Hot Stuff: 3 Burgers to Relish in the Little Rock Metro

July is cookout season, and on every grill in America this summer, one comfort food will always be there: burgers. Popular for its versatility and endless array of add-ons, the burger can be found at picnics, pool parties and ballgames all summer long. To find out what takes a burger to the next level, Soirée consulted three burger pros in the Little Rock metro who continually bring the heat and unique local flavor.

Credit: Jason Masters

Smashed ‘N’ Stacked

Smashed ‘N’ Stacked co-owner Brannon Racop says burgers were a natural choice for his food truck.

“They’re universally loved, customizable and perfect for on-the-go eating,” Racop says. “Plus, there’s endless room for creativity with burger toppings and flavor combinations, which lets us put our own spin on this classic food.”

According to Racop, the key is high-quality ingredients.

“Our secret weapon is perfectly seasoned, juicy patties,” he says. “We don’t skimp on flavor, either. We handcraft our sauces in house using unique blends of herbs and spices.”

The truck, which can be found most days in Pettaway Square, has a clear bestseller. Its namesake burger features a “bacon bit smashed patty” topped with a shredded cheese blend and their signature sauce, which co-owner James Mann describes as a take on barbecue sauce with a honey mustard base.

Regular Kent Wulf eats at the food truck weekly. While he loves their burgers, the heart and mission of the business are what keep him coming back.

“James spends a lot of time in the community feeding people when he could be making money,” Wulf says. “That’s not a decision many people choose to make, but he does. And for [my husband and me], that makes the burgers taste even better.”

Smashed ‘N’ Stacked’s “More Than a Burger” campaign features an exclusive item each month where a portion of proceeds go to a local nonprofit serving people in need. The evolving menu gives them a chance to get creative, such as with June’s Mediterranean-inspired offering, while keeping customers coming back and donations coming in.

“This isn’t just about selling burgers for us,” Mann says. “We love our community and the people in it.”

Credit: Jason Masters

Brood & Barley

“It starts with the grind,” says Jess McMullen, co-owner of Brood & Barley, and he means that literally.

The Argenta restaurant uses a proprietary beef blend for its burgers — “Fat ratio matters.” — as well as high-quality bison for its umami burgers, plus a distinct blend of toppings, condiments, sauces and spices.

“What truly makes a great burger is the balance between the entire creation,” McMullen says.

Each month, the Brood & Barley staff competes for the esteemed honor of creating the next “Big Stupid Burger,” a monthly special with a cult-like following. Recent favorites include June’s The Hulk with pork belly, green chilis, fried avocado, mixed greens and a green goddess sauce; and April’s Big Stupid Bulgogi, which boasted house kimchi, Korean braised beef short rib and bulgogi sauce. July’s offering showcases local peaches, Tajín Seasoning and a bruleed bun.

On its main menu, the restaurant offers six different smash burgers for the lunch crowd and hosts happy hour Monday through Saturday. McMullen’s current favorite is the Yum Yum Burger, complete with American cheese, pickles, house-made yum yum sauce, red onions and a brioche bun.

“Brood & Barley has happy hour figured out,” returning diner Juli Summitt says. “We always come back for the duck wings, and we can’t leave without getting the ‘Soprano Smash Burger.’ All around, it’s a great culinary experience.”

Credit: Jason Masters

Copper Grill

“The approach we take is simple,” Copper Grill Owner Dan Kovach says.

The downtown restaurant has perfected the elevated burger its diners crave: a beef blend of chuck and brisket, an in-house seasoning blend and two four-ounce patties on a char grill. According to Kovach, most customer feedback revolves around how flavorful, juicy and expertly seasoned the burgers are.

One of the most notable elements of a Copper Grill burger is the bread it sits on, a custom brioche bun created by Community Bakery.

“The brioche bun is a hit,” Kovach says. “It looks big, but presses down perfectly.”

The signature sweet sot burger is their bestseller, topped with bacon jam, sweet hot millionaire’s bacon, sriracha aioli, house-made pimento cheese and arugula.

Regular customer Pattie Davidson has lived above the restaurant since 2015 and appreciates the environment Kovach and his team have created.

“The food is always delicious, and the staff and patrons are all so friendly,” Davidson says. “In the warm weather months, Dan has created a very welcoming patio space. There’s no place like it downtown.”

“The burger is an American classic because it’s a food item that brings people together,” Kovach says. “Everyone has a fond memory of their favorite burger or has debated what restaurant makes the best burger. Copper Grill strives to be a consistently excellent choice in the Little Rock dining scene, sourcing the best ingredients being produced by an amazing team of people.”

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