ZaZiBar, Caribbean-inspired cocktail bar, opens in Seaport
The Seaport neighborhood officially became one Black-owned restaurant richer this week. Chef Olrie Roberts, owner of ZaZ Restaurant in Hyde Park, continues his expansion with ZaZiBar, an energetic bar and bites concept with a menu rooted in Caribbean flavors.
Roberts opened ZaZ Restaurant in 2011, established a second location at City Hall and launched ZaZ Fest, a large festival celebrating Caribbean music, food and Black-owned businesses, now two years running. But at ZaZiBar, Roberts hopes to find space to be creative.
“I’m not a one-trick pony, I can do different types of cuisines,” says Roberts, who was born and raised in Grenada. “Whether it’s fine dining or whether it’s soul food or street food, I have experience in all different types. The ZaZ restaurant brand has made a name for itself, and I feel like I want to expand my reach and add a different layer of what I can do in my culinary journey.”
Though the menu at ZaZiBar is still rooted in Caribbean cuisine, other global flavors are woven in as well. The Bubble Waffle Chix showcases Roberts’ classic wood-smoked jerk chicken with a Japanese-style bubble waffle and a sweet and boozy blueberry whipped cream. That cultural fusion is demonstrated in the cocktail menu as well. While some drinks are more tropical, like the ZaZi Lada with rum, pineapple, lemon and coconut, the Lychee Me Please fuses vodka and strawberry with lemongrass, lychee and rose water.
ZaZiBar will be open from noon until late, and Roberts hopes to attract both a lunch crowd and an evening-on-the-town cocktail crowd. The bar is located on the ground floor of the same building that holds Grace by Nia, making it an easy stop before or after the jazz club.
There were only two Black-owned businesses in the Seaport neighborhood prior to 2022. Now there are at least six, including the newly minted ZaZiBar. It’s a substantial numeric increase, but the rapidly developing neighborhood is still overwhelming white-owned and white-occupied.
Corean Reynolds, director of nightlife economy for the City of Boston, visited ZaZiBar during one of its soft launch days last week.
“You would think that we would include all of Boston’s cultural and racial diversity in this brand new neighborhood, and unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case,” says Reynolds. “But I am so excited that we are moving away from that narrative and creating space for people of color to thrive in such a beautiful slice of our city.”
The appetite for Black-owned businesses and diverse cuisine in the Seaport is clear. Prior to the official opening Oct. 10, ZaZiBar was experiencing much larger crowds than is typical for a soft opening.
ZaZiBar represents a more upscale version of the ZaZ restaurant brand, and it creates a space for chef Roberts flex his creative culinary muscles. The chef says he hopes to change the menu monthly to keep things fresh and interesting. Though Robert wouldn’t divulge details, he indicated that there was even further expansion of the ZaZ brand to come.
“Soon enough, folks will understand who we are and the brand that we represent. They’re going to get a chance to taste the flavors and experiences, the good vibe and good energy that we are going to present,” says Roberts. “We’re here to make a mark on the city.”