Grill 23 . . . going on 30

by Kitty Kaufman
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grill23barBack in 1983, Grill 23 opened with what was, for then, a great deal of fanfare. I don't remember being there in the '80s; to be clear, not my eighties. I mention to my sister-in-law Ellen that I'm writing about it and she recalls working at Harvest, St. Botolph and on to Grill 23. This is what she says: "It was busy from day one. The service was impeccable. We were all so very well trained. It was the first of its kind in Boston: the end."

We like the bar on the second floor. It's friendly and when you come by yourself, chat up the bartenders or watch TV. In a way I can't define, this bar encourages the telling of secrets. I've heard more secrets here than anywhere else and it's unsettling since bar chairs call for balance. At a table you might order a bottle of wine but at the bar we never do because we might, among other things, fall off our chairs. So far, so good.

We're splitters but not tonight. I have my own burrata which they describe as crispy eggplant with stewed tomatoes. The bartender calls it "our version of eggplant Parmesan." Which you could say it is except that it has mozzarella and no Parmesan. It's crisp and topped with fresh tomatoes which make all the difference. We also have fried calamari with pepperoncini cream which is big for a starter but perfect if you need something to go with your sidecar.

grill-23sidesSalad and bread can be barometers for what's to follow and this basket has novel starters. Grab the salted, buttery flat crisp cracker. Caesar salad is made just for me. It's a keeper and with no room for dessert, I manage to finish what's left of the bread.

There's beef tenderloin, steak frites and pot roast; grilled salmon with scallion pancakes, mahi mahi, sea scallops, swordfish, and à la carte: filet, bone-in New York, 18 oz of 100-day aged rib eye, Kobe, and lobster from Maine.

Not full? Have mashed potatoes, tots, asparagus, mac 'n' three cheeses with bacon, and onion rings. And if you're still not: s'mores, sundaes, brûlées and coconut cake. The bartenders accommodate requests. No Caesar dressing, no problem. They make cocktails more or less to order and although we had no wine this night from the 1,500 selections, go online first to read all 61 pages. Thankfully, the wine list your waiter brings to the table is shorter.

We love that there's no music. No music. You can have an actual conversation. More than likely it will come with secrets.

GRILL 23: 161 Berkeley Street, Boston, MA 02116 - 617-542-2255

Kitty Kaufman is a Boston writer at



0 #2 Kitty 2014-12-26 10:14
What a lucky son he is. The wine list is 50 pages online. Maybe you'll want to check it out before you go though the list they hand you is a manageable size.
+1 #1 Lan Dennie 2014-12-26 09:19
Great article as always! We will be heading to Grill 23 on Saturday Dec 27th. It will be Tai's first dinner at a "fancy" restaurant.

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