Michael Bilger and Evin Gelleri didn’t plan to open a restaurant when they started tinkering around brewing their own beer as a hobby. But that’s what chef Bilger and general manager Gelleri have done with Sessions in the Presidio — an upscale brewpub devoted not only to craft beer and cocktails but also to seasonal, high-level pub food.
The owners describe Sessions as “a new American public house.” The name refers to the British term, “session beers,” where, as the legend goes, during World War II munitions workers in England had to take long breaks between double shifts. The breaks often took place at the local pub where workers enjoyed not only food but also plenty of pints of ale. So they could be fit to go back to work, these drinkers imbibed lower-alcohol but still flavorful brew known as session beers.
CHOOSE FROM 100 BEER OPTIONS
Sessions, with its spacious bar, two dining rooms that seat 150 and a patio (as well as a private dining room for 16) and accents of wood, acrylic, and steel, feels less like a pub than a sleek, modern restaurant. Bilger, Gelleri, and master cicercone (a professional certification for serving and pairing beer with food) candidate Nicole Erny have created a big, comfortable space for friends and families alike to enjoy 100 beer options, including 45 on tap; 30 wines, 10 on tap; and cocktails made with seasonal ingredients.
START WITH BITES
In partnership with Skywalker Ranch in Marin, Sessions features seasonal, locally grown fruit, vegetables, and herbs and sustainably raised and harvested meat and seafood. The restaurant serves lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch.
All of the menus are divided into bites, like their house-made “brewed” bread served with goat butter and sea salt ($4); grilled, marinated king trumpet mushrooms ($7), and for brunch, stone fruit (seasonal) and cream with savory granola ($6). For dinner, start with the panella cheese dumplings with cilantro-chili pesto ($8), little bites that melt in your mouth.
FRIES WITH HOP SALT
Small plates are listed under droll headings: Field and Farm, Fin and Siphon, and Hoof and Talon. For lunch and dinner there’s farmstead cheese with pickled walnuts, honeycomb, and brewed bread ($6/$11/$15); a salad of organic baby greens; and on all three menus, thick-cut Kennebeck fries with hop salt and dark-malt aioli ($8). Seafood includes market oysters (A.Q.); fish, like Hawaiian big eye tuna crudo ($17) with finger lime (amazing tiny limes that exude tart flesh like pale caviar); and mussels or clams ($14–$20).
Hoof and Talon dishes include a house-cured meat and cheese platter ($16/$29); Liberty duck mousse with Flanders red ale gelee, pickled stone fruit, and seed crackers ($14); and crispy buttermilk-fried quail with hot sauce and lemon-dill honey ($15). Brunch-goers can enjoy Imperial stout sausage with mustard kraut ($14).
Larger plates offer everything from rye paparadelle pasta with smoked beets and a soft-cooked egg ($19); Niman Ranch hanger steak with smoked onion puree and herb potatoes ($32); and the Sessions burger, either “straight” with pickles and fries or chef’s style with cheese and bacon ($17). A fresh fish entrée is always on the menu, and at lunch you can order a house-smoked open-face pastrami sandwich on marble rye ($18); a house-smoked trout salad with truffle-lemon dressing ($19); and line-caught local cod fish and chips with coleslaw ($19), which is also available for brunch. Brunch also features plain, apple, or bacon pannenkoek (Belgian-style thin pancakes) with applestroop (apple butter) ($12-16).
Favorites include a crystal-malt ice-cream sandwich with a molasses cookie ($8) and the chocolate cremeux (pudding) hazelnut sponge cake with coffee mousse ($11). There’s also an imperial milk stout float with butter brickle ice cream and a goat cheese cake with kalamata olive pine nut crunch and Skywalker Ranch olive oil.
Sessions is both a great place to stop in after a long day and watch a game (yes, there’s a big-screen TV in the bar) while enjoying a craft beer or artisan cocktail, or a place to enjoy a light snack or hearty meal any time.
Sessions at the Presidio: 1 Letterman Drive (at the Chestnut Gate), 415-655-9413, sessionssf.com; Monday–Tuesday 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m., Wednesday–Friday 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sunday, 11a.m.–9 p.m.