PANAMA CITY BEACH — A new year deserves a fresh start.
First Watch in Breakfast Point Marketplace serves breakfast and lunch, but you can order a salad for breakfast or an omelet for lunch if you like.
On Tuesday morning, I walked into First Watch and was greeted with friendly smiles and warm, yet modern, décor. I could see directly into the kitchen, with ingredients neatly displayed on stainless steel shelves, from Quaker Oats and Hershey’s chocolate syrup to San Pellegrino and Heinz ketchup bottles.
Coffeehouse music played in the background, with brightly-colored paintings of dishes and fruit — strawberries, peaches, pears and cherries — on the walls with natural light shining in through the windows. Although the customers were older couples and friends, at least one of whom was a return guest after her Strawberry Salad special three days earlier, First Watch also has boosters and high-chairs for younger diners.
I had good intentions of ordering from the Healthier Side section on the menu, but couldn’t resist the Bacado omelet, $8.49, with bacon, avocado and Monterey Jack topped with sour cream and served with a side of salsa that was tangy and refreshing. If you want more kick, a bottle of Cholula is at every table. Everything in moderation, right? With bacon and four slices of avocado, this was worth the indulgence.
“That’s our No. 1 omelet,” said franchisee Brad Dermond, who co-owns Sunrise Foods LLC with his brother, Keith Dermond.
Omelets are served with an English muffin and perfectly-seasoned, fresh potatoes, which are cooked with onions for a mix of tenderness and crunch. For the full menu and nutrition information, visit FirstWatch.com.
Dermond’s favorite “Eggs-clusive” is the Chickichanga: whipped eggs with spicy white-meat chicken, chorizo sausage, green chilies, cheddar and Monterey Jack, onions and avocado in a flour tortilla with Vera Cruz sauce and sour cream.
“Everything’s made from scratch, down to cereals, granola, seasonings,” Dermond said. “There are no fryers, no heat lamps, no microwaves. It’s fast-friendly service.”
The service was quick, but I was not rushed. Free Wi-Fi access is available, or guests can pick up a newspaper from the entrance console, to relax and sip on First Watch’s Sunrise Select Coffee. A whole pot was brought to my table, $2.29, perfect with a little Hazelnut creamer. (Take some of the flavor home with 12-ounce bags of the slow-roasted combination of Panamanian, Colombian and Mexican coffee beans.)
I couldn’t finish the pot of coffee or the meal, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. Guests can share meals at no charge; just ask for an extra plate.
First Watch, which has received more than 200 “best breakfast” and “best brunch” accolades, opened Oct. 29 at the beach, bringing the restaurant chain to 100 locations, 36 in Florida.
“It’s a 30-year concept. The brand is based in Sarasota. They have a strong foothold in Central and South Florida,” said Dermond, who is from Jacksonville, where he ran a Wendy’s franchise for 15 years.
This year, he has plans to open a second First Watch in the Destin area with a third location scheduled for 2014 in Fort Walton Beach.
“We’ve had a warm welcome so far,” Dermond said. “The weekends make up 45 percent of our business. On Saturday and Sunday, it’s game on.”
FIRST WATCH: The Daytime Café
Where: 11160 Panama City Beach Parkway (Breakfast Point Marketplace),Panama City Beach
Specialties: Pancakes,omelets, salads, sandwiches
Hours: 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily
To-go orders or details: (850) 234-5700 or FirstWatch.com