So, last night I decided to stop by DevilCraft (one word) Beer Pub & Pizzeria, located near Hamamatsucho Station here in Tokyo. I had heard about the pub from a friend of mine who actually works there, so I managed to snag a quick interview with one of the three founders – who graciously invited me to join him for the evening!
As I had never been to the location before (and admittedly don`t know that area very well), it did take me a little while to find the place. So for those of you who find yourselves easily lost in big urban jungles, like myself; I created a quick video to show you exactly how to reach the place from Hamamatsucho Station on the JR Line (which is easily accessible by the Yurakucho Line, Yamanote Line and Keihin-Tohoku Lines).
Rounding the corner from the train station, I almost immediately began to notice the change in the night atmosphere as I got closer to the small pizza joint.
Even from the outside, you can easily feel the relaxed and friendly atmosphere emanating from the interior. The 65-seat pub was packed with customers who were just casually chatting away about work and every day events. It was pretty easy to imagine that most of the people there were regular customers who pretty much chose to make this place their primary hang out spot on most days of the week. Lots of smiles and friendly faces, but my thoughts were preoccupied with 3 things: pizza, beer and “DevilCraft“. I had a lot of questions about those.
Fortunately, I was able to meet with Mike Grant, who is one of the 3 Founding Partners of DevilCraft, and he was able to clear up quite a few things about the beer pub and its establishment.
Read More below >>
#1) DevilCraft is an American-based Chicago-style pizzeria. Once the brand became popular, the founders decided to start a few small branches in Japan.
Truth: While some people may believe this, DevilCraft was actually started right here in Tokyo! The 3 founding members had wanted to enter the beer business and just happened to be living in Tokyo. They opened the Kanda branch in 2011 which was followed by the Hamamatsucho branch in 2013. You can visit their website here! http://en.devilcraft.jp/about/hamamatsucho/
#2) DevilCraft`s main business focus has always been deep-dish Chicago-style pizza.
Truth: DevilCraft was actually founded on the concepts of craft beer and pizza. Both of these concepts were always a considered major factors for the business` success. However, while they initially start with a mix of both flat and deep-dish pizzas; they found that the flat pizzas weren`t selling well in comparison to the huge success of their Chicago-style pizzas, so they removed the flat pizzas from the menu and decided to stick with deep-dish.
The founders wanted to show the brewing license authorities that they would have a place to sell their beer, so the pizzeria was a perfect starting point. They also wanted to offer an impressive and delicious American-style food and beer experience to their own customers as they felt that the food options offered by other beer places in Tokyo at the time was sorely lacking in certain areas.
Because of this, DevilCraft could accurately be described as a “full-service casual pizzeria and craft beer pub”.
Speaking with Mr. Grant, I not only learned a lot about the origin of DevilCraft; I also learned quite a bit about the principles that it was built upon and philosophy that drives it. Read More below >>
DevilCraft currently employes 12 full time staff and has around 30 part time staff covering both locations here in Tokyo. While there are plans to build a new pub sometime in the near future, there`s not really too much of a rush for rapid business expansion at this time. Slow and easy is the natural flow of this place, which not only works out very well; but also mirrors the type of cuisine served at each location.
While the pizza and waffle fry potatoes that DevilCraft serves have both made their distinctive marks in the area and have also successfully managed to pay for the overall success of the brewery, Mike noted that the place mainly receives two types of customers; the pizza lovers and the craft beer lovers. Read More below >>
But Mike did also warn me that if you`re looking for a place for a quick lunch and 5-minute pizza service; then you might want to carry a few extra gummy bears to suck on while you`re waiting in line. Because DevilCraft specializes in handmade craft pizzas, the average time to make one is about 35~45 minutes. There can be waiting lines and you may have to wait a while before your bundle of piping-hot-tomato-smothered goodness is delivered to you. While this might be a turn off for those who are less patient (or simply too hungry to wait), most customers don`t mind and are willing to put their rumbling stomaches on hold while chatting with their friends and basking in the relaxing atmosphere.
Besides, that`s what the craft beers are for!
Keep in mind that both the Hamamatsucho and Kanda locations are primarily designed to be brewery pubs, meaning that they exist to serve alcohol. So while families surely wouldn`t be turned away, the space for families and small children may be a little limited. The Hamamatsucho location only has 65 seats, and the Kanda location is designed for 42 (but is has a few floors). There is quite a bit of standing space in the Hamamatsucho spot, but it would probably be a little tight for the average baby carriage or stroller setting and the place can get crowded with hungry people wanting their fill of deep-dish pie quite fast!
Realistically, if you`re just after the pizza or are traveling with a group of children; it`s highly recommended that you reserve your order in advance. DevilCraft does handle take-out requests (they don`t deliver yet), so you can have your pie ready for pickup in about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Believe me, it`s worth it!
* Note: In the case of Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, if you`re going to take the pizza home with you, Mike expertly advises that you leave it uncut until you arrive at your location. This will help the pizza to maintain it`s physical structure and make it easier for serving later.
If you still want to visit the pub with your family in order to get fresh pizza and experience some of the warm atmosphere, all is not lost. Mondays and Tuesdays are typically slow(er) than normal days, and weekend afternoons tend to be best. Prior reservation is still the best option of course, but the Hamamatsucho location is also open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30am to 2pm.
The other crowd that most frequently visits DevilCraft are of course the craft beer lovers! Most of the regular customers consist of people from this group, who are not only looking for good food, but who also want a nice, cool and casual to hang out in while sipping on their favorite IPA or other craft brew. Read More below >>
The beer drinkers are the crowd that tend to arrive around 5pm~6pm and stay there chatting with staff and friends until closing time at 11pm and all of them are very laid back and friendly towards both staff and new customers. So if you`re into craft beers and are looking for a low-key place to hang out for the evening with your friends, then I`d highly recommend that you stop by DevilCraft and spend some time there getting to know everyone. While the craft beers naturally a little more expensive than the typical brands (which they also serve), the taste and experience are second to none here in Tokyo. They also sell handmade desserts, which are also gaining a quite positive reputation of their own.
My last question of the night for Mike was about the pub`s name. Why “DevilCraft“?
Mike told me that the name was based on a few different (conveniently creative) factors:
1) They wanted to use the name “Devil” in the same somewhere (possibly for the sinisterly & sinfully tasting temptations they planned to create inside.)
2) They were thinking of the word “craft“, originally because of the word “witchcraft”. But the word craft can also be defined as “skill or technique” AND since the original concept for the pub was based on creating craft beers and craft pizzas anyway, that pretty-much sealed it.
3) Another contributing factor for not only the pub name, but also the logo was the “Devil`s Pitchfork“. The Devils` Pitchfork is usually depicted with 3 prongs, just like a normal fork (only red, larger and much more menacing in most pictures). However, because of the deep-dish structure of Chicago-style pizzas, a lot of people often eat them with… you guessed it, a fork!
Silver fork + tomato sauce pizza = red fork. Get it? Pretty ingenious marketing strategy if you ask me!
That basically answered all of my questions about the pub`s origin and it`s establishment. Once my mystery was solved, Mike and I stepped outside of the busy space and chatted for a bit more before saying our goodbyes. Even after leaving the place, it was fairly easy to imagine which groups of people coming from the station were heading to DevilCraft. Of course they all looked hungry and obviously had beer on the brain; but even more so, they all looked content in the fact that they were going somewhere comfortable and relaxing to wind down from a busy working day.
Not a bad ending to a busy working day. I will definitely be hanging out at DC a lot more often now that I know where to find it and what it`s all about. If you ever find yourself hanging out around Hamamatsucho Station, I`d recommend that you do the same.
You`ll find that it`s well worth the trip!
-Find more interesting stories about Japan on the メグスリノキJapanese Cultural Blog