WICKER PARK — After a decade of running a food truck and restaurant downstate, Wilmette native Daniel Krause is bringing his breakfast spot — and its beloved tots — to Wicker Park.
Cracked: The Egg Came First aims to open by Oct. 1 in the space formerly occupied by Le Duck Food & Sweet Café, 1359 N. Milwaukee Ave.
The concept for Cracked was born during Krause’s sophomore year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign during an internship with Chicago-based Lettuce Entertain You. One internship requirement was to develop a restaurant concept, and Krause’s team beat out the other interns with their idea for an omelette bar.
“It validated what I thought was a really good concept,” he said.
While he wasn’t in the position to open a restaurant right away, he decided to pursue his breakfast dreams on a smaller scale to start: by making mini-omelettes and putting them on a bun. He teamed up with his best friend Jeremy Mandell and sold the breakfast sandwiches out of a food truck, making it easy for students to grab breakfast before class.
“It’s something I would have liked to have when I was going to class in the morning,” Krause said.
Krause and Mandell managed to get the truck up and running just months after graduating in May of 2012, after finding and renovating a truck, developing a logo, a menu and snagging the necessary permits.
They were able to launch a second truck two years later, with many headaches.
“If you got to the spot and you turned on your generator, water, the cooking equipment and refrigeration and it all worked that day, it was a g—amn miracle,” Krause said. “What was more likely was that any one of those things would probably break on any given day and then you don’t have a business that day.”
So, when the opportunity arose to open a brick-and-mortar location, he took it and opened Cracked on Green in Champaign with new business partners Elliott West and Lewis Nisbet. One food truck and Cracked on Green will stay open when Krause opens in Chicago, but the other food truck will likely close, he said.
Krause said he enjoyed his time in Champaign but was eager to get back to family and friends in Chicago. He now lives in Noble Square with his girlfriend and dog.
They looked at neighborhoods including Logan Square, Bucktown and Humboldt Park for the Chicago restaurant, but they eventually found a perfect spot in Wicker Park.
An after-bar crowd favorite in Champaign, Cracked on Milwaukee will serve late-night customers in Chicago as well.
“Late night is pretty big for us… We want to go back to that original model,” Krause said. “I grew up coming down here to Wicker Park and hanging out at night, so that felt like a good match.”
They’ll have regular breakfast and brunch hours, too.
“You’ll still be able to get a breakfast sandwich and tater tots at 2 a.m., but you can also sit down and have a nice brunch with your family on the weekend,” Krause said.
Aside from the quick-grab bites like tots and omelette sandwiches that made the business popular, the new spot will include sit-down service and brunch favorites like chilaquiles, biscuits and gravy and other plated food. They’re working on securing a liquor license as well.
Krause said he realizes they have plenty of competition from other breakfast-focused restaurants in the neighborhood, but hope they can stand out with late-night service. Also, diners can know they’re supporting a family-run operation. Aside from West and Nisbet, Krause’s other employees are his dad the CFO, his mom the publicist and his financial adviser brother.
“There’s a lot of great breakfasts out there, so I don’t want to trash these awesome places where I grew up eating,” Krause said. “But I think our personality is what we added to this concept of breakfast … We all take a lot of pride in what we do.”
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