A military post even back in 1776 before California was a state, the Presidio is one of the oldest such settlements on the West Coast. With a new hotel and a buzzy restaurant scene, the lush neighborhood is more destination-worthy than ever.
Opened inside the Presidio Officers’ Club by Traci Des Jardins, the restaurant serves California-inspired Mexican food and drinks — a nod to Des Jardins’ Mexican roots. Case in point: Arguello’s spacious outdoor patio is equipped with an outdoor griddle (comal) for tortilla-making. With over 120 agaves to work with, bar manager Andi Miller and bar director Enrique Sanchez are not only delivering some of the best margaritas in town, but are constantly on a quest to learn more about the spirits they have at hand. Inspired by a trip to Hawaii, Miller used coconut oil to create a fat- washed Out of Office cocktail, adding coconut flavor to blanco tequila with- out making it too sweet.
Owner Ray Tang opened Presidio Social Club in a 1903 military barracks with the idea of providing the comforts of a club without dues. Executive chef Wesley Shaw, a native Texan with Southern tastes, plans many special events, including a summer barbecue season, clambakes, pig roasts, game dinners and celebration of holidays like Chinese New Year. Another successful offering is Pitchers & Pintxos, featuring pitchers of house-made cocktails and bar bites called pintxos on the back-yard patio. It’s happening weekdays from 5 to 8 p.m. till the end of October, with complimentary pintxos available from 6 to 7.
Another Traci Des Jardins venture, The Commissary is in the former mess hall of the Montgomery Street Barracks. The Spanish-influenced menu of traditional favorites showcases sustainable and locally sourced ingredients, and we’re talking really local — thanks to a program called Presidio Grown, both The Commissary and Arguello make use of fresh produce and herbs from six Presidio gardens. Commissary bar director Tony Stewart looks at what’s fresh and available each week for seasonal cocktails and signature drinks like the El Jardín, a cooling, light concoction of sea gin, Lillet, Presidio garden herbs and a splash of lime.
With over 100 craft beers, including 24 on draft and the occasional home brew, this restaurant gets its name from the term “session beers.” Reportedly, World War I workers in Britain drank brews with lower alcohol content that let them be functional after a time-restricted imbibing “session”; similarly, the drinks here pack flavor, not inebriation. Over on the food side, Sessions focuses on small, shareable and large plates made with produce, herbs and olive oil from Marin-based Skywalker Ranch. Guests here are spared the tipping decision: Sessions was among the first West Coast restaurants to include a 20 percent service charge in the bill.
Photos courtesy of Kassie Borreson.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “Now Serving”.