon-and-egg skillet, First Watch will give you a relaxing start to your day or a welcome break from a busy one.
Lemon ricotta pancakes $9.79
Floridian French toast $9.79
Million Dollar Bacon $4.99
Monterey Club Sandwich $9.89
Morning Meditation $3.99