-Exploring NW Indiana
Along with the great weather, no school, road trips, baseball and the beach, summertime also brings us some damn good seasonal food operations. When Chicago people think Northwest Indiana they picture large steel plants still in operation giving off awful smells, cheap cigarettes, gambling and if they go a little deeper in...Gary. A different type of world we'll call it. City folk will happily pay the Skyway fee to zip on thru as fast as possible en route to Michigan and beyond. Well you don't have to go too far past Gary to find an area (Michiana) that's booming with locally produced foods and goods that are more than worth the drive alone just to stock up some stuff and eat and or drink somewhere good while doing so. One of those places is Stop 50 Wood Fired Pizzeria located in Michiana Shores.
an instant classic in Michiana Shores, IN
I was first made aware of Stop 50 by the fine food folks over at LTHforum. However due to my undying love for Midwest/Chicago tavern thin style of pizza it took me a minute to get over there. I made a stop there on what was their last weekend of the season last Fall. I've been waiting to get back ever since. So far I've been twice this season. Stop 50 is closed December, January and February so the summertime is their primetime. It all starts with the oven as far as their pizza goes. They make pizza Napoletana using their real deal wood fired oven which can reach anywhere from 900 to 1300 degrees.
Stop 50 has already gained praise from Rachel Ray to the LTH community who gave them the food forums highest honor in a 'Great Neighborhood Restaurant Award' for their authentic Neapolitan style of pizza topped with fresh local ingredients and to go with that some great service. I've seen the owners in there working hard when it was packed on a weekend night and also laying back with their children on a late weekday afternoon. One of the things that made me know I had to try Stop 50 was the fact most every review I had read was glowing. When I did finally make it there it was with my buddy who learned this style in Naples under certified pizza makers. He said it was probably the best example he's seen outside Italy. Its not just the pizza here though. Dont skip out on the salads made mostly with fresh locally grown ingredients.
There's also a small appetizer menu which features a few different things. Your best bet is to get the combo which features a little bit of each their bombastic breadsticks, whoops excuse me, I suffer from Guy Fieri tourettes syndrome. Along with those they do a really fantastic Italian sausage stuffed peppers dish and also the seasonal featured grilled vegetable which is based on whats fresh at the farmers market. Everything hot is made in their oven and when we were talking with the owner who's also the expert pizza maker he was saying how he's cooked everything from fish to tenderloins to s'mores (a menu desert item offered) in it since they first opened. The oven will get to around 1200 degrees at its peak and when they shut it down for the day the wood burns away until its ash in the am. It rarely goes under 300 degrees during the open season.
Appetizer Combo Platter
The breadsticks are the best I have had and its easy to see why since what sets Stop 50 apart from the rest for me and many others is their dough. Their vision is too focus on quality foods made from simple and fresh ingredients creating a taste of tradition. Obviously when it comes to Neapolitan style pizza a big focus is on the dough. Stop 50's hand made from scratch dough is slightly sour tasting and when you get one of their pizzas done perfectly it has both crispy charred bits to it along with the chewiness that makes a great Napoletana pizza pie. When I went with my buddy last Fall he explained me many of the things he was going to look for in their pizza margherita which he said is the gold standard for judging the many wood fired pizzerias popping up around Chicagoland and elsewhere in America.
Pizza Margherita at Stop 50
We were looking for that perfect consistency so I was told. Because real wood fired pizzas are cooked in 900+ degree stone ovens they only take a minute or two to make but its still an art getting it to be perfect each time. You have to stay aware and alot of care goes into making these pies which focus on simple and fresh ingredients. A Pizza Margherita is made with just tomato, mozzarella, basil, extra virgin olive oil and the aforementioned dough. Its all about the quality and freshness in each of the few ingredients used. Our pie was near perfect and stood ground when lifted which I was told is an important factor.
I've become a big fan of wood fired pizza and the more authentic the better. Stop 50 remains at the top of the chain for me. I feel as though their Pizza Margherita is the best version of that example I have had. The freshness in their basil really stands out when you take a bite into it. But it doesn't stop with just the Margherita as far as great options go. Their sausage is really tasty too. I appreciate how they use very thinly sliced pieces of sausage. Kind of like you would expect the pepperoni on your pizza to come. Included with the sausage is tomato, mozzarella and marinara. I would suggest getting at least two pies if there are three of you, they arent big and since they're so good, they go quick.
The real go-to at Stop 50 for me though is their seasonal specialty pizza. It switches with whats in season and each time I've been I was blown away by their offering. In fact the last couple times I was there this year I wanted to try their asparagus, red onion, prosciutto and smoked mozzarella pizza but they were out of prosciutto the first time and then the asparagus wasn't up to par on my most recent visit so they were getting ready to switch it up. In its place that day they had an heirloom tomato with red onions, Gorgonzola, pine nuts and basil pie that was the best pizza without any meat on top that I've ever had.
Seasonal Specialty Pizza at Stop 50
On my first ever visit as I had already mentioned it was their last weekend so it was the Fall. I think it was around Thanksgiving and they had an excellent seasonal selection then as well. The ingredients seen in the picture I took below came together like none other I have had. I've determined that I love nuts on pizza. This was a pie I hope they offer regularly as the season shifts to a close because I plan on taking in some Fall colors around this region and eating one this upcoming year. Stop 50 is a great option for food if your vacationing in Michiana or the Harbor Country areas of Michigan and enjoy really good pizza. Its lovely outdoors when the weather is right.
Wine and beer is offered at Stop 50 and they have a nice dessert menu too. If its summertime and its real hot and you feel like something cool try their gelato. But if you've always had an infatuation with s'mores and wondered how cool it would be to able to make them every day in their oven when you first walked in, you're in luck. They have a fantastic rendition of the classic summertime camping snack made with marshmallows roasted in their wood burning oven.
Stop 50's S'mores desert
The name Stop 50 comes from the old way of giving directions and getting around in the Michigan City region. If you wanted to find someones house in the Long Beach and Sheridan Beach area of Indiana more times than not someone would mention a bus stop. "Turn right at Stop 26 and go until you get to the beach" or something like that was how you would explain where to go. These days the buses are no longer in use but the stops are still there and used for direction giving. Everyone that's in the know, knows how to get to Stop 50 these days but even if your a first timer their signs will lead you to them. I always take a pizza to go and its almost as good the next day as they are when brought out piping hot to your table when dining in. You're welcome for the review. Don't say you never knew. Check them out this summer.
Stop 50 Wood Fired Pizza
500 S. El Portal Drive
Michiana Shores, IN 46360