Schoop's in Munster, Indiana: Visit to Local Legend Ruined By Poor Cooking Technique
215 Ridge Road, Munster IN 46321 (map); 219-836-6233; multiple locations listed at schoophamburgers.com
Cooking Method: Smashed
Short Order: Many trusted eaters have declared their love for Schoop's, but something was off on this visit.
Want Fries With That? No thanks.
Price:Schoop's Mickey, $5.49; Double Cheeseburger with bacon, $9.24
A host of people whose tastes I have faith in have sung the praises of Schoop's. From Michael Nagrant here on AHT to some of the senior members of the LTH team to Cheeseburger Show host Kevin Pang, nearly every review I've read of Schoop's has been glowing. Even some trusted AHT commenters like NotAmerican have chimed in, waxing poetic about the glory of the place. The word on Schoop's was so positive that I planned an eating day trip to Munster, Indiana, simply because the oldest remaining location in the 62-year-old chain is located there.
I mention the many burger pundits who love Schoop's for three reasons. First, more information is always good and I encourage seriously interested readers to check out what others have to say. Second, to preemptively acknowledge that I must have gone on a bad day. And third, because I hate writing negative reviews. All that said, my experience at Schoop's was, for the most part, a massive disappointment.
There are two keys to an excellent burger at Schoop's. First, they always use fresh meat that's never frozen. And second, they smash the burgers into submission when cooking leaving crisp lacy edges all the way around the patties. At least that's how things are supposed to work.
That the meat is fresh is a wonderful thing that should be celebrated, but the reality is that fresh beef does not necessarily equal good beef. Exhibit A: Wendy's. But with a smashed burger, proper cooking technique can turn mediocre beef into an excellent burger. And that gets to the big problem with my visit—something was off in the cooking process.
To those uninitiated in the art of smash burger-ing, there is some technique involved. I don't want to pick on Wendy's here, but the fact is that it's an easy reference for people to look at if they want to know what a far from ideal smashed burger looks like. Didn't know that Wendy's made a smashed burger? Neither did I until saw these too-spectacular-for-words Wendy's training videos. Here's Part 1 and here's Part 2. Seriously, go watch them now; I'll wait. Outstanding, right?
Anyhow, something went wrong in the smashing of my burgers at Schoop's. I suspect it was that the griddle wasn't hot enough as there was simply no crispiness to be found anywhere on the burger. Without the crunch, all I was left to fall back on was ordinary beef and toppings. I tried two different burgers at Schoop's, but neither had sufficient quality toppings to save the meat.
The first burger I tried was the Schoop's Mickey, which features one patty with a piece of American cheese on top and another on the bottom. This extra cheesy cheeseburger was a great concept, but suffered due to the problematic patty. Oddly enough, while the price difference between the burger and the cheeseburger is 50 cents, the extra slice to upgrade to a Mickey adds an additional 60 cents.
Not realizing that the burgers weigh in at 1/3-pound each, I went for a bacon double cheeseburger. This one had the same problems as the Mickey with the meat, only this time it was multiplied by two. The bacon, so often a saving grace for a bad burger, was just not very good. It was cooked properly, but the pork was overloaded with sweetness, seemingly of the very artificial variety.
I didn't have a terrible eating experience in my inaugural visit to Schoop's. But the burgers were wholly unsatisfying. The bottom line is that smashed burgers require proper cooking to be successful and these ones did not have the crust that makes the style so good. If you want to see what a Schoop's burger is supposed to look like, click here and here.
While I have confidence that Schoop's can put out a much better burger than the ones I had on this visit, I have no faith in their ability to turn out good fries. These thick factory-made potato products are neither crisp nor particularly flavorful. The cheese product sauce they were served with was of the quality found at state fairs and baseball stadiums, which is to say disturbingly enjoyable. The onion rings were a bit better than the fries, but still nothing to write home about.
The undisputed star of the visit was my first ever Green River milkshake. Detail-oriented readers will remember the exceptional Green River float I had at Zaharako's last summer. In a shake form, the lime pop comes through once, but its sweetness is tempered by the vanilla ice cream and milk. When I return to Schoop's—and I will give it another try—I'm not sure which burger I'll eat, but I will definitely have another one of these shakes.
The shake arrived less than a minute after I ordered it, so fast that I was confused as to how it happened. I asked my server how it got to my table so quickly and she responded, "22 years' experience." At the end of the day, even when Schoop's messes up in cooking as it did on my visit, it is people like her that separate the place from the Wendy's of the world. That might be lost if the company is too successful in its franchising efforts, but for now Schoop's retains the charm that has made it so popular for so long.