Once again, I apologize to whoever it was who told me to try a Schoop's hamburgers and write about my experience. I rely upon suggestions and when I can't remember who it was who told me so I can publicly thank them, well, I feel like a heel. Actually, I was surprised I'd never heard of Schoop's before. When I did some research into Schoop's, I found out a lot about the Indiana-based burger chain that began in 1948.
Allen Schoop had a vision that he would sell hamburgers made with only the freshest of beef when he opened his small burger shop in Hammond, IN. He had only burgers, fries, chili, soup and pie on his menu when he started out. In 1959, Schoop opened a second location in nearby Munster, IN, a 36-seat establishment that was always full. Ten years after he opened the Munster location, he doubled the size of the restaurant. People would still stand in line to get one of Schoop's burgers.
Mark Schoop took over for his father in the 70's, and in 1982 he welcomed Rick and Randy Newell on board to help with an expansion of Schoop's throughout Northwest Indiana and the southern suburbs of Chicago. Today, there are 15 Schoop's locations in Indiana - mainly in the NW corner of the state - and 5 locations in south suburban Chicago.
I had to drive between Chicago and Champaign recently and found that there was a Schoop's not far from Interstate 57 in Monee, IL at the Monee-Manhattan Road exit (see map). I timed my trip so I would get to Schoop's in the middle of the afternoon.
The Schoop's in Monee is more like a 50's style diner. In fact, there were a lot of pictures and posters on the wall of celebrities from the 50's and 60's. I sat in a booth and a 60-something year old waitress came over carrying a menu. She asked, "Do you need to see a menu, hon, or do you know what you want?" I took the menu from her since I'd never been to a Schoop's before.
In addition to burgers, Schoop's also offers a number of sandwiches, salads, shakes and malts. Their signature burger is called the "Mickey" (right) - a burger patty topped with two slices of American cheese. And they basically had two different double cheeseburgers. The "Special" cheeseburger has two patties with one slice of cheese, while the "Double" cheeseburger had two patties with TWO slices of cheese. It was 50 cents more than the "Special" cheeseburger.
Since I hadn't had a thing to eat all day and wasn't planning on having dinner that evening, I got the Double cheeseburger. The waitress asked, "Do you want everything on that, hon?" I said that sounds fine. "Pickle, mayo, lettuce, tomato," she asked. I told her to hold the mayo. I found out later that everything is ketchup, mustard, pickle relish, and onion. I should have told her to hold the pickle relish. Relish is good on a Chicago-style hot dog, but I don't know about putting it on burgers.
Similar to Smashburger, Schoop's takes a 1/3 pound ball of fresh - never frozen - ground beef and the cook literally smashes it into the grill. The juices that come out initially help put a crust on the outside edge of the burger - a true 30's style burger. Like I've said in the past, smashing a burger just goes against every rule I've ever learned for making a burger, but it seems to work when they do it on a flat griddle-style grill.
It wasn't busy in Schoop's at that point of the day, so I was able to get my double cheeseburger pretty quick. About 10 to 12 minutes after I ordered it, the waitress brought it out to me. It was big. Man, it was big! I thought, "Well, you ordered it. Now, eat it."
From the first bite, I found out what the fans of Schoop's have known for over 60 years. This is a damn fine burger. The edges were crispy, the burger was still juicy, the bun was light and tasty. Even with all the toppings, I could still get the taste of the fresh burger meat in every bite. Heck, I didn't even mind the pickle relish, either! I liked the diner feel to the place, the waitress was great. There was nothing to not like about Schoop's.
All in all, the Schoop's burger was very good. Very, very good. I was pleasantly surprised and somewhat taken aback by how good it was. I'm still surprised that I'd never heard of Schoop's before. Add to the fact that I've probably driven right past a Schoop's in my travels on the south side of Chicago or over in NW Indiana over the past few years. Once again, thanks to whoever sent me the message turning me on to Schoop's. This visit to Schoop's will definitely not be my last one.