Rana Burger Maruyama, Sapporo

And now we head outside the city center for yet another ranking player on our list of best hamburgers in Sapporo. We are proud to introduce Rana Burger Maruyama, in Sapporo… the best city in the world.

Rana is just off the Tozai line, in between the Nishi 18 and Maruyama Koen stations. It’s about a five to 10 minute walk from Maruyama station, which is how we generally get there.

As you arrive, Rana Burger Maruyama is a two story building. When you see “the frog” on the signs, you know you’re in the right place. The front door is off the street, down a charming covered brick path… with an ice cream cone near the door.

We could give you so many reasons to love Rana Burger in Sapporo, and we’ll start by saying: Rana seems to have it’s own “vision” for itself as a restaurant. It’s a combination of things you may have seen before, but grouped together in a way that shows some style, and sets Rana apart from a similar menu somewhere else.

For us, the hamburgers at Rana Burger are the main attraction (and we’ll say more below). But the inclusion of pancakes adds some charm to Rana’s theme. There is ice cream, and also some craft beer. There is classic seating at the counter where you can watch the food being made on the grill. And an old wooden staircase that leads you up to some booths and tables upstairs. There is a mood at Rana, and we like it.

And yet, we come for the hamburgers. Let’s talk about that.

Rana Burger is outside of the main “downtown” part of Sapporo, but we have made the short journey out to Rana for one of their very special hamburgers many times.

I always order the Jack burger. The “Jack” means jack cheese, and it is indeed a cheese burger. I order it basically cheese only. For the featured picture for this review, I happen to add homemade bacon to my burger that day (and it should be called “a bacon steak” it was so thick).

(They also have a burger they call “The Sapporo Burger,” which has no vegetables – which is how I like it, but I can’t think of another burger place in my life that doesn’t automatically try to put “mustard” and “tomatoes” and all manner of other condiments on their burger. I am both surprised by the choice of such a simple burger, and I simultaneously approve.)

And now, are you ready for the big secret about Rana? I am happy to share: It’s their “spicy” sauce. That is the singular quality about Rana that makes me want to stop in again and again. Back to my plain “Jack” burger: Just a perfect toasted bun, the meat, that jack cheese and… the spicy sauce. The flavor is special. I want to say it reminds me, maybe, somewhat, or a Jamaican “jerk” sauce. If you can imagine coming to Rana for a “Jack” “jerk” burger, that is basically my experience.

It was only as I was showing this review (and the pictures) to a friend of mine that I actually noticed the burgers here ae all wagyu beef. Maybe that is standard at other places, but I don’t believe so. I think the high-end beef is also part of what makes for the great taste at Rana (even if I had had 10+ burgers there before I paid any attention to that detail on the menu).

Rana Burger in Maruyama is a “cash only” establishment. I have personal experience with this, as one time I had finished my meal and tried to pay with a credit card, and… that is not an option. They were very patient with me as I left my bag on the counter, went outside, and ran around the neighborhood trying to find an ATM. They were more than cool about it. Maybe that helped me being a bit of relationship there.

Speaking of the good relationship: I am a grateful guest (almost always, and every single time at my favorite places). I always say hello when I come in. And I always say thank you, and generally try to give a compliment or two (“oiish-ka-ta!”) in Japanese as I leave. Its good manners, and it’s also personal, and more fun.

This week I came in for lunch. I ordered my Jack burger with the special sauce, and went upstairs for a quiet meal. At some point in the middle of my time there that day, the cook brought me a few, very special French fries as a little present (as “service,” or so they in Japan). He doesn’t really speak English, but he said they were “handmade.” I noticed a little dusting of spices and the taste was excellent. Getting a “special treat” from the staff isn’t something anyone should expect, but it adds to my love for Rana. I most certainly thanked him again as I left.

I have never tried their pancakes (and maybe I should?!), but for a special hamburger, the Rana hamburger in Sapporo is worth the visit.

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