Sessions Taproom and Kitchen (Campbell River, BC)

A couple days before our Ace Brewing adventure, our crew met up at a Campbell River joint to plan some of our holiday adventures. Sessions Taproom and Kitchen had been suggested to me numerous times but despite biking by it to and from work for two years I’d never had a chance to sit down and enjoy it’s hospitality.

Shame on me for such an oversight. Not only does Sessions deliver an exceptional lounge/drinking experience, but it has – I’m not messing around here – the best pizza in our town.

STOP! Two really quick prefaces before I go any further:

  1. Every town has one or two locally owned pizza joints that locals will fight to the death to claim the title of best pizza. I get that, and I know how quickly it can escalate. I’m not here to fan the flames.. much, but I’ve eaten at every pizza joint in town (both in house and takeaway) and I honestly think this is the one. Don’t come at me.
  2. I know at least half the folks in the kitchen and have worked with them before in other subterranean locals and they are near and dear to me. That said, I swear their work is speaking for itself and you’ll just have to take my word that it isn’t influencing my opinion.

But yeah, best pizza in town.

Let’s back up: Sessions opened a couple of years ago as a restaurant front with a spin cycle studio in the back. This trendy setup attracted a lot of people to the exercise portion of the business, but left the eatery with a wrongly assumed rep (at least in the jaded groups that I frequent) as a juice bar-esque afterthought. This was never the case and Sessions has spent the last few years not only thriving despite all our industry’s woes, but stepping up as a premier destination in our burg.

When Crystal and I sat down Sessions was hopping. There were no people in yoga outfits walking through the dinning room -in fact, I don’t know if the spin classes are even going on! – and the service was tap focused with a couple of cocktails available for the slightly more adventurous.

And adventurous we were! On the advice of our server/mixologist Crystal ordered a stunning lavender-coloured Aviation cocktail. This tiny jewel combined gin and maraschino liquor with the majestically-hued crème de Violette which lent sweetness and a wildly flora aroma to the finish. I opted for a thirst quenching Aperol Spritz which had just the right bittersweet bite to balance the bubbles (alliteration!) and made me run to the liquor cabinet the minute I got home to replicate it.

Our friends arrived just as we were ordering our mains which meant that after a minute or two of, “Well if you are getting, then I guess I’ll try” kind of talk we settled on four of their handmade pizzas:

  • The Fresh Prince: Crystal loves Beef on her pizza and she was not disappointed by this behemoth of brisket, carmelized onion, peppers and jalapenos with an extra dimension of smoked cheddar in the cheese topping. This pizza was foot to the floor savoury and over the top in all the right ways.
  • Lord of the Pies: Much more subtle but no less meat-forward was this little gem with prosciutto, pineapple and arugula which played really well with Session’s ridiculously-thin crust blistered with a bit of ash. I wonder which member of the kitchen crew lobbied for the upscale Hawaiian Hmmmm.
  • Dough a Deer: The pizza I wanted to order was snatched away by the other Sean at the table, but because he’s such a fine friend I got a good chunk of it. What a treat! Venison chorizo with a very complementary sundried tomato and onion mix made for a perfect, deeply savoury and salty flavour balanced by balsamic reduction.
  • Wal-Notty by Nature: So with everyone going hog wild (more specifically, hog, cow and deer wild) I decided to round out our order by going all veg. This gamble quickly paid off as my pie was the first of the table to disappear, not because of the roasted garlic béchamel, kale or smoked cheddar but because of chef Chris’ mind-bending walnut-based sausage mix that everyone in our crew thought was pure magic.

The pizzas were thin yet pillowy, non-filling and perfectly blistered. Later I re-read the menu and realized the Sessions crew had sourced True Grain’s 100% Organic Flour for all their dough.

If this review has incited you to brave the apocalypse to get a beer and a good bite to eat then you’d better get to Sessions early as CR’s restaurant closures have propelled the tap house to socially-distanced shoulder-to-shoulder crowds at peak times. When I bike by it’s packed and everyone who is sitting is eating with a blissful look on their face, everyone waiting is sweaty with anticipation.

Bring proof of vaccination, treat your server and bartender with the utmost respect and tell the kitchen they did a good job. They all deserve it for the damn fine meal your going to have.

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