When the Maitland First Watch closes after lunch on Sunday, Harriett Issertell will lose the place she has eaten at several times a week since the daytime cafe first opened in 1993. Issertell, whom everyone calls Miss Harriett, dines at the popular breakfast and lunch cafe almost every day. In fact, I reached her by phone Friday as she was leaving First Watch.
Miss Harriett, 85, a teacher and reading coach, has some menu favorites that she goes to, and the staff all know just how she likes things done. “I have the french toast, double dipped,” she says, “the waffles, the blueberry muffins.” And she considers the restaurant a home away from home. According to staff members, she’ll come in by herself on weekdays with her books and spend some time reading. On weekends, she’ll come in with friends from her church. “I always love Saturdays and Sundays,” she said.
She has seen a lot of staff come and go but noted one constant: “They’ve always been good, no matter who takes care of you. They’ve all been courteous.”
The Maitland First Watch, the oldest location of the Florida based chain in Central Florida, is closing in anticipation of a new location, just down the road in Winter Park, which will fire up its griddles on March 1 following an egg-breaking ceremony by local dignitaries.
Miss Harriett is bound to be there. “I know just where it is,” she said. “It looks great.”
When Miss Harriett visits the new location, designed to be a flagship restaurant and prototype for future stores, she’ll find a more spacious dining room with a modern decor instead of the farmhouse decor that has been the style for so many years. Less rough-hewn, more polished.
Instead of peach basket lamp shades there will be egg-beater light fixtures.
A mural inside the front door, painted by Angela Delaplane, a professional artist who travels the country personalizing First Watches with a touch of local flavor, will feature a brightly colored peacock.
The new location will also have expanded outside dining, something missing from the old location, and an inside/outside bar that will serve the restaurant’s curated cocktails. Alcoholic drinks are a recent addition to First Watch’s menu, having been test-marketed in a few locations, including the Waterford Lakes FW.
One of the prototype features of this First Watch is a separate entrance for customers and food delivery drivers to pick up orders to go. What’s more, those orders will be cooked on a line separate from where the food is prepared for those dining at the restaurant.
Most of the staff will transition from the Maitland store to Winter Park, including Ron McCoy, who will celebrate his 25th year in March as the dishwasher in Maitland. And before you gasp, “Twenty-five years without a promotion?” you should know that McCoy is very happy with his position.
“I’m able to meet a lot of people and I give them good advice,” said McCoy, 56. “The other employees look up to me and call me the wise man.” He said that he’s had people come to the restaurant and say, “Wow, you were working here when I was nine years old.” And now some of those people are working alongside him.
McCoy said he has not yet seen his new dish station at the Winter Park location, but he’s looking forward to it.
First Watch will have a friends and family event on Feb. 26 and 27 by invitation only and with proceeds going to Second Harvest of Central Florida. To apply for one of the slots that weekend, visit the First Watch website.