If you’ve been following The Lowcountry Dish since we started covering Beaufort’s local food scene (can you believe it’ll be three years this summer?), then you know that we rarely cover chains. It’s not so much that we don’t like chains or frequent chains from time to time. It’s more that we are just lucky to have so many great restaurants, chefs, foodie stores, farmers markets and farmers that are owned and operated by wonderful people in our own community, that we rarely need to look further.

But sometimes, a chain comes along that makes us take notice. And, for us, First Watch fills that bill. We stumbled on our first, well, First Watch. in Marietta, Georgia, when we were with Cele’s mother visiting family. Looking for a place to have an early lunch before her mother flew back to South Florida, her mother suggested First Watch, in that she frequented it in her home city of Delray Beach and that they had a delicious kale salad. And who doesn’t like kale salad? Kale, yeah!

Once there, one of us—not naming names—was all set to order the kale salad, with house made maple-roasted carrots, warm sliced chicken breast, dried cranberries, slivered almonds and shredded Parmesan with a maple-lemon vinaigrette when they spotted a BELT on the menu. Now if you don’t know what a BELT is, it’s basically a BLT with a fried egg. Hence the BELT. However, it’s listed on the menu at First Watch as BLTE, which we suppose is the proper acronym. But BELT is so much more fun to say.

Anyway, we digress. One of us ordered the BELT and, frankly, she(oops) hasn’t stopped talking

Fresh Juices

about it with anyone that will listen (and even if they don’t). There’s something about the perfect combination of crisp/chewy bacon that is sweet, salty and spicy (more on that later), Monterey Jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, just the right amount of mayo and two fried eggs on First Watch’s luscious artisan whole grain bread. Our one caveat about this sandwich is that First Watch serves the eggs over hard, but if you like your eggs runny, by all means order them over easy, along with an order of extra napkins.

Two for You Combo

Which brings us to an interesting observation about one of Beaufort’s newest restaurants. First Watch is seriously committed to operational excellence. So much so, that they have created a “You First” culture that puts its employees first and empowers them to do whatever they need to do to make the customer happy. So, asking for over easy eggs instead of over hard on your sandwich is never a problem. Nor is holding the mushrooms on their Morning Market Veg Omelet or substituting kale for the spinach in the Power Wrap. Thanks to this empowerment and more, First Watch was named a Top 100 Most-Loved Workplace® in Newsweek by the Best Practice Institute in both 2022 and 2023.

Let us fill you in a bit about this fascinating chain before we get into the nitty-gritty. A ‘first watch’ is a nautical term that refers to the first shift of the day. Which is the perfect name for the chain, in that they specialize in breakfast, brunch and lunch menu items, and only serve from 7am to 2:30pm. First Watch was originally founded in 1983 in Pacific Grove, California and moved their headquarters to Bradenton, Florida in 1986. Today, they operate more than 520 restaurants in 29 states and employ more than 15,000 (happy) team members nationwide.

Although First Watch may be new to many folks, they’ve had a location on Fording Island Road in Bluffton since 2018, plus three locations in the greater Charleston area as well, before opening in Beaufort in the former Ruby Tuesday at Cross Creek Shopping Mall at the corner of Parris Island Gateway and Robert Smalls Parkway this past spring.

Featuring a chef-driven menu that is all made fresh toorder in a kitchen without microwaves, heat

Pesto Chicken Quinoa Bowl

lamps or deep fryers, First Watch also maintains a commitment to ingredients that follow the sun both in flavor and seasonality. According to one of the founders, they didn’t really start out as a healthy restaurant—some of their mainstays are bacon and biscuits, bless their heart. But they were committed to finding the freshest cage-free eggs, the best bacon, and seasonal produce whenever possible. And, with that, healthier food naturally followed.

In addition to their elevated executions of classic breakfast and brunch favorites—served in the dining room, at a small bar and outdoor seating, our First Watch also offers a rotating seasonal menu that changes five times a year. And all at price points that won’t hurt the wallet.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the tasty details. The menu starts with creative juices filled with fruits and vegetables that are as healthy to drink as they are beautiful to look at, like a Kale Tonic, Morning Meditation and Purple Haze. You can even boost your juice with a wellness shot of antioxidant-rich vitamins. They also have a small menu of brunch cocktails, including mimosas, Bloody Marys, sangria and spiked lemonade.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

First Watch serves lots of coffee (and creative iced coffee drinks), as expected, and they have created Project Sunrise, a partnership with small independent farmers in the Huila (“Weeluh”) region of Columbia that helps to support their sustainable coffee bean businesses and improve the conditions of the families tending the farms, while making a rich and complex cup of joe for First Watch customers. Gotta love coffee with a higher purpose.

Naturally, they offer the standard two eggs with breakfast meat and potatoes plate, but First Watch hangs their hat on creative egg-sclusive’dishes, like the Chickichanga (whipped eggs with spicy chicken breast, chorizo, green chilies, cheddar and Monterey jack, onions and avocado wrapped in a flour tortilla); an elevated egg sandwich (bacon, an over-easy egg, Gruyére cheese, smashed avocado, mayo and lemon-dressed arugula on a brioche bun); biscuits and turkey sausage gravy with eggs;and varied creative hashes topped with eggs. They’ve also got a half-dozen takes on inspiring omelets, along with unique frittatas and benedicts (did someone say BLT Benedict?).

Griddle options are equally interesting, from multigrain and lemon ricotta pancakes to Belgian waffles and custard-dipped French toast (the Floridian French toast smothered with bananas, kiwi and seasonal berries is a winner).

But First Watch really egg-cells on the healthier side of breakfast, with

avocado toast; healthy egg white turkey or tri-athlete omelets, an A.M. Superfoods Bowl (coconut milk chia seed pudding with fresh bananas and berries, mixed berry compote and house made granola with almonds, served with whole grain artisan toast with almond butter and Maldon sea salt—yum!); sunrise granola bowl; Power Breakfast Quinoa Bowl, which features quinoa, Italian sausage, house-roasted creminimushrooms and tomatoes (First Watch goes the extra mile and roasts all their vegetables to bring out their natural sweetness), kale, parmesan andlemon white balsamic dressing, topped with two eggs; Pesto Chicken Quinoa Bowl and more.

If your brunching leans more to the lunch side of things, you won’t be disappointed. From the Superfood Kale salad (Cele’s mother’s favorite)or chicken avocado chop salad to oversized sandwiches, like the aforementioned BLTE, Monterey club, turkey or veggie burger, market veggie sandwich, and heartier fare like roast beef and havarti or ham and Gruyére, as well as soups, there is a taste for everyone. Or go for the ‘2for You combos and get a little of both.

And, let’s not forget their seasonal menu, like shrimp and grits (they are talking our language with

Avocado Toast

sauteed Cajun shrimp and andouille sausage cooked Lowcountry-style with chicken stock, house-roasted tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and scallions atop Bob’s Red Mill cheddar parmesan cheese grits); Hacienda hash with chorizo, red bell pepper and potatoes; Hawaiian French toast (thick-cut, custard-dipped challah bread griddled and topped with caramelized pineapple, coconut whipped cream, caramel toffee sauce and spiced gingerbread cookie crumbles—oh my!); and holey donuts.

Two sides worth mentioning are their Million Dollar Bacon (think back to the BLTE), covered in a brown sugar, black pepper, cayenne pepper, maple syrup glaze and baked to perfection, as well as their seasoned potatoes that are par boiled and then pan fried to crispy perfection, with a generous coating of their not-so-secret First Watch seasoning.

Fortunately, once you are hooked on these dishes, you can make them at home, with the help of their First Watch: Yeah, It’s Fresh cookbook, which is available to purchase online or in-store. We’re betting that theMillion Dollar Bacon is going to become a mainstay in the Seldon household for breakfast, on top of our deviled eggs, in our Bloody Marys—you get the idea. And that secret First Watch seasoning isn’t much of a secret anymore, since it’s in the cookbook. You can also purchase their Project Sunrise coffee and house made granola at any First Watch location.

According to First Watch local manager, Cindy Terodemos, the Beaufort location has been a huge success since they opened, with working professionals at lunch and families and a robust after-church crowd on the weekend. “We see ourselves as a community gathering place for so many, across generations.”

Beaufortonians are gobbling up the 2 for You combos, waffles and the shrimp and grits (no surprise) from their limited-time seasonal menu, according to Cindy. For her money, however, she’s devoted to their Banana Granola Almond Crunch Pancake and Sweet Honey Pecan salad.

We’ve not been shy about stopping at First Watch on our travels and we are thrilled that they have come to Beaufort. We can hear the BELT calling our name.


First Watch

346 Robert Smalls Parkway

Beaufort, SC 29906


Daily 7:00pm-2:30pm



Beaufort-based travel journalists Lynn and Cele Seldon (www.seldonink.com) often cover culinary travel around the world and Lowcountry Weekly lured them to write a monthly feature covering the local food scene. This includes articles about restaurants, chefs, food-focused stores, farms, farmers, farmers markets, and more. They welcome suggestions for topics.