Review: Grace by Nia Brings Throwback Supper-Club Glamour to the Seaport

With convivial food and drinks in an uncommonly gorgeous space, this restaurant, music venue, and bar is a symbol of a shiny new Boston waterfront that’s welcoming to all.

Grace by Nia’s fried-green tomato salad, lobster macaroni and cheese, and southern Cobb salad with fried chicken. / Photo by Brian Samuels

Imagine bringing a time-traveling Bostonian from the year 2000 to the Seaport in 2023 to stand in front of the new Grace by Nia, a sleek supper club offering food, drinks, and live music in a glamorous nightclub setting. Picture their shock at how dramatically the neighborhood has changed: once-dead acres of abandoned warehouses and empty parking lots replaced by gleaming office towers and hotels, a modern art museum, a giant convention center! The glitzy nightclubs, the boutiques, the dozens upon dozens of restaurants! Throngs of happy people streaming along the waterfront and the sidewalks most evenings—the former ghost town transformed into one of Boston’s hottest neighborhoods for locals, tourists, and business travelers. Your friend from the Dubya era might faint with surprise, even before you told them that the Big Dig eventually did get finished, and Boston sports teams have collectively won 12 more championships.

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Even to modern diners, though, the May 2023 opening of Grace by Nia is an exciting concept, combining the talents of an established Black restaurateur (Nia Grace of Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen and the Underground Café & Lounge) and a savvy Seaport nightlife operator (Big Night, the group behind Empire, Scorpion Bar, and the Grand). And it certainly seems designed to make a big impression: Upon arrival, visitors ride two long, grand escalators to the top floor, where they’re greeted by a crew of elegantly dressed hosts and hostesses. Once you gain admittance (it’s a tough table without a reservation, especially on weekend nights), you’re ushered into an astonishing 5,000-square-foot space with dramatic lighting, towering tropical-themed fixtures (like an enormous brass palm tree), and three seating areas surrounding an intimate live-music stage. The tables directly in front of the stage are the music lovers’ choice. A speakeasy-themed bar area with tables still has decent views, while the third area by the entrance is quieter, with the performers visible only on TV monitors. The ensembles lean toward vocal, pop-inflected jazz, but the different combos we saw over multiple visits alternately embraced soul, R & B, hip-hop, reggae, bossa nova, and spoken-word elements, with first-rate musicianship and slick production values. It’s fantastic dinner-and-a-show entertainment, and not just for hard-core jazz cats. (An entertainment fee is charged based on how close you are to the stage.)

The performance area. / Photo by Brian Samuels

The drinks portion of the evening centers on fancy, very festive cocktails. The Smoke Break ($16), for instance, combines mezcal, gochujang, lime, and raspberry liqueur in a smoky-sweet, tangy-hot concoction topped with literal fire: a lime shell filled with flaming overproof rum. The cheekily named O.P.P. (Other People’s Penicillin, $18) exhibits real cocktail craft with its piquant mix of scotch, Tuaca, lemon, agave, and ginger. The suddenly de rigueur espresso martini gets a swish update in the Black Gold Part II ($18) with a sprinkling of actual 24-karat gold flakes. A modest, decently priced assortment of wines by the glass ($14 to $20) and bottle ($54 to $78) features crowd-pleasers like a perfectly summery French sparkling rosé from Maison Marcel ($15/$58). Befitting the posh ambiance is a list of champagnes and sparklers ($175 to $325); we settled on a very respectable Telmont Réserve Brut Champagne ($175).

The menu echoes the formula of the long-running Darryl’s (which Grace bought in 2018) with a menu of southern, soul, Cajun, and Creole dishes, done here with a bit more ambition and elegance, and prices that reflect the tonier real estate. The most luscious appetizers include a Maryland hot crab dip ($24) of Old Bay, crab, four cheeses, and jalapeños baked in a cast-iron pan, with Ritz crackers for dipping. Hummus and root vegetable ($16) is a clever bit of Middle Eastern/soul food fusion, the southern-favorite legumes lending a lovely earthiness. Spareribs ($18) arrive as a smoky little pile of chargrilled St. Louis–style pork ribs in a sweet, sticky bourbon-peach sauce.

Entrées run hearty and hefty while still feeling sophisticated. Nobody dolled up for a night out wants to wrangle with a whole crustacean—that’s precisely why we enjoyed the luxurious smothered lobster ($48), a big grilled Maine lobster tail over pappardelle. It has since come off the menu but look instead for buttermilk fried lobster over a five-cheese macaroni and cheese. Oxtails and grits ($36) is another standout, the richly fatty tail meat (not far off in flavor and texture from short rib) in a sticky, glossy molasses sauce over creamy coconut grits. Classic southern sides succeed, too, including a fine mess of collards and other greens ($10); a winning macaroni and cheese ($12) topped with Ritz crumbs; and a pretty, towering fried-green tomato salad ($16), layered with fresh mozzarella and displaying fine frying technique.

Some well-intentioned dishes, however, miss the mark with rough execution. Johnny cakes ($15) are an admirable nod to Native cookery spoiled by too much wheat flour, the result more akin to a diner flapjack than a pre-Colonial corncake. Stuffed collards ($15) boast a tasty filling of Cajun rice and black-eyed peas, but the overly tough leafy wrappers make for difficult eating. Lovers of the chili-fierce school of Cajun cooking may be disappointed in the mildness of blackened shrimp and polenta ($32), barely charred shrimp perched on a crisp, cheesy polenta cake in a creamy (and non-canonically tomato-spiked) gravy. The chicken and waffles ($34), meanwhile, feature a juicy bit of fried breast, though the carrot-cake waffle with cream-cheese icing and maple syrup has enough sugar to serve as dessert.

Actual desserts include photogenic, delicious winners like citrus crème brûlée ($15) and the German-chocolate mousse bombe ($18), a half-dome of caramel-sauced, ganache-enrobed chocolate mousse, coconut-pecan filling, and chocolate cake. But despite impressing as a tall, Barbie-pink bit of Instagram bait, the raspberry gâteau ($18) has the chalky leadenness of amateurish vegan baking.

The A Hot Night in Jalisco cocktail. / Photo by Brian Samuels

Steer around those few rough spots, however, and Grace by Nia feels like a very special night out, the kind of place you go with a crowd of your similarly dressed-to-the-nines girlfriends, or take a date you really want to impress, or help Grandma celebrate a big birthday. There are many such celebrations going on every night here, with a notably higher level of dressing up for the occasion than I typically see, even at Boston’s toniest establishments. Then there are the groups of friends or work colleagues who are mainly there for the music, complemented by just a few drinks and small bites. (Some lucky, talented patrons even get invited onstage occasionally to sing a number—not to mention Grace herself.)

While that Seaport time traveler might find a neighborhood much changed over the past 20-odd years, Grace by Nia stands at the crossroads. Thanks to its combination of sophisticated live music with convivial food and drinks in an uncommonly gorgeous space, it’s equal parts a welcome throwback to Boston’s supper-club heyday and a symbol of a shiny new Seaport that’s welcoming to all.


60 Seaport Blvd., Boston, 617-927-9411,

Menu Highlights

Maryland hot crab dip, Hummus and root vegetable, Bourbon-peach spare ribs, Fried-green tomato salad, Oxtails and grits, Cajun jambalaya, Jerk chicken, Cast-iron macaroni and cheese, German-chocolate mousse bombe

★★★★ Extraordinary | ★★★ Generally Excellent | ★★ Good | ★ Fair | (No Stars) Poor

First published in the print edition of the October 2023 issue with the headline, “Amazing Grace.”