First Watch brunch eatery wins new fans, raises money for charity

After enjoying breakfast with his wife and a friend at Macomb County’s second First Watch brunch eatery, Utica Mayor Thom Dionne considers himself a fan.

“I am now,” Dionne said Sunday afternoon. “This place is amazing — it’s next level.”

First Watch, which formally opens to the public on Monday, held a two-day soft opening over the weekend that also served as a fundraiser for Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids. Organizers said the charity was hoping for several thousand dollars in donations.

It’s located in a multi-tenant building east of BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse on Hall Road in Sterling Heights. The first First Watch is in neighboring Shelby Township.

First Watch specializes in breakfast and lunch dishes with a healthy twist.

Its menu is packed with a variety of egg dishes, waffles, omelets, power bowls, French toast, sandwiches and salads. Items include avocado toast, farm stand breakfast tacos, smoked ham and Gruyere cheese omelets, and multi-grain pancakes. There’s also the million dollar bacon, four slices of smoked bacon baked with brown sugar, black pepper, cayenne and a maple syrup drizzle.

Dionne, who works as a police officer in Grosse Pointe Farms, was enjoying a meal with his wife, Susan, and their friend Kelly Calandrino, wife of Utica Councilman Gus Calandrino.

The mayor said he’s trying to eat a more healthy diet and found First Watch’s menu “fits right in with what we’re trying to do.”

“The food is amazing and delicious,” Susan Dionne added.

The Florida-based chain invested more than $1.1 million into the 3,600-square-foot eatery, which has a modern rustic farmhouse feel to it.

On Saturday and Sunday, invited community members were waited on by 30 servers undergoing training. In return, organizers hoped the diners would make a contribution to Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids.

“We love giving back to the community. We felt like this was a great opportunity to partner with Yatooma’s Foundation to try to help them out a little and give back to them as well,” said Curtis Moore, the restaurant’s general manager.

The foundation has become a favorite of the First Watch community.

Yatooma’s Foundation for the Kids was started by Bloomfield Hills-based attorney Norman Yatooma in honor of his father, Manuel, who was murdered in a 1993 carjacking. The foundation provides support systems and financial assistance for youngsters who experience the death of a parent.

Foundation board members in attendance said they expected to raise about $3,000 from the First Watch event.

After enjoying a frittata rustica and a glass of kale juice, Katie Zacharzewski, a board member from Royal Oak, gave the food a thumbs-up.

“It’s very good, very healthy,” Zacharzewski said. “We are very thankful for everything First Watch has done to help us provide more for the children and families who have lost a parent. We’re always looking for ways to do more for our families.”

First Watch is at 14463 Lakeside Circle, Sterling Heights. Hours are 7 a.m.-2:30 p.m. seven days a week starting Monday. For more information, call 586-519-6900 or visit