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Posted by Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Nia Grace Headshot, photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment

by Phyllis M. Cahaly, CMD, Director of Partnership Marketing, Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

Experience Architect, Restauranteur, and Sole Proprietor of Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, and The Underground Café & Lounge; as well as Grace by Nia in partnership with Big Night Entertainment Group

Jump to the recipe for Creole Jambalaya

Jump to this Month’s Culinary Events

If you want to learn about the spirit of hospitality, the warmth of community and the essence of grace (pun intended) and inclusion, then you’ll want to meet Nia Grace. Nia, a Roxbury, Massachusetts native, is in the business of giving out hugs. Nia has worked in the restaurant hospitality industry for over 20 years and is a renowned creator, connector, curator and community advocate known for envisioning and executing inspired, award-winning hospitality and entertainment concepts in Boston and beyond.

A band plays before restaurant patrons.

The interior of Grace by Nia, photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment

Nia is President and CEO, Bar & Kitchen Hospitality, Inc.; Owner, Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen; Owner, The Underground Café & Lounge; Founder, Bostown Music Festival, Co-Founder, Boston Black Restaurants Hospitality Coalition and Founder, Grace by Nia. Pretty outstanding credentials and accomplishments. After graduating from the University of Miami with a degree in Criminology, she returned home to Boston, driven by her passion to yield to her first love, hospitality.

Champaign glasses on a large tray are carried by a waitress.

Champagne at Grace by Nia, photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment

One of Nia’s first jobs in her hospitality journey was at The Purple Cabbage, a woman-owned business in Jamacia Plain and the South End, where she worked after school. Admittedly shy by nature, Nia became the face of this counter-style business as she interacted with customers. “Working as the face of The Purple Cabbage forced me to flex a muscle, I wasn’t comfortable with at first, but it was really helpful to me while I was growing up”, says Nia.

Nia’s next job was serving as a team member of The Spirit of Boston cruise ship which tours around Boston Harbor and then one day, 13 years ago, she wandered into Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen at 604 Columbus Avenue in Boston and felt like she was home. “I said to myself, if I was ever going to own a business, I wanted it to be just like Darryl’s,” said Nia.

Then, seven years ago, she was hired by Darryl’s as a consultant and purchased the establishment in 2018. “From then on, this was the only job I ever did where I never felt tired even though I was working from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. I loved every minute of it and felt invigorated and really filled up. I didn’t go to culinary or hospitality school but I did learn about what motivates people and that has been important in hospitality. Hospitality is something you feel while service is something you do and I’ve been feeling and doing both for a while,  it’s just in my blood and I am blessed, lucky and  fulfilled every day. I wish more people could have this kind of joy that I have,” says Nia.

A bartender pours a cocktail from a shaker into a cocktail glass.

Cocktails at Grace by Nia, photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment

Nia is dedicated to all of her restaurants with Darryl’s, the former Bob the Chef’s front and center. She describes it as a diner, super quaint, old school shotgun style, a gem that you’ve just got to know about. It’s cozy and like walking into a big hug. The Underground Café & Lounge, located at 742 Columbus Avenue, Boston is a unique gathering place, a daytime concept that unites the Northeastern University body with the local home-grown community through the intersection of flavor and heritage. “We have an amazing mix of people at The Underground and they are all unified through food, art, culture and community,” says Nia. “The Underground offers an escape from everyday life and brings everyone together.”

A sign reading "Grace by Nia" hangs on a brick wall outside a green door.

The exterior of Grace by Nia, photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment

Bringing people together is one of Nia’s superpowers. “Hospitality in its most authentic form absolutely starts at home. I was always the one saying I would cater and prepare family meals for all those holidays and birthdays. I loved the prep work, finding out what’s in the pot and tasting that cake batter before it goes in the oven,” says Nia. Home, church, meals, memories.

A rock band plays on the stage at Grace by Nia.

Grace by Nia Entertainment, photo by Big Night Entertainment

Which brings us to Nia’s most recent accomplishment, Grace by Nia. Located in Boston’s trendy new Seaport neighborhood, the seeds of Grace by Nia were planted by Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen. Nia references Grace by Nia as Darryl’s older sister who went away for school, grew up, got fancy and came home! She fashions it as “an old time Supper Club, a Cotton Club or like a Copacabana with a Creole-style menu.” It’s a place where you can take it slow and build on your night out, first with drinks, then an amazing dinner, then some music and perhaps some dancing, too. More soul, more music, more Grace – hospitality at its highest level.

The interior of Grace by Nia, a Boston restaurant. Patrons sit at a wooden bar, flanked by cozy booths and wooden tables. Gold chandeliers hang from the ceiling above.

Still, that’s not enough to keep Nia going! In her ‘free time’ she uses her platform and presence to promote the cause of others. Three years ago, she co-founded the Boston Black Restaurants Hospitality Coalition which focuses on the survival and development of black and brown owned drinking and eating establishments. This coalition brings together close to 100 black-owned restaurants, food trucks, caterers and private chefs and features them on the website,, by neighborhood.

Each February, in partnership with Massachusetts State Representative Chynah Tyler and in honor of Black History Month, residents and visitors are encouraged to support, dine, drink, or order takeout at least once a week from Boston’s black-owned food and beverage establishments as a part of the Annual Black Restaurant Challenge.

Appetizers are served at Grace by Nia

Photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment

“Black History is American History and we celebrate it 365 days a year by featuring black-owned brands in our restaurants,” says Nia. “Come enjoy some Uncle Nearest Premium whiskey, the world’s first-known African American master distiller from Tennessee or try some Black Girl Magic Wines from the McBride Sisters Wine Company of California.”

Two patrons look over a menu.

Grace by Nia Menu, photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment

Working through the COVID Pandemic was tough, especially for the restaurant industry. Nia recalls that 96% of her team was laid off but they kept stopping by Darryl’s to help with take-out orders or even just to socialize. “I realized that this business means nothing without the people in every single facet of this business, it’s the people that makes it what it is,” says Nia. During that time, Nia and her staff missed their patrons so much that they would handwrite little notes and put them in the to- go bags as a way to reach out and the connection continued when patrons would call Darryl’s to thank them for the note.

An empty performance stage, decorated with colored lights and a shiny gold curtain.

Grace by Nia Performance Stage, photo by Big Night Entertainment

Nia is the first black woman in Boston to own a Supper Club with a liquor license and her words of advice to the next generation interested in succeeding in the hospitality industry are true and simple. “Find a role model, a mentor, a person that resonates with where you are and who you want to be and book an informational interview,” says Nia. “You have to be tenacious enough to get real-world experience as you pursue your career.”

A variety of brunch cocktails in different types of glasses sit on a wooden table.

Brunch beverages at Grace by Nia, photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment

Nia is surrounded by mouthwatering menus all day/all night and it’s all about the food. Fried Green Tomatoes, Blackened Shrimp and Polenta, BBQ stuffed Mac ‘n Cheese and Creole Jambalaya (this month’s recipe). On the snacky side Nia loves playing with different Hummus flavors like beet, guacamole or black-eyed peas. She also loves cooking Sweet Potato Curry Soup and Oxtails with Coconut Grits and reaching for her favorite fresh and spicy Grillo’s Pickles and some deep-dive gourmet cheese and crackers. If Nia was to request a dish from a family member it would be her husband’s spaghetti, her mom’s lobster bisque or her auntie’s potato salad or sour cream pound cake.

A variety of brunch dishes sit on a wooden table.

Brunch menu at Grace by Nia, photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment

As a Massachusetts native, Nia is very familiar with the Commonwealth’s tourism regions and loves to take time for family vacations. She loves Martha’s Vineyard and its history and calls it her second home fondly recalling many family trips there. She also loves exploring The Berkshires and Springfield and aims to go camping, ah rather, glamping this summer. “Massachusetts is cool, I would go anywhere,” says Nia.

Creole Jambalaya recipe

Courtesy of Grace by Nia, Boston, MA

CREOLE JAMBALAYA, Courtesy of Grace by Nia, Boston, MA. Photo courtesy of Big Night Entertainment.

Download a PDF of this recipe


  • ¼ lb butter
  • 2 cloves garlic (Minced)
  • 6 cups of water (bring to a boil)
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 2 cups pureed tomatoes
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes
  • 2 stalks celery (Chopped)
  • 1 yellow onion (Diced)
  • 1 red pepper (Diced)
  • 1 green pepper (Diced)
  • ¼ cup cajun seasoning
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 smoked sausages (Sliced into Rounds / Browned)
  • ½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail on (Blackened)
  • ½ lb boneless / skinless dark chicken meat (Roasted w/ Cajun Spice)
  • ½ cup of long grain rice (4 Servings)
  • Optional: Okra, Crawfish

Recommended Items to Prepare Ahead of Time

  • Rice
  • Chicken


  • In a large stock pot over medium heat melt butter and add garlic; let brown. Add water and bouillon cube; bring to a boil.
  • Add tomatoes, celery, onions, and peppers. Stir in cajun spice, bay leaf, and hot sauce; reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Brown sausage in a hot skillet; add to pot. Let simmer for an additional 30 minutes.
  • Stir in prepared rice; let simmer on low for as long as desired.
  • Plate rice and tomato gravy mix; blacken shrimp in hot skillet then add to plate.

Prepare the Protein

  • Chicken

Rub with cajun spice in baking pan; cover and cook for 30 minutes at 350 degrees; pull chicken

  • Blacken Shrimp

Rub shrimp with lemon juice and cajun spice; blacken in hot skillet

February Culinary Events