Craft Beer Market’s original Vancouver location at False Creek is now open and ready to seat customers once more. This local fan favourite brewpub has seen a facelift, and after 4 weeks of renovations they are ready to reveal themselves. The space’s modern approach to decor better aligns with his other two properties, keeping with their theme of bringing the outdoors indoors, and/or the indoors out. They have done well to breathe new life into the space, while keep the heritage building intact. Their 360° island bar with plenty of taps still centres the main foyer, and you can still enjoy looking up at the ceiling to see all the pipes leading keg to tap. And the basement where the washrooms are located still gives you a look at their barrel room behind glass.
But now the dining area has a lot more strategically placed seating. Themed nooks and crannies that you can cloister up in and enjoy an extended stay at with vintage audio and video equipment on display and neon lights to mark the way. I liked the wall of found stereos on display, positioned alongside miniature beers kegs, growlers, and faux foliage. And the decal that asked if you could kick it?
But the highlight to all of this is the vintage airstream trailer. The hollowed-out shell has been reclaimed and repurposed into seats. Be sure to call ahead and make reservations to claim one of its booths for your next visit. However, come sunnier days, their popular Olympic Village facing patio will be the seats to covet.
Tonight, we were invited to their grand reopening party, where media, industry, friends and family were able to get a first-hand look at this spacious pub. Small bites the likes of tacos, burgers, and cauliflower were passed around the room. And there were stations set up for grab and go bites like lettuce wraps, pizza and poke. Given that this was a mix and mingle assembly not a formal sit-down dinner I will not be going into too much detail of the quality of the food or how it tasted, and ask that you take my writing with a grain of salt. The reality is, the ability to produce this much food, at this fast of a pace, for a building this full of guests is no easy task. Something typically has to give, and it tends to be the quality. The goal was to have people fed and the Craft kitchen team did this expertly.
Guests were full and well hydrated thanks to the number of drink tickets passed out. We were able to order any of Craft’s beers on tap, choosing from the entire menu, on top of a house red or white wine option. But to start each guest would be given a complementary margarita right at the door, as you entered.
I was lucky enough to be able to chat up Craft’s Executive Chef who represents all 3 Lower Mainland properties. He was honest in his description of their chain bar/restaurant. The reality is Craft is known for its beer, sports, and vibe; in that order. Their food does not even make it onto the top three. And that is where our ambitious Chef steps in. He is looking to change this and wants to make Craft a destination for tasty eats, on top of it being known of delivering a “fun, premium quality experience”. No more food on trays is his first call to action, you will be seeing actual plates used to serve their food. He teased a sticky, sweet Korean rib dish, severed as a whole rack. So, I’ll be curious to see where Craft is a month from now, and will expecting to try big things. Perhaps they might even bring back the 20 Napkin Burger? This was a burger as big as it sounds, and one of their original menu items. I fondly recall trying this when I first visited this location, so many years ago, when it first opened.
Nonetheless, the following is what we had this night and currently it is all is on their regular menu.
The Cabo Fish Tacos are large pieces of fried fish topped with a fresh cabbage, jalapeno lime crema, pico de gallo, and cilantro; all folded in a flour tortilla and served with their Craft signature hot sauce. The latter is a must have for the best experience.
The Crispy Chicken Sliders are made with naturally raised American-style fried chicken, hot sauce, maple syrup, slaw, and house pickles. I liked how large and thickly breaded the chicken was in relation to the bun. You could also taste the quality of the white meat used compared to the stale bun. It would have helped to have a tangy mayo and more sweet pickles to combat this.
I believe that the beef slider that came around the room was not on the menu, as it is missing ingredients. It was a single beef patty with house pickles, white cheddar and the Craft signature burger sauce. Sadly, I did not want more than a bite. The burger was incredibly dry, the bun stale, the sauce but a hint. The burger needed salt, seasoning, and something fresh. This was not a good representation of how I know their regular burgers to be, and could be.
The Nashville Hot Cauliflower bites were morsels on skewer for easy eating. They did not look like much plated like this, and it would have been nicer to get larger florets to be able to fully taste the vegetable underneath all the breading. Although at least there was plenty of flavour packed into each nibble. This was thanks to the spicy cayenne glaze, lime avocado crema, and cilantro. It left you with a lingering heat. This was a great vegetarian option to replace chicken wings.
The Ahi Poke Bowls were assembled to order with sashimi grade ahi tuna, cucumber, fresh ginger & garlic sesame-soy vinaigrette, togarashi aioli, pickled carrots, avocado, steamed rice, dried seaweed, and sesame seed. I liked the line up, but found it all a touch on the bland side. I would have liked a creamy mayo or some soy for salt. But texturally the bowl was well conceived and the sushi rice well prepared.
The pizza station was set up with six different options, sliced up small for bite-size samples, so that you were able to try all 5 of their offerings. Guests could get as much shredded cheese and chilli oil drizzled on top as they wanted. I would do this with a mound of pizza piled high on my side plate. Situated under heat lamps with a steady line of hungry folks, the pizza stayed warm, but I did find them on the drier side.
The Honolulu Heat was their spicy take on the classic Hawaiian made with housemade tomato sauce, mozzarella, prosciutto, bacon, pineapple, and jalapeños. I especially liked the large slices of dehydrated pineapple rings. You didn’t get any sweetness from them, but they were a great visual.
The Bacon Fun Guy had housemade bechamel sauce, bacon, herb & chili roasted mushrooms, pickled red onion, mozzarella, grana padano cheese, parsley, and lemon zest. The citrus of the lemon zest came through on this, adding a bright contrast to the salty bacon. I did not get much mushroom from this one.
The Kale Margherita was simply lovely, nothing like the classic simple 3 ingredient pie. Housemade tomato sauce, cherry tomatoes, kale, chilli flakes, mozzarella, grana padano cheese, and basil pesto. The pesto was the standout and what made this memorable for me.
The Prosciutto Arugula had housemade tomato sauce, prosciutto, grana padano cheese, fresh arugula, lemon, and extra virgin olive oil. It was hard to make out the meat from all the raw vegetable on top. This pizza was not as memorable as the others.
The Queen Bee was their upgrade on the classic pepperoni pizza prepared with housemade tomato sauce, pepperoni, jalapeno relish, mozzarella, grana padano cheese, and hot honey. This was the most flavourful and the one I would order again.
And the last station was serving up Kung Pao Lettuce Wraps, a menu creation from the mind of celebrity Chef Alex Chen. Kung pao chicken, seared vegetables, cashews, and crispy farkay noodles doled out on iceberg lettuce cups. This was basically an utensil free way to eat sticky sweet soy noodles. The noodles were tasty enough, but the lettuce offered a freshness that was not to my tastes.
The food did not deliver the same as the drinks and setting did, something once again their Executive Chef is aware of and working to remedy. As it stands, when you come to Craft you are here for the drinks, and those did not disappoint. It is good to have this hot spot open and serving its community once more. Looking forward to summers at Craft False Creek.
CRAFT Beer Market False Creek
85 W 1st Ave, Vancouver, BC V5Y 3K8, Canada