For the partners at Cracked Eggery, the recipe for every yolk-dripping sandwich starts with the same question: “What if?” As in, what if they made a BLT with a fried egg and the bacon they cure themselves on their sturdy challah bun? What if they used a fried green tomato? What if they added pimento cheese? AJ Zarinsky, the culinary lead of the operation, will then take the idea and run with it. In the case of the Southern Charm sandwich, that meant testing recipes for the cheese- and mayonnaise-based dip, then piling arugula and lemon aioli atop the aforementioned ingredients.
Inventive egg sandwiches like that, along with bowls built on tots or veggies, have generated lines for the Cracked food truck since it first hit the D.C. streets in January 2020. While navigating the COVID-19 pandemic in its truck, Cracked has been preparing to open its first restaurant location. The Cleveland Park shop (3420 Connecticut Avenue NW) takes over the the former home of short-lived Tino’s Pizzeria. It officially opens Friday, September 10.
At the new shop, co-owner Mike Tabb says, Cracked will show off the cumulative results of all its sandwich experimentation between himself, Zarinsky, and co-owners Ross Brickelmaier and Donald Patterson. While the food truck typically offers up to nine sandwiches and two bowls at a time, the menu (full version below) at the new Cracked Eggery will offer a choice of 15 sandwiches and six different bowls, as well as sides of tots in nine different savory or sweet spice combinations — think everything from ranch, sour cream and onion, and honey barbecue to cinnamon and sugar. Aside from a new Paulie Cicero sandwich, which features prosciutto, fried egg, ricotta, sun-dried tomato pesto, arugula, Parmesan, and Mike’s Hot Honey, every one of the sandwiches at the restaurant should be familiar to regulars.
“Everything has gone through the truck for a least a month or two,” Tabb says, allowing the partners plenty of time for R&D.
Cracked has already been regularly parking its truck in front of its restaurant space in Cleveland Park. The company got its start as a stall at the Northwest neighborhood’s farmer’s market, so it already has a customer base there. When it opens, the shop will start operating from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tabb says dinner hours will likely follow soon. “Everyone looks at us like, ‘It’s breakfast sandwiches,’ and we try to stay away from that word and just embrace the food at all times.”
Tabb says he’s always loved diners, which serve as an inspiration for Cracked. In addition to bacon, the brand builds sandwiches with patties from Alexandria-based Logan’s Sausage, pulled pork, or chorizo. The Bubby comes with smoked salmon, fried egg, red onions, a caper tapenade, cream cheese, and an everything spice mix. There’s also a double bacon cheeseburger built with two Pat LaFrieda beef. Some bowls feel more appropriate for lunch or dinner, like a sushi rice- and sous vide pork belly-based Seoul Mate, or a Brussels sprouts Caesar with challah croutons.
The Cracked partners aimed to infuse an undercurrent of ’80s nostalgia into the design of their Cleveland Park shop, which explains the hot pink cursive script on a poster that reads, “Simply Irresistible.” On the ceiling, neon shapes reflect symbols of bacon and eggs that Tabb likens to the compnay’s “emojis.” A glowing sign that spells out #BIGEGGENERGY is a prime example of Instagram bait. “We got so sick of taking food pictures in front of our truck and on the street, it was a whole new way to find cool little angles to work stuff in,” Tabb says.
While preparing to open a Cleveland Park location, Cracked Eggery is also building a Shaw outpost that will eventually run 24 hours a day near the 9:30 Club. Tabb says the company is hoping to open that restaurant, located at 1921 Eighth Street NW, by the end of October.
At both locations, Tabb is looking forward to providing a little shelter for “diehard” customers. “In a truck it’s like, is it raining? Is it hot? Is it cold?” Tabb says. He’s looking forward to serving sandwiches hot off the griddle, and seeing visitors sit down to eat, rather than taking them back home.
Updated Wednesday, September 8, 1:20 p.m. This story has been updated to include the official opening date