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CRACK'D Kitchen & Coffee/VisitingNewEngland small business partnership - Local Small Business Stories

CRACK'D Kitchen & Coffee Brings "Eggs-Cellence" to Dining Scene in Andover, Mass.

How this north-of-Boston eatery has taken breakfast and lunch to the next level...

Oversized breakfast sandwich at CRACK'D Kitchen & Coffee in Andover, Mass.
Porcado Melt with cage free egg, cider pork, barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese, smashed avocado on whole wheat toast.

Article and photos, unless otherwise noted, by Eric Hurwitz. Article created on 2/27/2020.


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Some people love to rise at the crack of dawn to enjoy the moment before a peaceful world gives way to a faster pace. Danny Azzarello is one of the people embracing the crack of dawn (and earlier) but also loves the cracking of eggs to start the day -- so much, he named his Andover, Mass. restaurant, CRACK'D.

"The noise, the visual cracking of eggs is something I've always liked -- when you get up in the morning, go doownstairs and hear that noise," said Azzarello.
 
CRACK'D is all it is cracked up to be -- and then some. That cracking egg sound, the sizzling of the grill and the machines brewing aromatic coffee help set the familiarly wonderful morning tone for a one-of-a-kind breakfast experience that also extends throughout the day. It is a place to enjoy the staples of a classic breakfast place such as a huge breakfast sandwich or pancakes -- the latter served with real maple syrup instead of the ubiquitous, watery artificial versions. CRACK'D also transcends the most popular favorites by innovating at every opportunity. Cereal Milk Latte would be a great example of this creative commitment: Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal is marinated in milk for a half hour with the flavored dairy then extracted and infused into the drink!

Azzarello and co-founder Alan Frati -- a skilled, passionate and long-time local restaurant manager and corporate executive -- have taken a gourmet culinary-driven approach to their new restaurant, clearly avoiding laying an egg with just another breakfast and lunch spot. 

The CRACK'D co-founders have seen tremendous success with their eatery with up to 400 customers frequenting the business in one day. Still, they take nothing for granted.

"We are only as good as the last meal we cooked," said Azzarello. "We have a great thing going here and are always finding ways to be even better."

For starters, partnering with local companies reveals something special definitely going on here. Fresh cage-free eggs come from Maine Family Farms, an association of 365 farms in Maine. No expense has been spared to serve the best-tasting eggs as it costs CRACK'D $3.14 for a dozen. The eggs are delivered five days a week

"They have a nice orange color and a nice egg white -- not soggy," said Azzarello, of the eggs. "And you can taste the freshness."

Farm fresh Maine eggs at CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.
Farm fresh eggs. Photo source: CRACK'D Facebook fan page.

Iggy's Bread in Cambridge, Mass., delivers its delicious homemade breads seven days a week to CRACK'D in the form of Brioche, seven grain whole wheat, classic white and sourdough baguette.
The Applewood smoked bacon comes from North Country Smokehouse in Gilford, N.H.

A side of bacon from CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.
Smoked Applewood bacon.

"It's really the best bacon that money can buy," said Azzarello. "The taste is incredible!"

CRACK'D uses Vermont's Cabot Cheese and McCadam Cheese (
based in Chateaugay, N.Y. in the Adirondack Mountains near Quebec) for various dishes. Sugar Moon Sweets, in New Boston, N.H., delivers cookies and other sweets. Hometown Coffee Roasters in Manchester, N.H. supplies the freshly-roasted coffee.

Espresso from CRACK'D in Andover, MA.
A nice cup of espresso.

What It Feels Like To Be At CRACK'D

Located on a sunny side of Lowell Ave., the long, newly-constructed building brings in plenty of natural light from the windows, as well as plenty of customers looking to run on something more standard than local breakfast restaurant or fast food chain fare and drink.
The first impression hints at all the good things to follow with a full staff demonstrating efficiency and friendliness at the front order counter.

Ordering at the counter at CRACK'D Kitchen & Coffee in Andover, Mass.
Front counter at CRACK'D.

While waiting at the front, the long counter by the window or in the dining room area, the visuals lend a chicken-to-egg theme that validate the CRACK'D theme and brand. Hanging egg lights under high industrial ceilings brighten the scene...

Egg lights at CRACK'D Kitchen & Coffee in Andover, Mass.
Egg lights at CRACK'D.

while chicken wire lights lend further ambiance...

Chicken wire light at CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.
Chicken wire light.

A huge rooster and egg mural take up most of one wall...

Chicken and egg art at CRACK'D Kitchen & Coffee in Andover, Mass.
Appealing art work on a wall.

The open kitchen gives transparency to customers...

Open kitchen at CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.
A look at the open kitchen at CRACK'D.

and Azzarello works alongside his prized staff to guide, collaborate and keep things upbeat. By the way,
Frati's wife, Meghan (pictured above, right) works at the restaurant as does Azzarello's spouse, Emma, who he first met while working at Outback Steakhouse 15 years ago.

"It's so nice to have a great partner who understands your vision," said Azzarello, of Emma.


A superb communicator, manager and living proof that nice guys can finish first, Azzarello loves his work so much that often he smiles spontaneously with nothing more than recognizing the gift of life and the importance of enjoying the moment to motivate himself...

CRACK'D co-founder Danny Azzarello works the kitchen at his restaurant in Andover, Mass.
Azzarello in the open kitchen.

His upbeat tone translates to staff and customers -- even if the latter are eagerly waiting for their meals...

Kids at  dining room counter at CRACK'd in Andover, Mass.
Waiting for yummy meals.

"We prioritize the overall experience," said Azzarello. "From staff to customer, we want everyone to enjoy being here. That is most important."

And Now For The Feature Presentation... The Food (And Drinks)!

Breakfast and lunch sandwiches from CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.
Breakfast and lunch sandwiches from CRACK'D. Photo source: CRACK'D Facebook page.

CRACK'D offers a wide variety of egg sandwiches, bowls, plates and toast (including yummy pancakes), greens and grains, and sides like bacon, sausage, hash browns, sweet potato hash and scrambled eggs.

Lunch attains the high standards of breakfast items here, too. A prime example: The Deano 'The Butcher' (named after Danny and Emma's son, Dean) -- a huge steak burger with a cage-free egg, cheddar cheese, tomato, iceberg lettuce and BAM sauce (more on that shortly) on Brioche bread.

Burger with egg from CRACK'd in Andover, Mass.
Burger from CRACK'D.

The drinks list is ambitious, too, with house coffees, coffee drinks, smoothies, liquid desserts with a frozen yogurt base, and chillers like Passion Lemonade (passionfruit iced tea and lemonade).

Iced coffee from CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.
Iced coffee from CRACK'D. Photo source: CRACK'D Facebook page.

The drinks here are just as important as our food program," said Azzarello.

Pomagranate cider from CRACK'D in Andover, MA.
Pomegranate cider. Photo source: CRACK'D Facebook page.

Dishes like The Porker represent the gourmet greatness at CRACK'D. This amazing selection includes a cage-free egg, house-made sausage, maple mustard and caramelized onions on brioche.

The Porker from CRACK'D Kitchen & Coffee in Andover, Mass.
The Porker. Photo source: CRACK'D Facebook page.

Another worthy item: The Porcado Melt with cage free egg, cider pork, barbecue sauce, cheddar cheese and smashed avocado on whole wheat toast.
Let's take a look at this breakfast treasure again!

Oversized breakfast sandwich at CRACK'D Kitchen & Coffee in Andover, Mass.
Porcado melt.

Pancakes with fresh fruit, whipped cream and coconutmake for a most tempting dish...

Pancakes with whipped cream and coconut from CRACK'Din Andover, Mass.
Pancake dish. Photo source: CRACK'D Facebook fan page.

The Sunny Chorizo Bowl features a cage-free sunny egg, chorizo, spinach,  pepper and sweet potato hash, tomato, feta and onion...

Sunny chorizo bowl from CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.
Sunny chorizo bowl.

The Acai Super Berry Bowl is a masterful blend of acai, blueberry, strawberry, banana, granola, chia seeds and honey...

Acai Bowl from CRACK'D in Andover, MA.
Acai Bowl. Photo source: CRACK'D Facebook page.

The popular Avocado Toast consists of smashed avocado,  toasted cauliflower, honey sriracha, Narragansett feta (brined in salt water) and seven grain toast, while the Banana Toast has almond butter, banana, toasted almonds, chia seeds, honey and seven grain toast.

Avocado toast and banana toast from CRACK'D in Andover, MA.
Avocado toast and banana toast. Photo source: CRACK'D Facebook page.


The Country Mac and Cheese is a twist on the classic pasta dish. It contains cheese sauce, egg noodles, spinach, tomato, feta and bread crumbs.

Country Mac and Cheese Bowl from CRACK'D in Andover, MA.
The Country Mac and Cheese Bowl. Photo source: CRACK'D Facebook fan page.

CRACK'D also serves fresh salads like this Harvest Salad with spinach, kale, butternut squash, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, apples and cheddar cheese -- with maple mustard vinaigrette on the side.

Harvest Salad from CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.Harvest Salad.

Even the little things add up to something substantial. CRACK'D makes it own homemade sauces: cracked ketchup, maple mustard,  honey sriracha and "BAM!" which is a mix of all the three sauces plus relish. A sauce accompanies each meal.

Homemade sauces from CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.
Homemade sauces from CRACK'D

"It all kind of happened by accident," said Azzarello. "We mixed all three sauces together and thought, 'Hey, we got something here!".

The Road That Led To Opening CRACK'D

Danny Azarello at his restaurant, CRACK'D in Andover, MA.
Serving up a dish at CRACK'D.


Azzarello grew up in Medford, Mass., and started working in the restaurant industry at 10-years-old at his aunt's restaurant, Maria's in North Reading, Mass. He worked at Espresso Pizza in Medford during his teen years and then went right to work in the food industry after graduating Medford High School.

He worked at Outback Steak House and The Cheesecake Factory (including a valuable stint at its research and development facility in California.).
Azzarello built and honed his craft for more than a decade at Burtons Grill, Red Heat Tavern and Evviva Cucina (Westford, Mass.), all owned by Kevin Harron. Azzarello worked his way from sous chef to executive chef to culinary director.

"My business knowledge was gained at Burtons," said Azzarello. "Kevin is a very respected entrepreneur and gave me the freedom to build my career."

The CRACK'D concept was in the back of Azzarello and Fratis' minds for a few years with the thoughts of roosting a restaurant specializing in breakfast sandwiches that offered convenience with made-from-scratch food.

"Then, we just got to the point where we said 'Let's just do this!'" said Azzarello. "We knocked on a lot of doors and found investors who liked the brand and made sure they believed in us. It was certainly unique to the market."

After working on a detailed business plan for a year-and-one-half and seeing the vision turn to reality, CRACK'D opened in late March 2019. As a foundation to the fabulous food, Azzarello and Frati have fostered a small business that values a positive culture and energy, operational excellence, innovation and giving back to the community.

"It's all a matter of driving toward excellence," said Azzarello. "For Alan and I, it was important to have a staff that could become engaged in the work and culture here whether in high school or at 28 looking for a career. We want our employees to be healthy and have good benefits and enjoy life at work and outside work. We work with employees to empower themselves and be passionate, knowledgeable and friendly. That's a win-win for all of us."

Company philosophy at CRACK'D in Andover, MA.
The CRACK'D sense of work community, as stated on this wall.

Conclusion

Mother and daughter at CRACK'D in Andover, Mass.
Mother and daughter enjoy a meal at CRACK'D.

The CRACK'D concept is a brilliant one, paying close attention to every element that makes a highly likable restaurant. The partnerships with quality local businesses, the skill set to do something special with those foods and drinks, and the genuine, upbeat atmosphere amongst customers and staff virtually bring about a smile upon the first step into the eatery. Talk about a great vibe!

Good value for the money is an important reminder, too, that a strong business with a foot in the gourmet genre does not have to be greedy. So many places with the word "gourmet" charge whatever they feel like, all in the name of an upscale adjective and the mighty buck. Azzarello is more transparent and much kinder to his customers. As an example, he recently got a nice price break on hash browns and passed those savings along to the customer instead of opting to create a big profit for himself. At CRACK'D, the good values and character as just as transparent as the open kitchen.

The big menu with fabulous food that caters to everyone (including gluten-free offerings), an owner who truly cares about his employees and a lovable egg theme all make for a place that, to no surprise, has many people stopping by on a regular basis.

"Overall experience is so important to us," said Azzarello. "Look at the world today, how everything is instant. For us, we had to come up with something convenient while maintaining the quality. I believe we have achieved that and the customers really seems to be enjoying it here."

CRACK'D is located at 319 Lowell St. in Andover, MA. Tel. (978) 775-1775.

Web site:
https://www.crackdkitchen.com/

Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/crackdkitchen/
Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/crackdkitchen/

Hours

Monday - Friday 6:30 a.m.- 6p.m.

Saturday - 7 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Sunday 7 a.m. - 2p.m.

Parking garage available




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