The excaliburger was born when a rock climber from Missouri named Johnny was having lunch with Kyle Pounders, a 25-year-old Arkadelphia native, at the Ozark Cafe in Jasper. Johnny couldn’t decide between a burger and a grilled cheese, so he asked the chef if he could have a burger between two grilled cheeses. The chef loved the idea. He told Johnny if he could come up with a clever name, the sandwich would earn a permanent spot on the menu.
Ozark Cafe uses Texas toast, so when the sandwich arrived it was about six inches thick. Rather than a toothpick, the chef had plunged a steak knife through the center to hold the thing together. When Johnny saw the sandwich, he was reminded of the long sword, or excalibur, in the legend The Sword and the Stone. He grabbed the knife and yelled, “Excalibur,” and from that day on, the excaliburger was added to the Ozark Cafe menu. (Or so the legend goes.)
Meanwhile, Kyle Pounders was all set to enter the medical profession, but he wasn’t that engaged by his studies at Baptist Nursing School. While waiting tables at So, a doctor and regular customer asked him what he really wanted to do with his life. Pounders thought about it and realized that he loved cooking for his study group. While the other students were in the living room cramming, he’d be preparing their snacks in the kitchen. In fact, he had enjoyed the near decade that he’d spent washing dishes, serving and cooking at various restaurants in Little Rock and Arkadelphia. Eventually this mysterious doctor would become his financial backer and silent partner in Excaliburger, the soon-to-be food truck.
Pounders took a second job and with all those saved pennies, he purchased cooking equipment and a pop-up tent. He debuted his pop-up excaliburger stand at the El Dorado Music Fest, bought a 14-year-old bread truck, and began considering how to convert it to a food truck. He plans to conquer the task of framing the inside, building a window, mounting a generator, outfitting the thing for running water and painting the exterior in a single weekend, with the help of a volunteer crew.
He hopes to debut Excaliburger in mid-October. In addition to the burger, there will be Excalibird, with a grilled chicken breast rather than a beef patty, Excali-que with pulled pork and Excalibella, with portabella mushroom. And there will be some leaner options — traditional burgers and grilled cheeses made with olive oil, as well as a shish-kabob.
Pounder’s excaliburger will be scaled down from the Ozark Cafe beast — he’ll use thinner bread and a thinner patty. He also plans to offer handcut potato chips. Excaliburger should be open for lunch every weekday and will rotate its location among a handful of neighborhoods. For dinner, the truck will follow the crowds, making at appearance at special events.
Pounders is also working with Mosaic Church to create a Little Rock Food Truck Association and eventually, a website where all of the city’s food trucks can update their location in real time, on a virtual map.