Hamburger Hall of Flame: Jason Hill’s Six-Nations Burger

What would North American cuisine be without that ubiquitous menu item named after a German town? The hamburger has fired grills and imaginations across the generations, in America, Canada and throughout the world.

With great popularity has come great variety. Burgers are featured in hundreds of proprietary recipes, from your uncle’s backyard barbecue to Michelin-rated restaurants where a six-dollar burger is an appetizer.

Although the provenance of the North American-style burger is murky, there’s no question it was named after the famous German port city and catered to the tastes of early immigrants from that region.

In the early 19th century, most immigrant arrivals to New York City started their journey in Hamburg. As the century progressed, it became more common for restaurants in New York to begin preparing beefsteak à la Hambourgeoise. Menus dated from the 1870s show that Delmonico’s Restaurant featured “Hamburg steak” on its menu, for the budget-busting price of 11 cents.

Since that time, thousands of burger restaurants have appeared on the North American landscape, some flaming out within years, others catching fire with red-hot franchise deals. Amid all this competition, there are still entrepreneurs who pursue the quest to build a better burger.

In Six Nations of the Grand River, Canada’s largest First Nations territory, Jason Hill took up that challenge. As a boy, he had always dreamed of creating his own unique burger restaurant. Once he was successful in myriad industries, from retail to construction, he saw the opportunity and seized it.

The result was Burger Barn, which sells both the sizzle and the steak to patrons in his hometown of Ohsweken, Ontario, and beyond. Opening day was 2011, and sales began soaring after a crew from The Food Channels’s “You Gotta Eat Here” program came to visit two years later.

As much as customers rave about iconic burgers such as the Double Stacker, Jason Hill is quick to list an unexpected ingredient as the secret sauce of his success: tradition. His approach to business and life is based on the tradition, values and heritage of the Iroquois, also known as Haudenosaunee.

Although geographically large, Six Nations is populated by approximately 12,000 First Nation residents who live in small towns with names like Beavers Corner, Longboat Corners, Medina Corners, Millers Corner, St. Johns, Smith Corners, Smoothtown, Sour Spring and Stoneridge. Burger Barn is a town square for Six Nations’ families and friends; a gathering spot, a place for important celebrations, and a daily destination for many.

A business of, by and for the people of Six Nations, the restaurant is deeply woven into the closely-knit social fabric. Most customers know each other, depend on each other, and prize the sense of community they experience at Burger Barn.

“We always strive to stay true to the values of our great heritage, the people and for what for me has always been my hometown,” says Jason Hill. “There are familiar faces you’ll see every morning for breakfast, and families that come here again and again to enjoy their life together and build strong relationship bonds.”

Beyond the commitment to tradition, customers seem to especially appreciate the restaurant’s fun atmosphere. Jason’s playful sense of humor is on display with specials that appear on the menu, such as the “Innit & Out Burger.” This whimsical nod to the famous California burger brand features two classic stacker patties, American cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and a special sauce.

Burger Barn is built on Jason Hill’s dreams and drive. He began his career as an industrial painter, but knew he wanted more out of life than to punch a clock and draw a steady salary. He craved the excitement of entrepreneurship. Soon he had created a string of successful businesses in Six Nations, including convenience and specialty stores, a wholesale confectionery supply outlet, a fueling station and a construction company.

Jason Hill’s appetites aren’t limited to the burger business. Among his other passions are the Belgian draft horses he raises, which have been showcased at a variety of competitions and events. Not surprisingly, the name for his award-winning equestrian team is: the Burger Barn Belgians.