SAY CHEESE: The burgers at Smashed N’ Stacked are maximalist affairs. Dave Anderson

When 26-year-old James Mann parked his burger-centric food truck outside Keller Williams Realty for a trial run a year ago, he had no idea what kind of reaction he would inspire. 

The line was long. The burgers sold out. That was a good sign. Even better was the customer response to the menu he’d spent the previous summer developing — while juggling two other jobs. 

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“Don’t change a thing,” they told Mann.

He hasn’t, and his Pettaway Square-based Smashed N’ Stacked truck has been a hit. It’s no wonder. The burgers are glorious and creative and the shoestring-style fries — plain or loaded — are mouth-watering. 

The menu has few offerings, but the items are decidedly maximalist affairs, and there are some eye-popping combinations. 

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Let’s start with the one that caught my cheese-obsessed eye a few months ago after reading a steady stream of euphoric online messages: the “Oh. My. CHEESUS.” Suffice it to say, it’s aptly named.

DAVE ANDERSON

How’s it built? Well, Mann starts with a grilled cheese sandwich that oozes cheese. But this is no normal grilled cheese: It also includes a tasty smattering of broken-up Dorito bits. Pleasing crunch? Check. That cheese sandwich becomes the bottom “bun” of a decadent cheese and beef mountain. Next come the signature double smash patties. Then more cheese, of course. Then ANOTHER grilled cheese-and-Doritos sandwich— that’s the top “bun.” It’s either a round-trip ticket to cheeseburger heaven or a trial-by-fire cardiac test. Depends on your conditioning. 

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For a slightly less over-the-top combo, Mann’s most popular offering is the Original Smashed & Stacked. It features two patties with a unique bacon-infused crust, melted cheese blend and a distinctive honey mustard barbecue sauce. There’s also a spicy version of the sauce, but you can’t go wrong with the original. 

The menu features a few other burgers, but what we discovered to be the crowning achievement is a pile of gorgeousness called the Ooey Gooey Stack. While similar to the original, this beauty includes not just two patties, pepper jack cheese and bacon, but also a surprisingly delectable combination of jalapeno jelly, pickled jalapenos and — wait for it — peanut butter.

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We know. You’re like: “No way. That’s too weird.” And that’s where we were. But we heard it was Mann’s favorite menu item, so we peeled back the foil to expose this crazy colossus. 

Funny thing was, it was downright pretty. But surely it was going to taste like a big mistake, right? 

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We steeled ourselves and took a bite. Not since Reese’s has peanut butter met such a culinary complement. We’re in love. And if you dare to expose your tastebuds, you’ll fall head first, too. 

So the hype is real. Smashed N’ Stacked is a hit for good reason. It may seem a quick success for a twentysomething not long out of school at UA Little Rock. But don’t let that youth fool you: Mann has been working in and around restaurants since he was 14.

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Dave Anderson
CHEESUS: Not for the faint of heart.

“I got my first job at the Ozark Cafe in Jasper,” he recounted, as “an old-time soda jerk.” As he moved to kitchen roles at Dixie Cafe in Jonesboro, then Local Lime in Little Rock, Mann deepened his understanding of restaurant management and operations, all while completing a degree in business.

Yet, instead of dreaming about becoming a burger tycoon, Mann is determined to tackle hunger in Arkansas. Mann’s vision is to hand the burger truck — and future food businesses — off to his staff while he develops programs to teach Arkansas students to grow food and learn entrepreneurship. 

As the child of a single mom who worked in rural schools, Mann vividly remembers that for many classmates, school was their only reliable source for a meal. It was common to see students going through the lunch line more than once or packing half their meal to take home. He also learned that the impact wasn’t just felt at mealtimes, but throughout the day: “They were distracted during class and not nice to others because they were hungry,” Mann said. 

Some of those classmates and friends would end up at the Mann home on Saturday nights and James and his mom would cook for them. “Our house was the house that kids and the community would come to. That’s really how I learned to love to cook.” 

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Now with the passion and knowledge he’s accumulated, he’s ready to use all his skills in the service of helping cure hunger through food-based entrepreneurship. His ambition is to partner with schools and organizations statewide, developing programs that teach students how to grow produce in gardens and greenhouses, while also imparting entrepreneurial skills. 

Mann is off to a good start with his “More Than a Burger” campaign, which donates a portion of the food truck income to local nonprofits like the Arkansas Food Bank and Our House. 

It’s an expansive vision and will take time, but for now, I’ll do my part in the fight against hunger and order another Ooey Gooey. 

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