Nia Grace, Boston, Massachusetts, USA_

Nia Grace
Boston, Massachusetts, USA


For a person who describes herself as “super-shy”, Nia Grace does an outstanding impression of a woman radiating confidence and charisma. When we meet she’s resplendent in a scarlet cocktail dress, a perfect complement to the softly lit, richly decorated interior of her Seaport restaurant and music venue Grace by Nia. “One of my rules for my team is, we’ve got to dress better than our best-dressed guest,” she says, and the bar is high. With ornate black and gilt pillars, chandeliers, jade-green marble-effect walls and a stage dressed in gold floor-to-ceiling crushed-velvet drapes, the space conjures the glamour of a 1930s jazz supper club, and its patrons respond, sartorially, in kind.

The venue, whose five weekly live music sessions host polished jazz, soul and R&B talents from Boston and beyond and which serves classic Southern soul food elevated with luxurious twists and seasonal local produce – buttermilk-fried lobster mac and cheese, anyone? – opened in May 2023, and its soaring success has been one of the most warmly welcomed challenges to the lack of diversity that marked Boston’s newest neighbourhood’s early years.

“Because of where I’m from,” says Nia, who was born and raised in the traditionally low-income neighbourhood Roxbury, before studying criminology at the University of Miami and then working as a talent agent in New York City, “I’ve always had to walk into spaces where I feel out of place, where people have had to make room for me. So today it’s almost easy for me to create environments that become the most diverse dining rooms in Boston.”

Nia, who during the pandemic co-founded the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition to help local black-owned establishments survive its economic challenges, first put her music and dining formula on the city’s map with Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen in South End, an affluent, artsy neighbourhood known for its diverse demographics. Home to the US’ largest contiguous collection of original Victorian terraced townhouses and a wealth of parks, it’s an achingly photogenic area with a thriving and progressive leisure culture that incorporates SoWa, an art and design district bristling with cool boutiques, galleries and creative food pop-ups. It’s known too for having many of the city’s best restaurants.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done with Darryl’s, and blown away by Grace by Nia’s success,” she says. “But, having grown up without any visible role models, and especially no women of colour in hospitality, what would really make me happy would be to inspire somebody else to think, ‘I could do that too.’” |

Photography by Brian Samuels

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