In the early days of the pandemic, restaurateur Nia Grace, known for her popular soul food restaurant Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen in Roxbury, happened upon a vacant space in Northeastern University’s new LightView building, which could be transformed into another restaurant. Initially, Grace worried that the building’s rent would be unsustainable for her business, but help came in the form of a neighbor on the landlord team who recommended her for the space. Her new establishment, The Underground Café + Lounge, which is also soul food inspired, opened its doors last week.
“It is about truly building community, and you have to do it with an authentic voice,” Grace said during her interview with Boston Public Radio on Tuesday. “There is some credence in working with me, and working with a person like myself, who is committed to being about the culture, and where food, art, and community intersect.”
The opportunities and welcoming environment that communities create, Grace says, serve as the foundation of her new restaurant.
“It represents opportunity then, it represents opportunity now," Grace, who co-founded the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition as the pandemic threatened the economic survival of local Black-owned establishments, said. "We can get as historic as the things that were in my neighborhood in the South End. When I think about the Harriet Tubman House, and what that meant for our community here. When I think about myself getting on the Orange Line train and taking myself from Dorchester and Roxbury, and making it downtown and understanding what opportunity looked like there as well.”
“When you get in there you’re gonna feel that same hospitality that you have down at Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen,” Grace added. “You’ll have warm smiles, and flavorful food like always.”
WATCH: Grace discusses the challenges of opening a new restaurant during the pandemic on Greater Boston
Neither the pandemic nor the new restaurant opening have allowed Grace to slow down operations at Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen, now in its third year.
“We’re not in full range recovery yet,” Grace said. “We don’t see that happening for many restaurants for another year or so. But you know — like I say — we’re still here.”
Grace is the owner and operator of Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, co-founder of the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition and the owner of The Underground Café + Lounge, which opened last week on the campus of Northeastern University.