Smile Politely

The rise of Cracked: the egg came first

Most notably in campus culture, Cracked has become one of the most popular breakfast restaurants in town due to its accessible food truck as well as its brick and mortar store on Green Street. Personally, some friends and I have attended the truck parked outside of Uni High School a countless amount of times for tater tots. So, interviewing Daniel Krause, the founder of Cracked, was a true honor for me.

Throughout his interview, Krause gave some engaging stories of how the idea for the truck came about as well as details of the grueling behind the scenes work that happens in a shift of working the truck. Although his point-of-view explanation of working at the truck seems exhausting, there is no doubt that only the highest quality of food comes out of this dedication.

Krause also described the amount of support Champaign-Urbana has been able to provide in order for the brand to be so successful. He shared his love and respect for the community that allowed his concept of an omelette bar to be turned into such a heartfelt success in the eyes of all that inhabit campus. As Cracked has become one of the staple Champaign-Urbana restaurants for university and high school students around town, there is no doubt that its legacy will live on forever through its savory breakfast foods and charming egg-lettered logo.

The owners, Daniel Krause and Elliott West, pose in front of Cracked's Green Street location. Photo provided by Cracked.

Daniel Krause (left) and Elliot West. Photo provided by Cracked.

Smile Politely: Hi! Could you introduce yourself?

Daniel Krause: Daniel Krause, owner and founder of Cracked: the egg came first.

SP: Could you describe how Cracked was started, and who started it?

Krause: Cracked was started as an internship I had for Lettuce Entertain You as a   sophomore in college. I created the concept during a concept competition amongst the interns, and we ended up winning the competition. At that point the concept was more of an omelette bar. When college was ending, I asked one of my best friends if he was interested in opening up a food truck with the concept I created at the internship. He took some convincing, but after a little nudging, he agreed to do this with me.

I took the original concept of “Cracked” the omelette bar and turned it into a breakfast sandwich concept. As a former student, we noticed a gap in quick, easy to eat breakfast food in certain parts of campus and decided we would post up at the engineering quad with the truck. We spent our entire second semester senior year working on the concept and building the truck. We spent our weekends driving to Chicago and working on the truck along with putting together a corporation and a more concise menu that we would serve. We graduated in May of 2012, finished the truck by July, and opened for the first time for friends and family on August 2nd in 2012.

A paper basket of fried tots covered in cheese and bacon is held by a white hand over a gray wooden floor. Photo provided by Cracked.

Photo provided by Cracked.

SP: How did the name ‘Cracked: The Egg Came First’ come about?

Krause: I wanted something short and to the point. Also, I had the logo kind of already designed in my head and loved the idea of using eggs for letters.

SP: Cracked has a large presence in the campus culture in the CU. How did it become such a large part?

Krause: We just put the truck everywhere when we first started and wrapped the truck in a design that you can’t possibly miss. We’d work 14-16 hour days in those first couple years. Working breakfast and lunch, going back to clean and restock, and then we’d go out to the bars late at night. It was a pretty unsustainable lifestyle, but it really made the brand explode on campus and around town.

A breakfast sandwich with cheese, egg, and hashbrowns is held above a platter with parchment paper and additional, identical breakfast sandwiches. Photo provided by Cracked.

Photo provided by Cracked.

SP: What’s your favorite item on the Cracked menu?

Krause: Probably the Morning Bender sandwich with bacon and autumn berry jam.

SP: What’s the most popular item on the Cracked menu?

Krause: Either the Morning Bender or the Hungry Chief.

SP: What’s your favorite thing to make from the menu?

Krause: French toast bites.

SP: Could you describe what it’s like working in the C-U food truck? What’s a typical day like?

Krause: It’s either really hot or really cold. There is no in between on the food truck. It’s always been a lot of fun, though. Especially when the person working next to you is having a good time also. The food always tastes a little bit better, and time goes by a little faster when the music and vibes are good.

SP: What would you say is the most unique thing about Cracked?

Krause: It’s still very much family-owned, and all of the owners work either in the restaurant or food truck. I think our attitude toward food and service also makes us unique. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, and I think that comes off in our service and our brand.

A breakfast sandwich with bacon, cheese, and egg is in focus with the background of Cracked's Green Street location in the background. Photo provided by Cracked.

Photo provided by Cracked.

SP: Can you talk about the Green Street location of Cracked?

Krause: It came about after one of my trucks died right in the middle of a lunch rush. After about 5 years of doing the trucks, it was time for a change. The trucks are great, but they’re completely exhausting and break down constantly. It was hard to make money when every other day you are closed because of a generator being down or a fridge not working. I decided then that we should open a brick and mortar to have a location that people and ourselves could truly rely on.

SP: What are some changes Cracked has experienced due to the coronavirus and restrictions from the Governor?

Krause: We’ve made the same changes most restaurants in Illinois were forced to make. We did carryout and delivery only. Everyone is always wearing a facemask. Carryout lines are now 6 feet apart. We encourage people to call in orders ahead of time and pay with credit cards instead of cash. It has not been an easy road. Keeping the stores and truck running during COVID has been the hardest thing we’ve ever gone through.

I’m just so grateful for all of our amazing friends, family, and customers who have continued to support us through this time. From supporting our Gofundme campaign to buying gift cards, the community has been amazing.

SP: How can C-U get their Cracked fix right now?

Krause: Our Green Street store is open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., seven days a week. The address is 619 E. Green Street. You can also find us on UberEats. The food truck is at the Farmer’s Market at Lincoln Square every Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.

A breakfast sandwich with egg, cheese, bacon, Canadian bacon, and hashbrowns is in clear focus with a yellow background. Photo provided by Cracked.

Photo provided by Cracked.

SP: Anything else you’d like to share with our C-U readers?

Krause: C-U, thank you for your continued support over the years. We love you all,
and we can’t wait to be on the other side of this with you.

Cracked: the egg came first
619 E Green Street
8 a.m. to 2 p.m., daily

Top image provided by Cracked.

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