Small local biz expands with fast casual restaurant celebrating neighborhood culinary culture
As serious Dig readers are well aware, we don’t run a lot of press releases. We prefer to do actual reporting and to go out and speak with people, stuff like that.
And we absolutely do plan on stopping by the Underground Cafe + Lounge, a “new establishment rooted in culture, music and art and inspired by the community for Northeastern students and Boston residents,” and that “will offer a variety of scratch-made dishes in a menu that was created with input from community members.”
Until we get a chance to visit, this media release ought to hold you over. It’s hard to think of a more ambitious project, from the menu to involvement with the arts and artists. Here’s what they’re telling us about the new collaboration with Nia Grace of Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen and the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition:
The Underground Cafe + Lounge, located at 742 Columbus Ave as a retail space at the entrance of LightView, a student apartment community owned and managed by American Campus Communities (ACC), was made possible thanks to a collaboration between Grace, Northeastern’s community entrepreneurship programs, and ACC’s’ new Neighborhood Business Nurturing Program, which helps bolster and support small, local businesses particularly those owned by women and minorities.
“The concept for The Underground Cafe + Lounge came from being rooted in culture, inspired by the community, and united by flavor,” said Grace. “Roxbury is my home; it’s where I grew up and I am proud to work with the citizens of this vibrant neighborhood and with Northeastern and ACC to provide a welcoming environment and freshly-prepared, quick service soul food at affordable prices to the neighborhood and the campus community alike.”
The new restaurant will offer a variety of scratch-made dishes in a menu that was created with input from community members. Menu items include red velvet belgian waffles, pulled pork macaroni and cheese, garlic herb shrimp and arugula flatbread, and a variety of soulful vegetarian and vegan options. Grace has hand-picked some of her favorite local food and beverage producers to be on the menu including Fazenda Coffee Roasters and Boston Artisan Breads.
To celebrate its opening, The Underground will donate all proceeds from the sale of its Berry Roxbury Smoothie to the YMCA of Greater Boston until the end of October.
“Nia’s love for our community and her determination to reinvigorate it while preserving what we all love about it really shines through with The Underground Cafe. It has been a pleasure to partner with her in the past through the Black Restaurant Challenge, which encourages patrons to dine at Black businesses, and I am excited to support her efforts with this new endeavor,” said Rep. Chynah Tyler, a Roxbury State Representative and chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.
“This vibrant new space beautifully fills a void for fresh, hot food at reasonable prices in our neighborhood. As a proud Northeastern alum, I encourage everyone to support this new concept as it is a shining example of what collaborative support can do for our communities and to help advance women and minority owned businesses in Boston.”
Dedicated to creating culturally rich spaces for all to enjoy while always actively looking for ways to help her community, Grace named the space to pay homage to Harriet Tubman’s underground railroad that intersects that true passage with a higher calling of freedom. It is particularly poignant right now as she hopes The Underground Cafe + Lounge will be a fresh, welcoming space that honors the nearby recently-demolished Harriet Tubman House, which served as a safe space for African Americans in the South End for 45 years. The Underground Cafe sits right next to the orange rail line, which serves as an intersection for all of Boston. Grace says it is a perfect place for bringing together all walks of life, and that there’s an underlying rich history of overcoming struggle and adversity.
The Underground Cafe + Lounge will serve as a rotating exhibition space for Artists for Humanity, a non-profit providing under-resourced teens the keys to self sufficiency through paid employment in art and design. From September through December 2021, featured artists and artwork will include: Hannah Cinea’s “Primary Portrait”; Domenique Colunga’s “80’s Me, 80’s You”; Syriah Coley’s “Helianthus”; Reina Quinonez’s “Kve”; Lyanna Adams’ “Who I Am”; Kaissa Alves’ “Self Portrait”; Delila Montanez’s “Anah”; Gloria Fadel El Said’s “Gracefully Shifted” and “Static Mind” and “Finale”; Jessy Camacho Gonzalez’s “Illuminate Me”; Wilton Tejeda “The World is Yourz No. 2”; and Omauri Bryon-Edwards’ “Armored Fate.”
Additional vibrancy to the space will come from live music and other forms of entertainment to evoke the same kind of spirit and hospitality that guests at Grace’s other restaurant, Darryl’s, have enjoyed. The Underground will also be a welcome event space to the neighborhood and can be booked for special events and gatherings. The company branding, designed by Grafitto SP, is interworked through an industrial-meets-modern environment creating an inviting space for patrons to gather, dine and study.
The restaurant brings 20 new jobs to the community with starting wages of $15 an hour. Those interested in applying for a job or learning more about The Underground can visit the website.
More info at theundergroundboston.com.