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Posted on Sun. Oct. 14, 2012 - 12:01 am EDT

Burgers ’n’ shakes rule at Schoop’s


*** 1/2

Out of a possible five


There really didn’t seem to be a reason not to get a burger.

The place is called Schoop’s Hamburgers, after all.

I did the responsible thing and tried one other sandwich, but there was really no use in checking out the tuna melt, the Polish sausage or the chicken breast sandwich with all of those glossy photos of the perfectly seared, juicy, delicious burgers all over the menu.

And although I am sure some regulars might tell me how good those other items are, I don’t think they are the reason folks flock to this ’50s-style diner in Warsaw.

Schoop’s started mastering burger making in 1948 in Hammond. The chain has 18 more stores in northwest Indiana and northeast Illinois. The one along U.S. 30 in Warsaw opened in 1999, but it looks like a place that has been there for ages.

It is one of those retro, train car-style buildings covered in stainless steel that just screams diner. And the inside couldn’t be any cooler, either.

The stainless steel is everywhere along with era-correct Formica tables, neon lining the top of the walls, a stool-lined counter and photos of old hot rods and pop culture icons like Betty Boop, the Three Stooges and Andy Griffith.

I was so into Schoop’s I kind of wanted to pretend I was Fonzi again like I did when I was a kid.

But ayyyyy, I digress.

There was no way I wasn’t going to order one of Schoop’s hand-dipped, hand-spun milkshakes. There were several varieties, but one stood out – Green River.

The bright green, somewhat limey, somewhat minty soda fountain favorite from the past was just as yummy in shake form. All of the shakes I tried – yes, there were more, don’t judge me – were perfectly thick and creamy. And all were topped with a tall peak of real whipped cream from a piping bag and a cherry. The peanut butter shake – I saw my server scooping PB by the spoonful into the tumbler – was as nearly as good as the Green River.

Before I dived headfirst into the burgers, I had a couple of soups and a decent appetizer. The chili – deluxe style with onions and cheese – was loaded with ground beef (burger place!) and had just the right amount of spice. The cheese on top was nacho sauce, which was great because I was able to stir it into the soup to make all of it cheesy.

Schoop’s has a nifty nacho cheese dispenser behind the counter where the bright yellow gooey stuff is dished over about anything, including my Irish nachos – french fries topped with that cheese along with bacon, scallions and ranch dressing. And those fries were crisp enough to hold up to the toppings.

The chicken tortilla soup was much spicier than the chili; actually a bit too spicy for a timid palate. With bits of chicken breast and red and green peppers, it was more of a cheesy chicken soup (perhaps some of that nacho sauce was used) than a tortilla soup, especially considering there were no tortillas in it or on top of it. But it, too, was worth having again.

The best of the burgers was the patty melt, another ’50s diner throwback. The patty was perfect, of course, with its thin crispy edges and still thick and juicy interior, and the caraway seed-dotted light rye was very buttery and grilled crisp. I loved how the butter the onions were grilled in and the juice from the burger soaked into the bread to give it even more flavor. I also liked that Schoop’s used Swiss cheese, which added sharpness to the saltiness of this sandwich.

Schoop’s standard burgers come with mustard, ketchup, relish and onion, but I loaded my double cheeseburger with mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles and paid a little extra to add bacon. It was a big sloppy mess, but a fabulous one. The only flaws were that the edge of my burger was crisper than the rather limp bacon and the napkins I needed to clean up my slop were cheap little thin ones that were pretty much useless.

Those napkins also came into play with the mushroom and Swiss burger, which was dripping with butter from the sautéed mushrooms. This time, the bacon I added – a brilliant move as the salt was needed here – was crispy and perfect.

The only non-burger selection I tried was OK, but not good enough to keep me from going beefy again next time. The pork tenderloin was coated in a zesty peppery breading and the loin was plenty thick and juicy. It just wasn’t a burger.

The only real knock on Schoop’s during my visits was the service. There appeared to be just three servers working on a busy Friday night and there was nobody in charge of the packed counter. It pained me to watch my server behind that counter making my party’s milkshakes only to leave them there to melt away for another 10 minutes while she whipped up two more for a to-go order.

On a minor note, the place was out of diet soda one evening, so I opted for coffee only to find out there was no coffee made even though it was after 6 p.m. with the place packed. I also did not like that all entrées were served in baskets, which were a bit cumbersome. When I asked for plates I was given saucers, which were basically useless.

But I will deal with the baskets, the thin napkins and about any other minor flaw to have another of Schoop’s burgers. They are worth the trip without a doubt.

And I am pretty sure I’ll have another Green River shake, too.

Restaurant: Schoop’s Hamburgers

Address: 3501 Lake City Highway, Warsaw

Phone: 574-268-9500

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily

Cuisine: American

Handicapped accessible: Yes

Alcohol: None

Smoking status: Non-smoking

Credit cards: Yes

Kid-friendly: Yes

Menu: Soup ($2.99 bowl; $2.59 bowl), Chili ($3.49 bowl; $2.89 cup; 89 cents for deluxe) milkshakes ($3.29 regular; $5.59 giant 32-ounce), double cheeseburger ($7.49), patty melt ($5.59), tenderloin ($5.39), mushroom and Swiss ($5.69)

Rating breakdown: Food: ** (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: 1/2 (1 maximum)

Note: Restaurants are categorized by price range: $ (less than $20 for three-course meal), $$ ($20-$29); $$$ ($30-$39), $$$$ ($40-$49), $$$$$ ($50 and up).

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