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Sorrelina vs. Grill 23

I am taking my boyfriend out to dinner for his birthday next week and he's left it up to me to choose the restaurant- usually he makes these decisions! My initial thoughts were to take him somewhere he's never been (he loves trying new places) and to take him to a steakhouse (he loves steak but typically doesn't suggest steakhouses because I'm not a steak eater.)

After searching on the boards here and asking around, I had decided on Grill 23 and made a reservation there, but then found out that he has actually been there before (though not recently) so I was having second thoughts.

He's been talking about trying Sorrelina quite a bit, and I've heard good things too. My only concern is that he had planned to take me to Sorrelina for a different occasion a couple of months ago, but waited too long to make a reservation, so I feel like it's stealing his idea rather than thinking of somewhere new! And, it's not a steakhouse which was my original idea.

So.. now I'm stuck between Grill 23 or Sorrelina. I have reservations at both and am trying to decide if it's better to do a steakhouse he's been to before, or a place he hasn't been but won't be a great surprise either. I'm looking for input on which will be an overall better experience-- food, atmosphere, etc. I'd also welcome a few more suggestions though I'm running out of time to make a new reservation. I'd considered Mooo or Bonfire (two steakhouses I know he's never been to)...

Also, it would be helpful if you have any suggested dishes to try at these places, and suggestions for a pre-dinner drink.

Thanks so much!

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  1. OK, here's the deal.
    Sorrelina is fantastic and very special and more romantic than Grille 23.
    Grille 23 is fine, but be warned, it is LOUD in the dining room which can be annoying, especially if you want to actually have a conversation with your dining companion. Grille 23 is a typical high end steak place and frequented by "expense account" dining types, and food is your basic steak and sides place...I know this because I have had many, many expense account dinners here!
    Mooo is special but very pricey for what you get. Dining room is very serene but can border on a bit stuffy.
    What about Troquet? It is a lovely location overlooking the park and the food is fantastic. Get the sucking pig - it isn't really a suckling pig but rather three offerings of pork done in three separate ways - it is their signature dish and very yummy. They are also known for their wine pairings and have many wines by the glass to pair with the dishes they offer. Hope this helps. Have fun!

    1. Go to Sorrelina. It's amazing and really quite special. I do not love Grill 23. It is too loud and the food is kind of old Boston boring.

      1. Both Sorrelina and Grill 23 are fantastic, but very different from each other.

        Sorrelina is a quiet restaurant, versatile enough to be romantic but also professional enough to host a dinner meeting. The food is excellent, sophisticated modern Italian. On my last visit the caesar salad, ravioli and wagyu beef meatballs were the standouts.

        Grill 23 is the best steakhouse in Boston. They have a very professional waitstaff, an elegant dining room, and a bit of a "power" scene. Then again, its romantic enough that a friend of mine proposed to his wife there.

        Both are great choices. I think you can't go wrong either way, and it's wonderful that you're taking the time and care to think about all the angles. I personally might lean towards Sorrelina, just because he hasn't been there before. The fact that he wanted to take you there doesn't detract from that!

        Let me add two other possible suggestions:

        No. 9 Park is similar in some ways to Sorrelina and is also wonderful. Maybe a touch pricier Their bar is a nice place for a pre-dinner drink too. Minibar, around the corner from Sorrelina would be another pre-dinner drink suggestion.

        Locke-Ober is similar to Grill 23. Both are old-Boston type restaurants, and have a certain power/clubby atmosphere, although Locke-Ober is a bit quieter. Locke-Ober features steak, but has many options. It doesn't get a lot of love on this board, but it's always been among my favorite places. It has a special occasion feel without being precious, has very professional service, and turns out consistently excellent (if not cutting edge) food, often with recipes difficult to find anywhere else.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lipoff

          I completely agree with you lipoff!
          However, my overall advice is to go to Grill 23, since that will send him the clear and important message that you picked a place that is for him (steak) rather than for you. Sorrelina is very nice, but I am not sure that it will send the message that you want to send.
          If you go to Grill 23, ask for a table in a quieter area of the restuarant. They usually can accomodate this.

        2. Sorry, Abe & Louie's is the best steak house in Boston (oh oh, here comes the flame war!).

          Grill 23 is a very good steak, but it is the single loudest fine dining space in all of Boston. Decidedly NOT romantic. And their wine list is ridiculously over-priced (for example, I paid $150 at Abe & Louie's for a spectacular $110 bottle of Napa cab, whereas Grill 23 was asking $300+ for exactly the same bottle).

          3 Replies
          1. re: Tir_na_nOg

            abe and louis IS the best steak house. Grill 23.... very meh for me. I'd definitely go to Sorrelina for this occasion though.

            1. re: Snoop37

              Ha, so Abe & Louies is HIS favorite but he's been there several times so I figured I should take him somewhere new/different.. So it sounds like if he loves Abe & Louie's then Grill 23 could be a let down.. ?

            2. re: Tir_na_nOg

              In terms of volume, imho, places such as Scampo and Teatro make Grill 23 sound like a library. Go to Sorrelina. If you decide you must go to a steakhouse, Smith and Wollensky is probably the most quiet and romantic.

            3. IMO both the sirloin and ribeye at Sorrelina are better than any steak at G23 away, so you can get the best of both worlds. My experiences have been that the food and service have gone way downhill at G23 which is too bad as the room and atmosphere are great. Sorrelina will be a fantastic overall experience, and I'm sure he won't care who thought of the idea first.

              Another similar option if you want to surprise him is Sorrelina's sister restaurant Mistral.

              I would steer clear of both Bonfire and Mooo.

              Everything at Sorrelina is fantastic, but some of my favorites include the Maccheroncelli with meatballs, the tuna tartar (my favorite in Boston). Any entree is great, but I really enjoy the veal chop and you can't go wrong with their steaks. Any specials are usually fantastic as well. Oh yeah, and the truffle fries are quite addictive.

              I am not sure if it is under renovation, but if not the Oak Roo is great for a drink beforehand and will give you your steakhouse atmosphere fix.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Gabatta

                Thanks so much everyone! I think I'm going to go with Sorrelina. Maybe once the "surprise" is over I'll ask him for his opinion of Grill 23 (for future occasions) but it sounds like we will both enjoy Sorrelina for this one. He loves tuna tartar too so I'll be sure to recommend that to him.

                Minibar looks like a great suggestion for a pre-dinner drink too.

                Thanks again!

              2. I judge steakhouses on their beef, and the beef at Grill 23 is superior to Abe & Louie's. That said, they're both luxury steakhouses, which I generally find kind of boring.

                Sorellina is expensive but very good. I think I'd prefer it for a celebratory meal: it's more fun, sexier, and still has big slabs of meat, like a 16-oz ribeye, if that's what your boy prefers.


                6 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  Maybe we should get takeout from Grill 23 then! LOL Nothing else is appealing about that restaurant to me (I haven't tried the upstairs).

                  Personally, I find it sacrilege to say that meat is the only criteria by which a steakhouse should be judged. A big piece of meat and a huge red wine go together like two peas in a pod. A steakhouse without a great wine list (or an affordable wine list, which is pretty much the same thing for most of us not on pre-recession expense accounts) is like a...(OK, I'll skip the analogy!).

                  Last time at Grill 23 we did end up with a nice Chateauneuf du Pape. Not that it wasn't over-priced, but at least the entry level for good CDP is a lot less than for a Napa cab.

                  1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                    I've always enjoyed my meals at Grill 23. The room in handsome, the food very good, and the service excellent. For those bothered by the meal, the upstairs dining room is much quieter than downstairs.

                    1. re: Tir_na_nOg

                      My point is that the menus, the atmosphere, the ethos of luxury steakhouses seem largely interchangeable to me. There's a homogeneity, like the same damnable sides, that just bores me. Most of ours are outlets of national chains to boot, so it's not only uniformity among Boston steakhouses, but uniformity nationwide.

                      Maybe I'm just bitter after years of having to eat in these places for business entertaining when I'd rather convince visitors to try something with actual local flavor. Nope, the dope from Kansas City wants to go to Morton's or Ruth's Chris, both of which he has back home.

                      Grill 23, besides having better beef, is at least a local business. (While local, there's something about Abe & Louie's that consistently underwhelms me: sub-par sides and desserts, the BBRG-outlet micron-thin patina of luxury.) I guess I'd cite Mooo.... as having some distinctive flavor, too: it's the softer-sided luxury steakhouse, the one I'd choose if it was my date who wanted steak rather than a bunch of suits on an expense account. But I don't consider any of them a particularly good value. So choosing on beef quality seems a reasonable criterion to me.


                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          I agree with your statement completely with regard to steakhouses in general and Abe and Louis in particular. Not sure what Tir is saying below. There is something about Abe and Louis that sort of reeks of BBRG and Bostonians trying a bit too hard, and in the end coming off amateurish/provincial. If we were in the NY area that place would be on Long Island or NJ and be the local "Classy" place with a distinctly brassy clientele.

                          And the meat does not impress me particuarly. Heck, this, from their menu should say it all:

                          "Bone-In Filet Mignon our Signature." Any steak place that say a filet is their signature...

                          Certainly no dry aged meat available.

                          1. re: MC Slim JB

                            MC Slim, I agree with your take that the deciding factor in steakhouses, given there otherwise homogeneity, is the beef.

                            I also strongly agree that Grill 23 is superior to Abe & Louis's, for a lot of reasons but most importantly because the beef is simply better.

                            I'm curious about Mooo, my second favorite steakhouse. Speaking just in terms of the beef, who sources better product, Grill 23 or Mooo?

                            Certainly, Mooo tends to have specials and luxury beef products that outshine Grill 23, but I'm interested in their standard rib eye or, say, a dry-aged new york strip.

                        1. I was just at Sorrelina this week for my anniversary dinner. It was a great meal. The place is quiet, and has a very cool vibe to it. We had great service, and we did not order anything that wasn't delicious (and we ordered a ton of food). I highly reccomend it for a special occasion.

                          1. I would highly recommend Radius or Via Matta as well. Michael Schlow is a genius. When I went to Sorrelina, I thought the food was incredible. If you like itty-bitty portions of Italian food, then you'll be fine.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: ecwashere7

                              Schlow may be a genius (or not), but he's not in a chef's coat at Radius or Via Matta very often any more. I think his new casino and exurban ventures garner most of his attention nowadays. I like Via Matta, and loved Radius in the early days when Schlow was regularly in the kitchen, but the last time I blew $350 on a thoroughly underwhelming meal at Radius, at prime time on a Saturday night with the house half full, thoroughly soured me on the place.