Watch out for First Watch: Charlottesville’s new brunch option

First Watch is a new spot for pre-football game brunch cravings this fall

first-watch

First Watch has a fitting atmosphere that aligns with its advertised healthy, homemade and natural options.  

Maggie Trundle | Cavalier Daily

College students love brunch. There is nothing like waking up on a Saturday or Sunday morning and heading to a favorite brunch spot with a group of friends. Charlottesville has plenty of standout spots, including Fig, The Virginian and The Villa. This past spring, Charlottesville was gifted its very own First Watch restaurant, a healthy brunch chain. Its convenient location, amiable atmosphere, reasonable pricing and diverse appeal are reasons why First Watch should be added to all brunch bucket lists. 

Accessibility

The establishment’s location in Barracks Road Shopping Center makes First Watch an easily feasible stop via a roughly 5-minute drive, a 30-minute walk from dorms, a short bus ride or an inexpensive Uber. Its close proximity to the other storefronts in Barracks also helps make brunch and grocery shopping in the same outing easier than ever. First Watch is also wheelchair accessible. 

I went to First Watch on a Monday a little before noon and had no issues with parking or waiting for a table. However, brunch time on weekends can get chaotic. I have experienced long waits and difficulty finding parking on Saturdays or Sundays around noon. When you have that healthy brunch craving and want to try First Watch, be aware of the time of day and how hungry you are — you may have to wait!

Atmosphere

First Watch has a fitting atmosphere that aligns with its advertised healthy, homemade and natural options. The building is designed with simple but modern pieces and plenty of booths, tables and seats at the bar. If you are in need of a little sunshine and fresh air, there is an outdoor patio with ample seating.  

While this isn’t a problem during weekdays, the restaurant can get quite noisy with lively chatter, clinking glasses and the usual sounds of a bustling restaurant. Consider potential noise levels before you try to dine with your grandparents during peak hours. First Watch is open every day from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., so try to find the optimal time to brunch without the hectic crowds. 

Affordability

For a restaurant that markets healthy food, I think the prices are relatively affordable, as most meals fall around $10. Healthy establishments closer to Grounds like Corner Juice and Juice Laundry are just as pricey, if not more. As healthy restaurants tend to be on the pricier side, I think you will definitely get a bang for your buck at First Watch. The A.M. Superfoods Bowl was $8.99, relatively comparable to a Corner Juice smoothie bowl. However, I think the smoothie bowls from Juice Laundry and Corner Juice taste fresher, juicier and offer a greater variety of flavors — although, you do get formal, sit-down service at First Watch.  Additionally, the A.M. Superfoods Bowl is chia-pudding based, while the smoothie bowls at Juice Laundry and Corner Juice are more fruit-based. 

Appeal

I went to First Watch with my mom and my brother, so I tried a few things off the menu. It offers everything you could ever want from a brunch menu — while they market themselves as a healthy and naturally-sourced eatery, there really is something for everyone. The menu includes pancakes and waffles to satisfy those with a sweet tooth, as well as more traditional breakfast options like eggs, bacon and potatoes. 

I ordered the Healthy Turkey Omelette at $9.99 — an egg white omelette with turkey, spinach, onions, tomatoes and Feta with a side of whole grain toast. Although it was very simple, this omelette felt healthy and flavorful without seeming overstuffed. This option would definitely be great for someone who prefers a simple and lower calorie option.

My mom ordered the A.M. Superfoods Bowl filled with coconut milk-based chia pudding, topped with bananas, strawberries, blueberries, blackberry preserves and homemade granola. This came with a side of whole grain toast with almond butter and sea salt sprinkled on top. Almond butter is less salty than peanut butter, so I thought the sprinkle of sea salt was a nice touch. This option is perfect for anyone who prefers a sweeter, more fruit-based breakfast. Chia pudding is a great, healthy way to start the day as it is packed with antioxidants and quality protein. First Watch’s large portion size is very filling.

The best thing I tried was the $4.99 “Million Dollar Bacon.” This side dish consisted of thick and well-cooked strips of bacon cooked with brown sugar, black pepper and cayenne, finished with a maple syrup drizzle. The syrup wasn’t overpowering but helped add sweetness to the salty bacon alongside the brown sugar glaze. 

When you’re first seated at First Watch, the servers bring out both water and a pot of hot coffee to the table, which is a nice touch for caffeine-lovers. Unfortunately, when we ordered a green juice to review, they never brought it out. As we walked out the door, I realized that we had still been charged for the juice. This attests to the service, which has fallen short of my expectations on all three occasions I have been. However, it has never truly taken away from my experience, and the servers are as friendly as can be. Overall, First Watch is a worthwhile brunch stop this upcoming semester.

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