Does moving a bar around in an already popular Boston restaurant make the restaurant any better or more popular? Judging by what Grill 23 Restaurant has just done, the answer is yes.
The handsome chophouse in the Back Bay spent $2 million-plus to move its downstairs bar from one side of the room to the other, starting six months ago. They just re-opened the space to the special delight of Millennials, it seems, who like to eat at the bar as well as drink, all the while watching whatever sport or news is on the tv’s behind the bartender. In the process of moving it, however, they opened up the wall which was originally behind the bar, to replace it with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on busy Berkeley Street, making everything look lighter and more open and, in Boston’s precious summer weather, actually opening those windows to enjoy the air.
When they moved the bar, architect Peter Nimitz removed the big brass rail that ran around it, to make eating at the bar easier on the arms. “There was an immediate impact to the change,” noted Assistant General Manager Yanick Mahe Des Portes. “It made the room seem larger, and the look of the bar has made us appeal to younger patrons.”
Not that Grill 23 ever had any trouble attracting patrons of any age, with its enormous, masculine-feeling brass and wood interiors, its classic meat-and-potatoes menu with a twist, its private dining rooms and its cozy upstairs corners for quieter, more romantic dinners. When you wanted the perfect steak and potato meal, this was where you came. But in addition to making structural changes downstairs, a new bar menu has been added to both bars, and it is one of the more interesting, creative, extensive and mouth-watering menus in the city. Enjoy, for example, the “Laughing Bird Shrimp Louie,” consisting of grilled avocado, fried egg and celery root crisps, for $14. Or the Foie Gras Slider with cider doughnut and jalapeño jelly for $21.50. How about Banh Mi, a mixture of pork, braised beef short rib, chicken liver pate and nuance cham vegetables for $19.
Drinks on the bar menu are original to the restaurant and include “South Boston Sling” of Bacardi Gold 8 rum, pineapple juice, lemon juice, house sweet vermouth and soda water for $17. Or the “Death & Taxes” of cigar infused Woodford bourbon, peach syrup, lemon juice and Fernet Branca rinse for $17. The “Big Crush” is a mix of Stolichnaya raspberry vodka, chambered, house orange liqueur and citrus for $18. The extensive wine list is directed by one of the city’s rare certified sommeliers. If you order seafood, Grill 23’s Chardonnay-Chablis 1 er Cru, Cote de Lechet, France, la Chablisienne, makes a heavenly pairing.
Of course you can order from the restaurant’s full drink menu and dinner menu, which includes a raw bar, beef and seafood in every form imaginable, inspirational side dishes such as mushrooms in cognac and beef butter and broccoli with ponzu and toasted sesame. The best thing about the dessert menu is its listing of “Small Plates,” which the waiter will explain that in all honesty, they really are a matter of two or three bites, which means that not only does no one really need a gigantic sweet at the end of a delicious meal such as what you’ve had at this establishment, but your delicate pistachio cake with lemon custard and rose meringues or mini mint sundae with ice cream, cake crumbs and fudge sauce, at $6 each, will be just enough so that he will not bring extra spoons, and you can be sure that no fellow diner would dare to eat one of your precious three bites.