Jack N Jills

Sometimes you find recipes that you adore and want to make all the time. Other times, you have recipes that you love, but you can eat them only once in a while. This is one of those recipes.

NOTE: Because so many people are screaming these days about having to read through the crap to get to the recipe, here is the recipe first. If you are so inclined, you can read the crap that comes after.


1 lb ground meat or meat substitute of your choice
3-5 bay leaves
2 tbsp chili powder (to taste)
1 sweet onion, sliced into rings
8 hamburger buns


  1. Brown ground meat.
  2. Add chili powder.
  3. Add bay leaves.
  4. Simmer on low until the flavors mix, approximately 10 minutes or so, or longer.
  5. Spread mustard on both sides of each hamburger bun.
  6. Fill each bun with a spoonful of the meat mixture.
  7. Top with a slice of sweet onion.
  8. Put filled buns back into the bag they came in and close up the bag to allow the steam to soften the buns.
  9. Serve with plain potato chips.

Me & Grandpa D

Jack N Jills were a specialty of Jack’s Tavern in little town in South Dakota. In the 1950s, my grandpa lived above the tavern, which was located on Main Street, and went down at 5 a.m. every morning, seven days a week, to clean it up and get it ready for the day. My dad, who was still in school and the only kid left at home, would help Grandpa clean until the bar opened at 7 a.m., and they would go home together.

The tavern made large batches of this loose meat mixture, combining 10 lbs. of beef with 1 lb. suet. They made it in a metal, 5-gallon pot, put the pot on an electric hot plate, and let the mix simmer on low all day. Anyone coming in there any time of day could get a Jack N Jill for a dime. If you had another dime, you could get a beer to go with it.

I remember visiting Grandpa D when I was really young. I thought it was so cool to push through a black door with two diamond-shaped windows next to the bar and climb the stairs to Grandpa’s small efficiency. He had running water, but the bathtub was a metal tub that wasn’t attached to the floor. When you got out of the tub, you pulled the plug to drain the water, and then stood the tub up and leaned it against the wall to drain completely.

My grandpa was a pretty great grandpa. He was a below-the-knee amputee, so it was difficult for him to get around, even with his artificial legs. (We inherited his legs after he died. They were the centerpiece of many Halloween displays, until they got too ratty and finally ended up in the trash.)

Despite his mobility issues, he would walk me down Main Street, stopping at every store, including the dime store and the drug store, buying me whatever candy I wanted. I’m sure he didn’t have much money, but candy was fine with me.

Every time I make Jack N Jills, I think of my Grandpa D. He was the best grandpa ever.