Comfort and style
Sacramento, CA 95819
There is a lot to commend about The Corner; plentiful parking isn’t one of them. But that’s largely where the critique ends. The new occupant of 5641 J Street, the original Shakey’s, knows what it’s doing and does it well.
Whether it’s a physical fact or just a feeling, The Corner is less claustrophobic than its predecessor Sweetwater Restaurant and Bar. Is it the walls of bright orange and crimson? A new glass door? The four all-sports-all-the-time flat screens surrounding the bar? Whatever it is, the front room feels significantly more open.
There’s nothing hoity-toity about The Corner, starting with the abstract art of decades of glass-ring stains decorating the brass tabletops. Like Sweetwater before it, The Corner seeks to be a neighborhood bar and grill that offers the first answer to the question: “Don’t want to hassle with cooking; where can we go that’s easy?” The Corner is a comfortable place for comfort food. Sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, hefty-sized appetizers and some half-dozen entrees nicely tag all the comfort-food bases. It’s food suited to accompany a ballgame. So are the nine beers on tap, another 15 varieties in bottles and the frosted pint glasses. There’s some not-terribly-subtle catering to Sacramento State up around the corner with sandwiches named “The Hornet,” “The Dean,” “The Graduate” and so on.
Among The Corner’s fine qualities, generosity has to rank near the top. The Carnita Lollipops appetizer is an apple-sized mound of pork wreathed in a red mole sauce with the bone pointing skyward from its center. Four small tacos wait to be stuffed with portions of the lollipop and scoops of guacamole, sour cream and salsa. Quite a production for $8.
Or consider the salad. Mark, an attentive and astute waiter, instantly recommends the steak sandwich—the aforementioned “Graduate.” On a garlic Parmesan roll, it features a thinner cut of the New York steak entree, which is 12 ounces for $24. The sandwich options: fries, coleslaw or house salad. Without hesitation, Mark says salad and encourages the housemade balsamic vinaigrette. Lucas, J., concurring. Could there also be a modest sample of the coleslaw? Nothing easier, Mark says. On the next visit, Adam, another skilled waiter, also recommends the salad. The mound is even more massive.
As to the salad—darn it, the previous paragraph was supposed to be about the salad—its spacious mound dominates more than one-third of the large white plate, crimping the steak sandwich’s style somewhat. Strewn liberally throughout the salad’s lush expanse are kidney and garbanzo beans, a handful of croutons, halved cherry tomatoes and cucumber slices. A truly bountiful freebie. The steak sandwich is medium without being dry and burnt—not always an easy accomplishment. There’s a Jurassic Park of red-leaf lettuce extending well past the roll’s edges. If there was a pinch of that bring-inanimate-objects-to-life powder Mombi the Witch had in the Oz books, the sandwich would flap its leafy wings and fly south. Good, though. The coleslaw offers a zippy afterburn with cheery curry overtones. Mark insists it’s merely ginger and nutmeg.
The burgers are similarly situated to the sandwich, at least in the lettuce department. However, like reform in the political arena, “medium” means different things to different people. One person’s medium is another’s tartare. The house sauce on The Corner’s signature burger, although tasty, does not mask the fact that there’s a whole lotta pinkness going on. For those unfazed by self-inflicted heart plugs, “The Colonel” burger comes chicken-fried-steak style—get it? “The Colonel”—and while a cholesterol cluster bomb, it is enlivened by the garlic chipotle mayonnaise. Again, a recipe not likely to be found in the American Heart Association cookbook.
As a staunch carnivore and cheese lover, it’s hard not to gush over the JohnJohn pizza: double meat and double cheese. Part of the proceeds from the sale of JohnJohns—$10 for a 7-incher, double that for $18—goes to cancer research. A classy gesture. Can’t improve on the third sentence: The Corner knows what it is and executes well.