SF: Craft Lessons Are Now In Session(s) at The Presidio

The hamburger at Sessions at the Presidio restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., is seen on Oct. 20, 2015.
The hamburger at Sessions at the Presidio restaurant in San Francisco

Photo Credit: John Storey

Sessions, the newest restaurant offering in San Francisco’s bucolic Presidio, is a crafter’s dream. Craft beer, craft cocktails, and craft cuisine are served amidst a handcrafted interior by Lundberg Design, the center of which is a large bar tailored to become the sort of place where everybody knows your name.

Sessions at the Presidio’s partners, Michael Bilger, executive chef, and Evin Gelleri, business and general manager, envisioned a communal, neighborhood spot, offering destination level drink and food that intrigues out-of-towners and keeps regulars coming back for more. The result is a must-see haute mix of natural and manufactured elements with varied nooks that are perfect for large or private gatherings.

Taking its name from ‘session’ beers that have a lower alcohol content and are therefore suitable for drinking over an extended period, Sessions at the Presidio is all about beer and offers more than 100 selections with varying alcohol counts, under categories such as ‘fun,’ ‘exciting,’ ‘classic,’ ‘crisp’, and ‘big.’ Can’t decide? The large, outdoor, heated patio overlooking Letterman Digital Arts Center’s park-like setting is the perfect haute spot to relax, watch the sunset, and try a flight of three 5oz. pours.

But don’t let the multi-page beer menu blind you to the craft cocktail choices. Made with farm-fresh ingredients, the list includes classics such as the brunch perfect ‘Sessions Bloody,’ and more novel selections such as ‘The Presidio Pirate’ with amber rum, cynar, pineapple, lime and ginger, or the ‘Three Goddesses’ with vodka, elderflower liqueur, lime, pear and angostura bitters. A 30 bottle wine list and 10 wines on tap round out the bar menu.

And if the craft beer and craft cocktails are not your draw, go for the skillfully crafted food – specifically the burger. Featured on both the lunch and dinner menus, the ‘Sessions House Ground Burger’ is served straight up with bread and butter pickles or ‘chef’s style’ with wagon wheel cheese and a bacon anchor jam. The flavor is intense and smoky and rivals the best burgers in town.

Chef Bilger’s other offerings include seasonally farm-driven shared plates such as the crispy pork belly with green pea pancakes and gremolata or the Niman Ranch beef hangar steak with smoked onion puree, herb potatoes, pickled cipollinis and sherry jus. Try the zesty and fresh ‘avocado toast’ with pickled red onion, panela cheese and cilantro, and don’t skip the thick cut Kennebeck fries with hop salt and dark malt aioli.

Pastry Chef Johanna Lopez, who has worked at El Paseo and Wayfare Tavern, creates seasonally crafted desserts, a few with beer-related nuances like the crystal malt ice cream sandwich on molasses cookies, or the Imperial Stout float with brown butter brickle ice cream.

Sessions is one of a small group of San Francisco restaurants that have chosen to include a service charge to each bill in lieu of tipping. Designed to provide a living wage and health benefits for all members of the kitchen and wait staff, the practice is gathering steam. It is an honorable and haute distinction to be on the cutting edge of a magnanimous trend, and Sessions at the Presidio has crafted a winning package of delicious food and drink, great setting, and friendly service that justifies the practice.

Sessions is located just inside the Presidio’s Chestnut Gate on Letterman Drive. The main dining room seats 150 and accepts reservations up to 10 people. Two private dining rooms accommodate groups of 16 and 90. The 50-seat outdoor patio can also be reserved. Sessions at the Presidio is open M-F 11:30 AM – 10 PM and weekends 10 AM – 10 PM. www.sessionssf.com.

Photography: Kingmond Young