Egg-enthusiasts have been rejoicing for a while at the news of Cracked DC, a 24-hour, diner-style eggery scheduled to open by the end of this year. While Cracked has yet to close on a space (they are leaning towards the Shaw neighborhood), it’s certainly raring to go when it comes to food and design.
1. Expect menu items that sound ridiculous but taste awesome.
“Chef keeps bringing up these ideas that sound ridiculous at first but then they’re awesome,” managing partner Mike Tabb begins enthusiastically. “I’ve wanted to do some kind of diner-breakfast thing since college. This past fall, we all started hitting the ground with private tastings for different age groups.”
The “we” he’s referring to are his fellow partners for Cracked—Ross Brickelmaier, AJ Zarinsky, and Chef Alex buc. Their collective vision for Cracked is to have a 24-hour restaurant serving food that tastes delicious, feels indulgent but, in the end, is kind of good for you. While some of the sandwiches stay true to breakfast style—like The Mayor (egg, cheese, candied bacon), which a lucky few will get to try in April at New Kitchens on the Block—there’s plenty that “breaks the mold on the breakfast sandwich game,” Tabb explains.
There will be an “Asian-inspired” sandwich with sous vide pork belly, crispy rice patty, soy glazed egg, sriracha mayo, and kimchi. There’s also talk of a Green Eggs No Ham sandwich with chimichurri.
Patrons will have the option to get their sandwiches in bowl form either on greens or on grains. They will also be able to request or substitute various proteins, like sous vide pork belly, candied bacon, corned beef hash, and more. There will also be plenty of meatless options on the menu as well as a crispy burger.
The ideas that are fueling Cracked, might be ridiculous—and awesome—but they’ve also been diligently tested for the past six months across an extensive variety of audiences.
2. The breakfast-around-the-clock menu will be part comfort, part healthful.
“We read tons of studies on the viability of breakfast around the clock,” Tabb continues, emphasizing that their wide-ranging menu is all still very much rooted in the idea of breakfast.
“We tested with Solidcore instructors and some of their best clients. We did a bunch of friends and friends of friends ranging from 22 to mid-to-late 30s. We did private tastings in Arlington, Reston, the suburbs, the inner city. There’s a range of clients we think we appeal to and I think that’s the beauty of the food. The menu is diverse. It hits breakfast, lunch, dinner, and late night. But nothing is too out there.”
Based on these private tastings, the group made countless changes to their menu.
“We think it’s at a place now where it’s not super healthy, kind of classic, but kind of pushes the envelope,” Tabb says.
The group is proud of their diligent understanding of the market. “A lot of people do the focus groups or try the food product themselves but they’re not willing to change. We change,” chimes in Brickelmaier. “For instance, the bacon blend alone we’ve changed eight to ten times. I’ve lost count but we feel this iteration not only pleases us but also scores above an eight or a nine on each focus group.”
Cracked takes its take-out experiences as seriously as its in-house experience. “We make a bunch of extra sandwiches and take them home and let them sit for hours. Then, we heat it up and try it and make sure it’s good,” describes Tabb. “We don’t want the mayo to soak through or the lettuce to be gross. We don’t want to compromise the final product.”
3. Local farms will play a big role for sourcing ingredients.
Along with understanding what the people want, Cracked will also be heavily involved in the local farm scene.
“We’ve been looking at farms and trying different eggs,” Tabb eagerly shares. “What we’re excited about is how differently the eggs taste month to month and whether they’re farm-raised and free range and eating real food. We want the quality to be so noticeable that they sell themselves but we also want to educate customers on the responsible way to eat an egg. It’s important to know where your food comes from.”
Cracked will be partnering with a local distributer that has an entire network of local farms to source products from. “We will be working with many local farms, depending on the seasonal ingredients we have worked into the menu,” Tabb continues. “We imagine, as time goes on, we will develop closer relationships with some.”
4. It’s ready to rival all your favorite neighborhood spots.
The food isn’t the only aspect that the Cracked team has been diligently researching.
“Everything is designed to keep people coming back, including the color scheme, the furniture, the floor plan,” Brickelmaier says.
“Our competition isn’t just McDonalds or Starbucks or local places,” Tabb adds. “It’s also just breaking your morning habit of maybe just granola and yogurt. We want you to maybe skip that one day and give us a try. Hopefully you’ll come back for dinner or come to the bar or come in for a random night.”
Whether you want an in and out transaction, getting coffee and sandwich in hand within ten minutes, or just to relax in a local neighborhood spot, Cracked is working hard to provide both experiences seamlessly.
“Combined, we have about 50 years of food experience,” Brickelmaier continues. “We’ve been operators for such a long time; we’ve gone through the ringer. We keep saying we can do it better and now we’re ready to prove it. That’s what we’re really excited about. Putting all the research and effort and two years of work into real motion by putting a sandwich in someone’s hand.”