It's 6:30 at Grill 23, and the bar — the whole restaurant for that matter — is alive with chatter, loud and hearty laughter, and the sounds of a busy kitchen in the full swing of dinner service. Everyone is there — couples, those coming from work, groups of friends, and even solo diners seeking a lively dinner. The lights are lowered, casting a golden hue throughout. People are dressed up and seem to be celebrating, not necessarily a specific occasion, but just celebrating, and and it gives the whole place the feeling of one giant holiday party.
Behind the bar and almost directly in front of the giant wooden host stand, a foursome of older gentlemen drink the classics — a gin martini, scotch on the rocks, and two extra dirty martinis. It's safe to assume they are co-workers, and they talk shop loudly and erupt in billowing laughter. Their table is ready, and they take their cocktails with them into the dining room. Every couple of minutes, a woman lets out a loud cackle of laughter, and the sound rises above the rest. Seated at the end of the bar and directly in front of the television, a pair of men eat steaks with their eyes glued on the game. Toronto wins, and this makes them happy. They enjoy their steaks and strike up a conversation with a gentleman who was dining solo.
Every seat in the bar is taken, and there are a couple of groups that are just standing by, presumably waiting for a table either in the lounge area or the dining room. There are several people who, despite being in such an active place, are glued to their phones. Two other solo diners start chatting, and pretty soon, they seem like old friends. One of the men offers the other a tater tot. "Try them, they're so good," he insists. The other man declines, though he looks like he regrets his decision.
The servers, dressed in crisp white butcher jackets, whip around the dining room, tending to guests. They're moving fast, and there's an army of them, supplying bread baskets, pouring wine, and refilling water glasses. There's a line up at the end of the bar as servers relax for a very brief second while waiting to bring drinks to their tables. It's busy and chaotic but in a way that is energizing and underscored by that old-school classic cocktail bar and steakhouse feeling that is very refreshingly present.