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In Dining

Headquartered in Bradenton, First Watch is the largest privately-held daytime-only restaurant company in the country. (PHOTO: FirstWatch.com)

In Dining

The first First Watch in Wisconsin is in the Brownstones Shopping Center at Bluemound and Calhoun Roads. (PHOTO: FirstWatch.com)

Florida's First Watch cafes arrive in Wisconsin


Mike Busalacchi grins when he says he is searching for reversible shirts. It would be handy to turn his clothes inside out around noon every day because with his son Vinnie he owns and operates franchises from two distinctly different national restaurant chains

The Busalacchis introduced First Watch, a breakfast and lunch cafe, to Wisconsin in April with the Florida-based company's first state outlet in Brookfield. One or both of the men are in the restaurant when the doors open at 7 every morning, often greeting customers as they enter.

Later in the day, father and son shift their attention to the three Culver's restaurants they own in Southeastern Wisconsin. They also are the franchisee of a Culver's in Hamilton, Ohio.

It's a trip from pancakes to frozen custard, taken every day.

Headquartered in Bradenton, First Watch is the largest privately-held daytime-only restaurant company in the country. It has 88 locations in 13 states. The Brookfield cafe is one of only a handful not corporately owned, but the 28-year-old firm is accelerating its franchising operation.

The initial Wisconsin unit is in a space formerly occupied by Chin's Asia Fresh in the Brownstones Shopping Center at Bluemound and Calhoun Roads. The Busalacchis are committed to opening five First Watches in southeastern Wisconsin in five years, and they expect to sign this week a lease for a spot in the Mequon Pavilions. That cafe is likely to be open by Thanksgiving.

First Watch is here because Mike Busalacchi has enjoyed dining in the restaurants while staying at his second home in Naples, Fla. "The first time we ate at a First Watch, an employe opened the door for us, and I thought the person was leaving," he said during a chat in his new eatery this week. He later learned company policy encourages a warm greeting being extended to customers.

"The restaurants are always clean and offer great service. The food is high quality. The menu emphasizes healthy eating. There are no fryers in a First Watch," Busalacchi said.

Free wi-fi and newspapers are available, and anyone who orders coffee gets a full pot on the table.

Every menu item is available during cafe hours, which are 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. "That means if you want a salad at 7 in the morning, you will get one," the new owner said.

Eleven omelets, ranging in price from $6.59 to $7.89, are served with potatoes and an English muffin. The varieties include the Gravy Train (bacon, sausage, onions, potatoes and cheese topped with turkey sausage gravy), the Bacado (bacon, avocado and Monterey Jack cheese topped with sour cream and served with a side of salsa) and the Killer Cajun (Cajun spiced chicken breast, mushrooms, Monterey Jack and onions, served with a Santa Fe dressing.)

The Chickichanga ($7.59) is a flour tortilla filled with whipped eggs, spicy chicken, chorizo, green chiles, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheeses, onions and avocado. It is topped with sour cream and Vera Cruz sauce -- Hollandaise with a kick -- and served with fresh fruit. Multi-grain pancakes, specialty pancakes, french toast and waffles are also on the menu.

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Talkbacks

DT | July 21, 2011 at 2:12 p.m. (report)

Downtown, please, too. Thank you. Looks great, though.

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DowntownRed | July 20, 2011 at 12:21 p.m. (report)

Love First Watch! I always visit them when back in Ohio to see family and I was excited when I heard they would be opening in Milwaukee. Went to the Brookfield location a few weeks ago and it was perfect. Now just open a location downtown.

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