Situated at the far end of the famous Mad Bowl field lies an eye-catching orange car trailer. At first glance, one might not think much of this little shack and assume that it belongs only to the members of the adjacent Phi Kappa Psi fraternity. The latter is partially true — the fun-sized food truck was founded and is operated by the brothers of Phi Kappa Psi — however, they’re here to serve any and all patrons of Mad Bowl.
The Yolk Shack’s business model and goal is best summarized with its slogan, “Life’s too short for bad breakfast,” and it aims to provide a student-oriented alternative to the well-known bagel place just down the street. It offers a menu of breakfast sandwiches ranging from the basic bacon, egg and cheese to more eccentric renditions featuring spicy mayo and pesto. In addition, The Yolk Shack provides other weekend morning essentials such as Gatorade and Pedialyte packets.
The idea for The Yolk Shack came to Kenyon Kay and Matisse Schafer, the owners and third-year Commerce students, during their first year after having a poor experience with other breakfast options around Grounds. At the time, Kay and Schafer were also pre-Commerce students looking for firsthand experience in running a business. Combining these two situations inevitably led to The Yolk Shack.
“As soon as we realized that the breakfast market at U.Va. was undersaturated and that college students were in need of a better breakfast sandwich, we ran with the idea to create The Yolk Shack,” Kay said. “Delivering the best product available was the highest priority, so we needed to make our food business revolve around something that we felt we could confidently master and make better than anyone else in Charlottesville.”
Logistics aside, the duo prioritizes putting smiles on their customers’ faces and giving them the breakfast experience they deserve. Both owners share a love for the nostalgic feeling of purchasing a breakfast sandwich from one’s hometown deli and wanted to recreate that experience right on Mad Bowl.
The appeal and ease of running a food truck is what drew the pair to manifest their breakfast sandwich dreams by purchasing the truck for The Yolk Shack two years ago. Since the business is still young, profits earned from the food truck are primarily reinvested into the business to help it grow and improve. According to Kay, as The Yolk Shack gains more popularity among students, profits will hopefully turn to returns on the duo’s investment in the truck.
When it comes time for Kenyon and Matisse to graduate in just over a year, they have plans to sell the business to another student interested in carrying on The Yolk Shack’s legacy. Especially since they have already addressed the logistical aspects of obtaining legal permits for the business, purchasing and decorating the truck and connecting with other local food trucks, the future owners of The Yolk Shack won’t need to worry about those technicalities.
“The next owners would have the fun part — running it,” Kay said. “We would love to pass it on to a student and continue the student-run, student-centric ethos of our company. However, if we don’t get any interest we would most likely sell the truck to a Charlottesville entrepreneur looking to start their own food truck.”
Because it is run by students, The Yolk Shack has varying hours of operation. On a typical weekend, they are open Friday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Being the early bird that I am, I arrived at The Yolk Shack promptly at 9:30 to avoid any long lines or sellouts. The three boys working greeted me, thanked me for being their first customer of the day and began helping me decide which sandwich to get.
In addition to Kenyon and Matisse who work the food truck full-time, The Yolk Shack has several other part-time student employees who are also members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity.
The menu is not expansive but is certainly diverse enough to offer something for every palette. Additionally, the sandwiches are creatively dubbed names such as “The Liz,” “The Mr. Spice'' and “The Double Decker.” The five sandwiches range in price from $5.25 to $8.50 — making them ideal options for a student budget.
I ended up landing on “The Cure” — a bagel sandwich topped with turkey, egg, white cheddar and pesto. It took about 10 minutes for my sandwich to be made, and when it was ready, it was served to me with a smile and in a white to-go container. With my sandwich now in hand, I scanned The Yolk Shack’s ideal view of Mad Bowl to find the perfect spot to sit and enjoy my breakfast. Once seated and situated, I snapped a quick picture of my sandwich and dug in.
I honestly was unsure how I would feel about this combination of ingredients on top of a bagel so early in the morning — my skepticism being the reason I chose this option. However, whatever expectations I had were far exceeded. The blending of these flavors created a perfect taste that was flavorful yet light. It was served at the perfect temperature, leaving the cheese melted and — at my request — the egg perfectly runny.
“The Cure” breakfast sandwich certainly lived up to its name. The surge of carbs is just what my body needed that Saturday morning. After enjoying this sandwich as much as I did, I think it will be hard to switch up my order the next time I visit, but I was thoroughly intrigued by nearly everything else on the menu.
Overall, I would say The Yolk Shack is the perfect addition to Mad Bowl, and I predict it will continue to be successful in the future. I am quite surprised that it took this long for an operation like this to get started, but I am thankful I will get to enjoy it for all four of my years here at the University. After listening to me rave about my first trip to The Yolk Shack, my friends and I already have plans to go next time it’s open. I have a strong feeling that it will become a regular — if not, weekly — stop for us.
The Yolk Shack is located at 159 Madison Lane. Updates and information about the business are posted on its Instagram page, @theyolkshack.