Bearfoot, Sapporo

In some other review of a beer bar in Sapporo (perhaps in several reviews, actually), I said that Sapporo was in desperate need of bar where you could have a proper burger and a beer.  Not a hamburger restaurant, but a bar… that serves burgers. Bearfoot is that kind of place. Sort of.

(How many beers does it take before you slip and call this place “beerfoot?” Probably not many.)

I was excited to try Bearfoot, but as it turns out, I didn’t like it – and I don’t recommend it. I will do a “too long, didn’t read” version here, and give you the strengths first. (If you want to check it out, please do, I’m not stopping you). And then I’ll do a full review, and show why I think Bearfoot is photogenic, but otherwise a disappointment.

Bearfoot looks to be a good place to party. And that may be a good reason to like it. Full stop. It seems to be popular, has a crowd (which can be a good thing), and it has a heavy “international” feel, with a big list of beers from around the world and lots of Western faces. If you want a crowded party spot for a Friday night, I think this place could be a good time (and I might go back, only for that purpose).

And the layout, design and aesthetics of Bearfoot are easy to like. It’s well built. Better, nicer materials than almost anywhere else in Sapporo. Lots of wood. Old wood planks on the floor. Glossy wooden bar. Ceiling is rafters and planks too (which I wonder if that is just facade, hiding classic Sapporo concrete and ductwork?). Higher quality construction. They have spent some money and time to make it nice, and it shows. And I respect (and enjoy) all of that.

Okay, that’s it. I said something nice. Now I will tell you how I really feel.

Let’s start with the beer.

Bearfoot looks to have a few beers on tap (I confess, I am not sure how many). With a quick read of the sign hanging in their bar, it looks like about six beers on tap. That is not a lot. Two are mainstream domestic beers, Sapporo Classic and Asahi. Then four “craft beers,” but one is Tokyo IPA, which is a pretty mainstream domestic IPA.

Then look at the prices. At ¥1500 for a “pint” of craft beer (this is not an imperial pint), that is the most expensive price for any beer in Sapporo (basically that is true). I am also not a fan of Sun and Moon Brewing 月と太陽BREWING本店 in Sapporo, which has similar high prices (and other problems), but much better beer.

As I mentioned before: If you want a specific international beer, Bearfoot has a long list of bottles (and cans?) from around the world. If you want a specific Mexican beer or a German beer, in a western style pub, this could be the reason to come here.

For my taste: We have a list of the absolute best beer bars in Sapporo. And we know there are much better beers (almost always at better prices) than Bearfoot has to offer, so this place will not make our list of recommendations anytime soon.

If craft beer in Sapporo is really what you’re after, almost everywhere else is better. Phred’s Beer Inn Mugishutei is a good choice. Beer Cellar is not nearly as much of a party (and has no food), but has amazing imported craft beer. In this neighborhood, I would send you to Beer Kotan (five minutes away) for much better beer, at about half the price. And the “house music” at Sapporo’s North Island beer bar is pretty intolerable for me, but they are very close by (three minutes), have better food, and much better beer (also at better prices).

For beer, Bearfoot is a fail, in my arrogant opinion.

When I was there, I ordered the Tokyo IPA. I have had that beer in cans from the super market, and thought it was okay. It does not have a classic IPA taste; it has some unidentifiable “spice” flavor (reminds me of a “Christmas beer”), kept surprising me… like my IPA had a big splash of some other beer mixed into it.  I didn’t even finish it. I knew I could have a better beer almost anywhere else, so I left that last few sips in the glass as I walked out… that is something I almost never do. And I paid ¥1500 for that experience.

The flavor of Tokyo IPA is not their responsibility; it’s not their beer, I get that. But that was my choice of beers on tap that night. And that is within their control. And since I know I have better choices everywhere else, I am not likely to go back (not for the beer).

We mostly write positive reviews here. I am not trying to list every restaurant or bar in Sapporo. I mostly only go to places that look good to me. And Sapporo (which is the best city in the world, by the way) has so many wonderful bars and places to eat, why would I need to write bad reviews? I mostly don’t.

But I did trash the beer bar ES Craft in Susukino recently (really don’t like that place either), but even then; amongst the very few beers on tap at ES Craft was an amazing local Japanese sour. It was also expensive, but was a bigger pour (and an exceptional beer).

But Bearfoot isn’t only (or even specifically) a beer bar.

As I try to say something nice about Bearfoot, I do think it could be a good place to party. And they have a full bar. So if you wanted to do a night of “shots and beers,” and all that, Bearfoot could be your place.

We are going to get into the food in a minute (which is also a disappointment), but the bar, and the cocktails, does seem like another strength.

I like a whiskey and beer sometimes (I don’t do that enough, actually). Right now, if I had to make a recommendation, for that particular combination, I would send you to Famous Door in Kita ku (very special place) or Beer Hall Mustache (European style local Japanese bar). I like both much better than Bearfoot, but… this place probably hand the “shot and a beer” request nicely.

Okay, now, let’s talk about the food.

I was very excited to have a place to grab a good beer, and a solid, filling, western-sized man-meal in Sapporo. Looking at the pictures of the burgers and the exterior of Bearfoot, I assumed that is what I was going to find here. But after my first experience, I think Bearfoot is a like a pretty girl that stares at her phone all night; she looks good, but is not a great experience to be with.

There menu is nice; wrapped in leather. And the photos look good. And the types of food they offer absolutely appeal to my tastes as a westerner in Sapporo.

I always try to show a few things from the menu in each review, and in this case the “popcorn chicken with popcorn” sounded amazing. I have been doing popcorn and beer at Beer Cellar a lot (and I love the combination). The Craft beer bar in Susukino (which is nearby, and also a better choice than Bearfoot) used to give you popcorn as their otsumami (it had some “chicken-flavored powder” on it) and it was fantastic. So this all sounded like a very good idea to me.

When the “popcorn chicken” arrived, it looked as good, or better than on the menu.

That seems to be the “trick” of Bearfoot… everything does look good. But the experience of eating it… my first bite was just a piece of skin, battered and deep fried. Not bad, but not what we call “popcorn chicken” in the West. My guess is that they take a whole chicken thigh, cut it into pieces (including the skin, as far as I can tell), bread it up, add a spicy “Cajun” flavor, put it in the frier. Reasonably tasty.  If I was drunk I might have enjoyed it more (and you might be, when you order it). But as it was, it was just okay, and greasy, and I also didn’t finish it.

And now, for the burgers. Again, look at the menu:

Looks so good. I ordered up, and waited patiently for it to arrive.

Once again, we have our evidence of what Bearfoot’s hamburger looked like as it was delivered to my table. And… it also looked good. And I took notes as I ate it, so I’d have “real time” comments to add to this review:

As I started eating it, I wrote that it “hit the spot.” And it did; I really wanted a burger that night. And I was 100% expecting to love everything about Bearfoot (because, ya know… “the pictures look so good”). But as I had a few bites, it reminded me of a burger your friend’s mom might make for the boys after school; fried burger, very basic, nothing special. And it was too salty to eat. We knew it was never make our list of Sapporo’s best hamburgers.  I also ordered it plain (meat, lettuce and cheese only), they even came to my table to double check the order, and it still came with mayo and ketchup. Based mostly on the salt… I also did not finish my burger (the first time maybe ever, in history).

You see why I am no fan of this place?

Bearfoot is an expensive place to drink imported beer with foreigners, and perhaps eat some extremely mediocre American pub food. If this was a bar from my old neighborhood in San Francisco, it would “looks good,” but no way I’d take my friends there; we’d walk on by and I’d tell them why the place I was taking them was better.

I didn’t finish my Tokyo IPA. I didn’t finish the popcorn chicken (but I did eat all the popcorn, only part of the meal I enjoyed). And I didn’t my burger (which is inconceivable). After beginning with high expectations and a lot of good will, I left feeling irritated.

I have seen this place many times, but was never tempted to come in until recently.  I looked in last week, but as it was a Friday night, it was very crowded and loud and it didn’t look comfortable, so I went across the street to eat tacos at Miss Jamaica instead (which was a lot more chill, but a much better experience, and another very special option in Sapporo).

This time, around dinner on a Thursday night, it was about half full, lots of groups of two to four people, some eating, everyone with something to drink. Everyone (else) seemed to be having a good time.

Bearfoot has two big screen TVs playing sports.  Perhaps this is the kind of place that would be fun to watch a World Cup match? The music was a mix of modern tracks and some classics, “mainstream pop appeal” rather than well-curated, a little bit “frat party” (which may be the audience that would most enjoy Bearfoot).

To be real, as “traditional western bars” go, it is probably one of the best options for that kind of experience in Sapporo – but that isn’t what I personally want from Sapporo, and I don’t think that is the best experience, so I would send you someplace else.

“Where else should I go,” you might ask. Well, since we do offer the best restaurant and bar recommendations in Sapporo, we are happy to say more.

For beer, we made some recommendations above, but for a more complete survey of choices, see our list of some good Sapporo beer bars. And if you want good hamburgers in Sapporo, we happen to have just published our list of the best hamburgers in Sapporo as well.

For other recommendations in the neighborhood, we previously mentioned Miss Jamaica (which is across the street), it is absolutely nothing Bearfoot, but it is a good spot. From this location, Craft Beer Volta is a great “much more local” choice for beer and (Japanese) food, El Tope for Mexican (and they have many imported Mexican beers, as well as mojitos), Jhoti for Indian food, and The Craft for a good “bar scene,” much better beer (at better prices), and for one of our overall favorites, Sapporo’s Salt Moderate has great beer, cocktails, and incredible food.

Can’t recommended this place… but I promise to come back some night when I want the “party vibe” and if I have anything nice to say… we’ll give you an update.

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