Grace by Nia Brings Jazz, Soul, and Comfort Food to the Seaport
From Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen owner Nia Grace and Big Night comes a gorgeous live music venue, restaurant, and bar, opening May 11.
Get ready to sip white-pepper-and-olive-oil-infused dirty martinis and eat carrot-cake chicken and waffles while watching musicians from near and far play jazz and soul. Grace by Nia—a new music venue, restaurant, and bar from powerhouse partners Nia Grace and Big Night—opens in Boston’s Seaport District on May 11. Grace owns the venerable music and comfort food destination Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen in the South End and the Underground Cafe & Lounge at Northeastern University, while Big Night is the hospitality-and-more giant behind nightlife venues in Boston and beyond, including Grace by Nia neighbors the Grand and Scorpion Bar. (Fittingly, both Grace and Big Night owner Ed Kane made our 2023 list of the 150 most influential Bostonians.)
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Ascend to the third floor of 60 Seaport Blvd.—the same building that houses high-tech darts venue Flight Club and, soon, beloved Texas-based cinema chain Alamo Drafthouse—to find the entrance to Grace by Nia, which boasts a theatrical façade. “I wanted [the entrance] to channel the old Cotton Club,” says Grace, referring to the legendary New York jazz venue. “When you walk in, it feels like you witness a work of art.” Indeed, you’ll immediately be taken by the striking teal wallpaper virtually covering the whole place, with patterns that swirl like a cross-section of agate. There are eye-catching light fixtures throughout, and golden palm leaves embellish the top of several columns, “giving you that Copacabana or Miami feel,” says Grace. The team worked with prolific Boston-based restaurant designer Peter Niemitz, who has worked on quite a few other Big Night projects.
In addition to over 40 seats directly in front of Grace by Nia’s stage, there’s plenty more seating throughout the venue, including a raised dining area (which could also be used for semi-private events) and a long bar. There’s great audio throughout the space, says Grace, and nearly every seat has a good sightline to the stage. By design, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
Live music takes center stage at Grace by Nia, but the food is certainly no afterthought. “Much like Darryl’s, we focus on comfort food,” says Grace. But where Darryl’s highlights southern American comfort food in particular, Grace by Nia draws inspiration from a variety of places, from the Caribbean to New England. Grace is particularly excited about the jambalaya—where Darryl’s version is more Creole-style, Grace by Nia’s is Cajun. “Less of a tomato base and much more spice,” says Grace. “If you like heat, you’re going to love this. It’s a favorite among our tastings so far.”
The team is also “playing with the thought of a ceviche,” says Grace, “but doing it with all the gumbo accoutrements. You’ve got your okra and celery, your peppers and onions, and we’re using red snapper and shrimp with a citrus base and a bit of heat from jalapenos.”
Also on the menu: the aforementioned carrot-cake chicken and waffles (“with cinnamon, spice, and everything nice,” says Grace); cornbread fritters with peppers and onions; bourbon peach spareribs; and desserts such as pecan pie and a chocolate tarte with cinnamon bourbon ice cream.
For the cocktails, you’ll find “some great spins on classics,” says Grace, such as a concoction “likened to a dirty martini,” but infused with white pepper and olive oil. “We’re making it pretty dirty,” she says. There’ll be some cocktails on tap, and cold brew on tap as well—expect that to play into brunch options.
“We’ve been very intentional about some of the suppliers that we’re using,” says Grace, who’s highlighted woman-owned, Black-owned, and/or local brands as much as possible. The list includes Sia scotch, from Cuban American founder Carin Luna-Ostaseski, and Tennessee-based Uncle Nearest whiskey, a Black-owned company named for Nathan “Nearest” Green, who was born into slavery and later became the first African American master distiller on record. (And in a history that Jack Daniel’s has only begun to embrace in recent years, Green—referred to by the misspelled name “Nearis” at the time of the story at that link—actually trained Jack Daniel in the art of distilling.) On the local side, Boston Harbor Distillery spirits are also featured.
So what’s soundtracking the cocktails and comfort food? “We are based in the spirit of jazz and soul music,” says Grace, but there’ll also be funk, rhythm and blues, and more, featuring local performers as well as regional and national acts. There’ll be music every night that Grace by Nia is open—Wednesday through Sunday—and brunch will start up soon, too. In general, there’ll simply be an entertainment fee added to your dinner bill, but some shows might be separately ticketed. “We’re flexible in terms of seating and show space,” says Grace, “so if we really want to dedicate [a night] to a show as opposed to supper and a show, we have the flexibility to do so.”
Watch for different series depending on the night, whether it’s open mic Wednesdays (“We’ll have guest singers and musicians, and we’ll see what talent we have here in the neighborhood”) or women-led ensembles on Thursdays. Grace is also excited about continuing her “Cover Stories” series from Darryl’s, where her favorite musicians dedicate a show to covers of musicians that inspire them. Plus, late on Friday and Saturday nights, live music will make way for DJs for more of a lounge-y vibe. Late-night food will be available, too.
Stay tuned for the events calendar, menu, and more info to appear on the Grace by Nia website, and one more thing: “Dress to impress when you come—it’s a requirement,” says Grace with a laugh.
60 Seaport Blvd., third floor, Seaport District, Boston, gracebynia.com.