Belly up to the bar
Drian’s, inside the Round Corner
Drian’s, inside the Round Corner2333 S St.
Sacramento, CA 95816
Good for: bar food
Notable dishes: lumpia, chicken wings
Dorothea Puente haunts the place, or so Chef Drian Perez tells us. To chase her off he says he once ripped off his shirt, screamed at her to “bring it,” before finishing up the dishes and closing up shop.
So went our surprisingly deep and sometimes hilarious conversation about life, death, and food at our table before Perez ended his break and sauntered back to the kitchen, pausing to shake hands and earnestly catch up with friends and patrons alike, to whip up some of the most lard-tastic, PBR-soakingly good tacos I have ever had.
So it goes at Drian’s, inside the Round Corner; a tiny restaurant found inside the Round Corner bar on S Street. If you haven’t been to Round Corner, you should. It’s the dive-iest, grungiest, people-being-dropped-off-from-County-in-shoes-with-no-laces bar you’ve ever experienced. It’s seen a fight or two, sure, but for the most part the place is welcoming and rocks out with a bangin’ music selection. (On our visits, the sound system belted tunes from Billie Holiday, Prince, Color Me Badd and Destiny’s Child.)
During our meal we met any number of awesome characters, like Miguel from Venzuela; 68 years old and still able to do the splits in front of his 101-year-old, pack-and-a-half-a-day mother. Or Charles and his creepy-ass headband who racked up game after game of pool.
This is a place where a pitcher of beer costs $7, and a Tanqueray and soda will cost you $3.50.
But Perez is the pull. A man from the Philippines who used to be the chef for the Sacramento Kings under both the Ranadive and Maloof eras, he took over the Round Corner’s restaurant space in July 2014 when the last owner bailed.
Since then, word of Drian’s food has quickly spread and it’s not surprising to find the city’s best chefs there pounding tequila and lumpia.
And let’s talk about that lumpia. Lumpia, if you haven’t had them, are fried egg rolls. Drian’s are expertly executed: the exteriors are crisp and hot, each rolled tightly to ensure there are no soggy pockets of oil. (Perez informed us that his lumpia are all rolled by his aunt, and have become so popular at the bar he was able to buy her a plane ticket back to the Philippines last year. Twice.) The cigar-thick pork lumpia are salty and savory, while the veggie ones are filled with crisp cabbage, carrot and the unusual but welcome addition of bell pepper.
Potato nachos are a bit misleading. They’re actually loaded fries and not wedges of potato as noted on the menu, which was disappointing. Smothered in black beans, hot sauce, sour cream and cheese sauce, it’s the epitome of greasy bar food.
A plate of pork tacos made a welcome appearance. Crispy fried shells packed with lardy shredded pork wouldn’t so much break a diet but atomize it into a fine mist.
If you appreciate dining at In-and-Out, a most-polarizing fast food restaurant if there ever was one, you will love the burgers, but don’t expect anything too impressive.
When it comes to chicken wings I’m willing state that Drian’s makes the best wings in Sacramento. Period. The meat is searing hot underneath the salty skin so precisely fried it shatters under the teeth like freshly made pork cracklins. Every bone was sucked clean and there were no survivors.
Wait times are, admittedly, atrocious. Do not go there with the expectation that you will be out quickly. Drian’s is a one-man operation so grab a beer, bring a friend and maybe play some pool while you wait for your food.
The thing is, Drian’s doesn’t try to be anything it’s not. It’s unapologetic bar food served in a funky dive made by a humble and awesome guy who takes the time to get to know every customer and love the food he makes.