Looking across the vast neon-lit North American landscape, it’s hard to believe that some entrepreneurs still believe the cheeseburger has not yet been perfected. Today, burgers come in every conceivable combination, from triple stacked to flame broiled to giant bacon-fried-onion-rings-with jalapenos monstrosities.
But every year a new burger shop opens, a new dream of franchising is born. Some of these ventures soon attract the attention of customers, columnists and connoisseurs. When that happens, the local Five Guys that was a well-kept secret suddenly becomes a national chain. A Habit Burger and Burger Lounge grow exponentially, settling into a comfortable market niche. Others — a Gino’s, a Burger Chef or Wimpy’s — lose their sizzle, and quietly fade away.
Amid the cornucopia of choices, there are still those who dream about the chance to perfect this delicious art form, and build a better burger.
Jason Hill is one such burger idealist.
Growing up in the Six Nations territory in Ontario, Jason always had lofty goals. His dreams, drive and ideas would lift him to prominence in a range of industries, from retail to construction.
The key was making the affirmative decision to become an entrepreneur, rather than punch a clock and draw a salary. He valued the independence of entrepreneurship, and the sheer thrill of it all. 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.
But amid all of this success, there was one long-time dream that was especially satisfying to fulfill — his craving to perfect the simple cheeseburger.
Today, Burger Barn stands as his most visible and delicious venture, a must-see experience for tourists and locals alike. Jason opened the restaurant’s doors in 2011 and doubled the seating capacity in 2015. When the pandemic struck, he unveiled a small fleet of Burger Barn food trucks and expanded his take-out options.
Word of Burger Barn has reached beyond its unassuming Ohsweken location. After Burger Barn was featured on The Food Network’s “You Gotta Eat Here,” Jason knew that he had achieved something extraordinary: a rare, well-done entrepreneurial success in this highly competitive space.
Adding to the success of the restaurant is an atmosphere of fun, friendliness and family. 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 iconic California burger brand features two classic stacker patties, American cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, tomato and a blend of savory condiments.
Contributing to the uniqueness of the experience is the fact that Burger Barn is a business of, by and for the people of Six Nations, a First Nations territory in southern Ontario. The restaurant is deeply rooted in the closely-knit community.
Six Nations of the Grand River is the most populous First Nation territory in Canada. More than 12,000 residents live in towns like Beavers Corner, Longboat Corners, Medina Corners, Millers Corner, Ohsweken, St. Johns, Smith Corners, Smoothtown, Sour Spring and Stoneridge. Just about an hour’s drive from Toronto, the land is located along the Grand River within a rare and beautiful Carolinian forest.
The name Six Nations represents the unity of Iroquois tribes that learned over a very long history that standing together was the way forward for the people. The alliance was formed deep in Iroquois history by a man revered as The Peacemaker.
Through his enlightenment and wisdom, he convinced the separate nations to choose peace and cooperation over conflict. His powerful example united the original five nations, the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca. Centuries later, the Tuscarora nation became the sixth.
The Peacemaker was also a political philosopher who established a solid social foundation that survives to this day, The Great Law, which emphasizes care, living life with a good mind and good intentions, abiding by the laws of nature, and individual freedom through the wellbeing of whole communities.
In the end, this may be Jason’s secret sauce: A delicious burger wrapped in an experience that stays true to the values of his hometown, the people and their magnificent heritage.
Why didn’t someone think of that before?
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