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FIRST LOOK: The Crack Shack

Team behind Juniper & Ivy launches an all-day breakfast joint

By Troy Johnson | Photography by Paul Body

“It’s beautiful, even more beautiful than Juniper & Ivy,” says chef Richard Blais. We’re sitting in our trailer on the set of “Guy’s Grocery Games,” which we’re filming right now for Food Network. Our trailer has kale chips in it, and dumbbells (one of us exercises between takes and it’s not me). We’re discussing The Crack Shack, the newest project from Blais, one of the country’s top chefs, and J&I owner Mike Rosen.

It may not seem like a big project. It’s located in the same parking lot as their flagship San Diego restaurant, after all. So why all the excitement?

First, breakfast is a bastardized meal. For years, chefs have stayed away because of the exhausting hours (set the alarm for 3AM), the low check total (people expect to pay much less over coffee than they do over wine at dinner) and the lack of alcohol sales in the morning (alcohol sales are how many restaurants survive an industry with a low profit margin).

And so, San Diego has a dearth of sexy breakfast options. Crack Shack joins a handful of joints (Hash House, Snooze, Isabel’s Cantina, etc.) changing that.

It opens tomorrow, November 11. It’s 4,000 square-feet. It fits 150. Designed by Bluemotif Architecture, it lets that golden and expensive San Diego sun flood the place. It has a name that sounds like Ronald and Nancy Reagan would wage war on it. In a trend that seems here to stay, you’ll order your food at the counter. It has a bocce ball court. It’ll be open from 7AM to 10PM everyday. It’ll handle the spillover from the always-packed Juniper & Ivy. There’s also a parking spot for pickup orders.

The food? Chicken and eggs (sandwiches, fried chicken, salads, etc.)—and, unlike many high-volume breakfast joints, it’ll be GOOD chicken and eggs. Free-range chickens from California, organic Jidori chickens for fried chicken. Mary’s Chicken. Shelton Chicken. Organic eggs. The chicken is one of America’s most badly treated animals, pumped with antibiotics and riddled with disease because of the nightmare that is industrial chicken farming. Crack Shack posits itself as the antithesis of that.

The menu will have chicken sandwiches like The Royale (chicken sausage, sunny side egg, smoked cheddar, English muffin), the King of Queens (soft scramble, avo, cotija cheese, pickled red onions on a poppyside Kaiser), Coop Deville (fried chicken, pickled Fresno chiles, lime mayo, Napa cabbage on brioche) and even a Chicken of the Sea (wood-fired albacore, passionfruit aioli, black kale on a sprouted grain brioche).

The fried Jidori chicken will come with two slaws: a Border Slaw (papaya, mango, jicama, coconut, chile and lime) or a Classic Slaw (shredded kale and cabbage, agave mustard, celery seed dressing). They’ll also have salads like the Kale Caesar, Baja Chop (avo, radish, cotija, cilantro, charred poblano dressing), a Thai Cobb.

At each table will be six sauces for you to dress as you please: chimichurri, Baja hot sauce, curry mustard, buttermilk ranch, kimchi bbq and “Cracksup.

Drinks? Wine on tap. Craft cocktails. Also craft sodas and not-so-craft drinks like lemonade, Stubborn (Pepsi’s new craft soda line), even Red Bull. Take that, craft snobs.

Dessert? Welcome back to fast-food childhood with housemade soft-serve ice cream (smoked vanilla, a soft-serve du jour), that you can top with jimmys, smoked nuts or Rice Krispies.

Small, with a compact menu and progressive food ethics when it comes to the main ingredients, Crack Shack could become the McDonald’s for the foodie generation. Expect hundreds of them nationwide if this proves as successful as it looks from the start.

And now, please enjoy San Diego Mag’s first photos of The Crack Shack.

FIRST LOOK: The Crack Shack

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