New food truck 'Cracked' rolls out budget-friendly gourmet

This month, two University of Illinois alums rolled a new eatery to campus that serves up gourmet-quality breakfast items to Illini on the go. Founded by Daniel Krause and Jeremy Mandell, who graduated in 2012, Cracked is the newest addition to the growing food truck community in Champaign-Urbana.

Parked at Mathews Avenue and Stoughton Street in Urbana, the truck’s menu includes breakfast sandwiches, hot dogs, veggie wraps, sides and beverages. Cracked is open Monday through Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. with late night hours from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Monday, Friday and Saturday.

Just two and a half weeks into the business, Krause and Mandell have come to expect the unexpected on a day-to-day basis.

“There’s just so many uncontrollable variables in the business,” said Krause. “One or two things will go wrong whether you like it or not.”

Krause has learned the only way to get past these variables is to deal with them one day at a time.

“Today, our propane was acting up so we couldn’t start our deep fryer, so that slowed down all of the ticket times,” he said.

“Without propane we can’t run the grill, the double burner or the deep fryer, so it just really slows you down until you fix it.”

These initial struggles have quickly given Krause and Mandell insight into the challenges of owning a business.

“It’s the things you don’t know about that are the hardest,” said Krause. “Every day, you take care of one thing that pops up and then 10 more things pop up on you. You realize that your already 10-hour day of working now is a 14-hour day.”

After building the truck and overcoming various obstacles related to starting a new business, Krause and Mandell faced their reality at the beginning of August when Cracked opened its doors ... or window on the side of the truck.

Whether they need more products or forget to buy receipt paper for their grand opening, the pair had to figure out a few things. But with all challenges comes reward.

“It’s been hard, but it’s been really fun,” said Mandell. “We get to fix something that directly relates to our business and ourselves versus working for some other company where you do a daily job and you don’t really see the rewards from what you do.”

Mandell has also learned that even with hours of planning, when they actually got into the truck, they still had a few things to map out.

“We created the kitchen and we mapped it out months ago,” said Mandell. “Since actually being in the kitchen, we had to figure out how to actually create the system to take orders, to keep track of orders, to send them out, to wrap the sandwiches, to ‘where’s the bread going to go?’”

Though Mandell and Krause strive to improve every day, their food truck has received positive reviews from the Champaign-Urbana community.

Danny Brietberg, another University alum, had a great experience with the Cracked truck.

“I would say that food trucks have a stereotype for offering pretty basic food at a low price, but what Cracked has is the fact that you are getting gourmet food for a complete fraction of the cost,” he said.

With a unique spin on the basic egg, Cracked is able to offer customers a sandwich they can’t get at home.

Now preparing for the flocks of returning students this fall. Krause and Mandell will be dishing out their breakfast items day and night, serving students beyond last call.

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