On Wednesday, we began a breakfast crawl, focusing on a half-dozen chains of breakfast-centric restaurants that have opened or added locations in Tarrant County this year (for more on that, as well as some nods to some local independents, see Wednesday’s post).
We continue with First Watch, a Florida-based company that acquired the Egg and I restaurants this year. That included seven in North Texas, including one in North Richland Hills and two in Fort Worth. One of the Fort Worth ones, however, is so close to the point where Keller, Watauga and Fort Worth meet that any of those cities could informally claim it. It also happened to be the one we visited.
The history: According to the First Watch website, “Back in 1983, there was no breakfast restaurant–focused category, really.” This may come as a surprise to those of us, like me, who spent a lot of time eating Grand Slam breakfasts at 3 a.m. in a Denny’s circa 1983, but of course Denny’s goes way beyond breakfast, so maybe focused is the key word there.
“Then the original First Watch opened from 7 a.m – 2:30 p.m. with the idea that people want a Breakfast, Brunch and Lunch restaurant that doesn’t moonlight with steaks or anything else later in the day,” the website continues.
There’s even a YouTube video about the chain’s history, which began in Pacific Grove, California (corporate offices are now in the Sarasota/Bradenton area on the west coast of Florida). The focus word comes up there, too. Because this is a “daytime cafe.” None of that 3 a.m. stuff here.
The vibe: A lot of restaurants these days go with “hipster rustic,” but in this case, I’d say it’s just rustic: Hardwood floors, walls so muted (aside from the specials chalkboard) that they don’t stick in my memory, and, at this location, a few Texas-centric touches, such as a Lone Star painting. Nothing here is over-the-top (well, maybe a food item or two is), and it’s all very relaxed. Servers were friendly, recommending several menu items, and food came quickly.
In Wednesday’s post, I noted a tendency among many modern restaurants to play music that’s incongruous to their atmosphere. That wasn’t a problem during my visit to the North Tarrant location, where a mix of soft country and soft pop played at a low but noticeable level. Annie Lennox and Al Green’s version of Put a Little Love in Your Heart played, as did a jazz-guitar version of Tequila.
In a nice little touch, First Watch offers complimentary copies of USA Today. They were positioned, however, in a place where I didn’t notice them until I was leaving. If you’re still into print newspapers, look to your left as you enter.
The food: The online menu is divided into these sections: Fresh Starts (fairly basic egg dishes), Omelets and Frittatas, “The Healthier Side” (avocado toast, granola/oats, egg-white dishes), “Eggs-clusives” (more elaborate egg dishes, and a couple of other twists), “Power Bowls” and “The Middle Griddle” (pancakes, waffles, etc.)
At the server’s recommendation (actually, one of several recommendations), I had the Farmhouse skillet hash ($9.79), two eggs any style atop potatoes, bacon, avocado, roasted onions and tomatoes, cheddar and Monterey Jack. It’s served with “whole grain artisan toast.” The artisan word can get a little silly, but the toast was artfully and beautfiully slathered with melting butter. No unwrapping a cold slab here.
The Farmhouse was good without being spectacular, over-easy eggs melting nicely into the hash below, with the avocado slices the standout among the hash. The server was persuasive about some of the juice concoctions, though, and one called the Morning Meditation ($3.99) was pretty terrific.
It had a head start with me, since it has much I like in it: orange, lemon and beet juices, with turmeric and ginger. If that mix pfruts you off, know that the citrus is the dominant flavor, with a slight sweetness from the beets and subtle savoriness from the turmeric and ginger (I usually prefer a stronger ginger hit, a la the ginger shot you can add to Spiral Diner smoothies, but this drink was a standout even without it). Coffee was pretty par for the course, but I did welcome the warm pot left on the table for self-refills.
Multigrain pancakes (one of the options is carrot cake, and the menu notes that they’re huge) and Floridian French Toast (“thick-cut brioche with wheat germ and powdered cinnamon sugar, covered with fresh banana, kiwi and seasonal berries”) will call me back, as will the mellow atmosphere.
The verdict: First Watch goes at this earnestly, with less flash than, say, Yolk in downtown Fort Worth. The menu is modest as these things go — the carrot cake pancakes are about as crazy as it gets. A pleasant place, and a worthy spot on the crawl.
First Watch, 8424 Lakewood Hill (off North Tarrant Parkway near Academy), Fort Worth, 817-427-3447. Locations also at 6333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth; and 9159 Boulevard 26, North Richland Hills. Also in Flower Mound, Richardson, Plano and Frisco. http://www.firstwatch.com. Hours: 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. daily; closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.