The Craft, Sapporo

While some of the good restaurants in Sapporo we will send you to can be a little hard to find, The Craft in Sapporo is hardly a secret.

The Craft (which is a beer bar in Sapporo) is peak “Susukino.” It is a few shops east of the main intersection that separates the southern Susukino area from the more civilized Odori part of town. Without too much effort, you’re liable to find it. That is how I found it, many years ago.

The Craft takes it name from “craft beer.” If you know this blog, you know we try to bring you the intel on the best craft beer bars in Sapporo, so of course we have some experience with this place.  We have had a few beers here, and watched The Craft make a few changes over the years.

What originally brought us here was the promise of Chicago Pizza in Sapporo. In addition to beers and Sapporo hamburgers (and even Indian food in Sapporo), we have particular focus on good pizza in Sapporo. So does The Craft measure up?

Based on experience, we can tell you that even their own standards for “Chicago pizza” (this time we say it in “air quotes,” which might be a hint as to how authentic it is) have changed over time.

When we first came to The Craft in 2019, their take on the Chicago pizza was unusual, but also a little different than what it is now.  Here we offer an “OG” picture from our personal experience of what The Craft’s Chicago pizza used to look like:

Ummm, looks good, doesn’t it? It was.

Is that Chicago pizza? No, clearly not. But it was an interesting interpretation of what a real Chicago pizza might be. In case that picture doesn’t make it clear, their previous version was almost three inches tall (seven cm) and maybe five inches across. It was both deep and small.  The crust was uniformly about one cm thick, and very crunchy (not really like any other pizza crust I have ever had).  The original experience of cutting thru the thick crusty exterior was a kind of “challenge” to start the night.  It was really nothing like a real Chicago pizza, but it was good, and a welcome addition to the otherwise mostly uninspiring pizza in Sapporo.

The picture above was a sausage and mushroom pizza (done with the original smaller size), and it was a little strange, but a very good meal.  They don’t offer it at all any more, and that is a net loss; it was a good experience, every time.

The current pizza menu at The Craft has expanded quite a bit.  While they still have Chicago style, they lead with more typical thin-crust “crispy” pizza you can find everywhere in Sapporo.  I confess I did not try the new thin-crust variety, but (until I do), I can warn visitors that Sapporo likes to do a version of “pizza” where the crust is more like a crispy tortilla (or often soggy tortilla, which is even worse) than anything from a more respectable pizza tradition.

Back to their original Chicago specialty: Some time in 2021 or 2020, they reorganized the menu. They kept the Chicago pizza idea, but they changed the shape; the new 2022 version was little less deep and a little wider. What was once a deep bowl, had become a shallow bowl. The new design was cooked in the same way, with similar flavors (even if they cut my favorite pizza from the menu entirely), and was a little harder to eat, without becoming any more at all like an actual pizza in the Chicago tradition.

Here is what the current 2023 version of a pizza at The Craft:

This particular pizza is their Diabora pizza. That “red” color that you can see in the picture is partly from the tomato sauce, but also a sign of a “tabasco” like spiciness. If you look close, past the (over) abundance of chopped red onion, you’ll see some jalapeno pepper slices.  There is also some chicken on that pizza, but it’s not easy to tell.

Then (as now), as they put (probably too many) vegetables on each pizza, as the pizza bakes, it releases water, the final product is a bit soupy, and tends to flow across the plate as you try to cut it into “slices.”  Back in the day, the narrow diameter of the pizza meant that each “slice” was only about two inches long (about as long as it was tall),so even though it was often wet, it held it’s shape, you could pick a slice up (even covered in delicious cheese and meat and mushrooms). That was then.

Now, the pizza is something that is mostly to be eaten with a fork and knife… and maybe a spoon.  While a proper Chicago pizza could be thought of a “pie,” and yes, potentially eaten with a fork, the new design probably takes us further away from anything that could be found in the Chicago style.

Here is a shot of their “specials.”  We have confessed elsewhere (and we will again) that our skill with the Japanese language is not strong,. But even as a “warui gakusei” (bad student) I could read アスパうとべーこン – which we’ll take the risk and try to translate; it means something like “asparagus and bacon” pizza.  We have had that one before (in their new style), and it’s pretty tasty.

We won’t tell you that the pizza at The Craft is especially good (I am not sure that would be accurate, if we did).  But they make their contribution to Sapporo pizza culture in their own way, and it is interesting, “special” (maybe “unique”), and it is completely edible, certainly.  The Diabora pizza pictured above was a mistake, actually. We tried to order the Meat pizza, and the server misunderstood what we were pointing to, after a 15 minute wait, we received the spicy one as a “surprise.”  But even so, it was pretty good.  And overall, the time there was good also.  I would go back again right now.

Their menu goes beyond pizza.  There is meat to be had at the Craft, but that isn’t what we go there for.

And beyond the food, one of the strongest selling points for a night at The Craft is the party-like atmosphere.  The Craft is a somewhat upscale, higher-end experience.  You could take a date there and it would feel right. But there is a fair bit of drinking that happens at The Craft. It’s not uncommon to see a round of shots going down at the bar. Like most places in Sapporo, its not the kind of place where you walk around and mingle, but it does have a more social feel than almost any other place we might write about on this blog. It’s fun. にぎやかです – lively, as they say in Japanese.

And there is all of that beer, after all.

Here is a recent picture of the beer menu at The Craft in Sapporo:

There is a lot on offer in terms of selection of beer at The Craft. They claim 30+ beers on tap. And they do “flights” if that is something you like.  If you look closely at the IPA choices, you’ll see they offer the IPA from North Island Beer Bar in Sapporo (which is nearby).

The Craft is easy to find and convenient (especially if you have plans before or after in Susukino).  The food is good.  The atmosphere is fun.  It’s a good time. Check it out.

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