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Black-owned Grace by Nia brings food, music and much needed diversity to Seaport

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Black-owned Grace by Nia brings food, music and much needed diversity to Seaport
New restaurant and jazz venue Grace by Nia opens May 11 in Boston’s Seaport District. PHOTO: ROBIN WINCHELL

Nia Grace, owner of Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen in Roxbury, opens a vibrant, glamorous jazz club and restaurant in the Seaport this week in collaboration with Big Night. Adorned with glittering gold chandeliers, leather armchairs and a stage for nightly music sets, Grace by Nia harkens back to stylish jazz clubs of the past and brings much needed diversity to the Seaport district.

“When [guests] come to Grace by Nia they’re going to be able to dine, be entertained, have a craft bar experience, as well as even party afterwards,” says Grace. “Something that might take you to three or four different venues before and take many, many hours, you can now get in an action-packed two-to-three hour hit.”

Cajun Jambalaya, on the menu at Grace by Nia. PHOTO: COURTESY NIA GRACE

The menu is like Darryl’s in that diners will find Southern comfort food influences such as fried chicken with carrot cake waffles, and Cajun flavors like jambalaya with crawfish. But the menu will have a distinctly New England twist, a nod to the Boston waterfront just steps from the restaurant. Charred grilled oysters and other local seafood bites will be given a Southern Gulf twist.

Grace will continue the commitment to local artists that Darryl’s is known for, though the space allows for a broader spectrum of entertainment as well. She plans to have regular events locals can look forward to, like open-mic nights, and more of a lounge vibe on weekends with a live DJ. Darryl’s features artwork by Black artists like Robert Freeman, who spent much of his career working in Massachusetts. Grace hopes to build out the Seaport space with works by local artists like street art legend Rob Gibbs of Roxbury, also known as ProBlak.

“Being able to say how do we take this quaint neighborhood spot and broadcast it to the city, to the state, to the world … it’s the next phase of this dream,” says Grace.

The new venue will feature premiere jazz, soul and R&B artists. PHOTO: ROBIN WINCHELL

The roots of that dream trace back more than 50 years. Before Grace took over Darryl’s in 2018, the soul food destination already had a rich history in Roxbury. Original owners Bob and Dottie Morgan moved there, to 604 Columbus Ave., in 1968 and served fried chicken and collard greens at Bob the Chef’s for decades. Darryl Settles purchased the restaurant in 1990, rebranding it as Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen but retaining the Southern comfort food customers craved. Grace has carried on a significant legacy of Black cuisine in Roxbury, and now she’s bringing that legacy to the shiny new Seaport district.

Prior to 2022, there were only two Black-owned businesses in the neighborhood, Seaport Barbers and Larry J’s BBQ Café. Last year Seaport Barbers expanded to a second location in the neighborhood and Tambo Barrow opened the gourmet burger joint Bred. The numbers are growing, but there are fewer than 10 Black-owned businesses in a highly trafficked neighborhood whose residents are overwhelmingly white.

“This is more than just a story of another restaurant opening,” says Grace, who noted the lack of Black ownership in the neighborhood’s businesses. “Our goal is to bring diversity to the Seaport.”


That diversity doesn’t end with ownership. Behind the bar, Grace intentionally stocks spirits by BIPOC- and woman-owned businesses, notably Uncle Nearest Whiskey, a Black- and woman-owned brand named for Nathan “Nearest” Green, a formerly enslaved person who was the first recorded African American master distiller. Craft cocktail lovers will find a menu of innovative concoctions based on classic drinks, as well as cocktails on tap and large-format beverages for groups.

Grace by Nia represents a long history of Black cuisine, music and business ownership in Boston. Grace hopes that guests of all kinds will find joy in a night out there, a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of normality.

“In the name itself we talk about grace and exhibiting it, and allowing people to get together, remove the barriers and the stress of the day, and really be able to connect,” says Grace. “We’re allowing ourselves that grace to just enjoy the moment.”

Grace by Nia opens May 11 at 60 Seaport Blvd.

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