Restaurants

Find green tea waffles and seafood gumbo at the new Underground Cafe + Lounge

It's the second restaurant to come from Darryl's Corner Bar & Kitchen owner Nia Grace.

Green tea and red velvet Belgian waffles
Green tea and red velvet Belgian waffles. American Campus Communities

As owner of Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, a lively restaurant and lounge that sits at the intersection of Roxbury and the South End, Nia Grace is well-versed in running a restaurant that doubles as a community space and entertainment venue.

Now, she’s introducing her second multi-purpose restaurant nearby: The Underground Cafe + Lounge, located on the ground floor of LightView, a student apartment complex run by American Campus Communities (ACC).

The all-day cafe is a collaboration between Grace, Northeastern’s community entrepreneurship programs, and ACC’s Neighborhood Business Nurturing Program, which supports small, local businesses with a focus on concepts owned by women and minorities.

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“They were initially looking for some kind of pop-up to see how they could activate the space to build some traction there and possibly attract a longer term tenant,” Grace told Boston.com. “We were able to develop something a little more substantial here.”

In order to find out what kind of restaurant would work well in the neighborhood, Grace spent time conducting focus groups with students.

Nia Grace
Nia Grace, owner of The Underground Cafe + Lounge. – Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

“We wanted to see what they felt the need was,” she said, noting that the area was ‘a desert’ for quick-service meals. “What you could hear from their responses on where they dined, is that there are a lot of culturally rich places they would frequent — Bangkok Pinto, which does Thai food, to Mumbai Spice. What we loved was the fact that it was such an eclectic input and interest.”

Some of Darryl’s beloved dishes have made it onto The Underground’s menu, including the baked mac and cheese, which is made with three cheeses and offers barbecue pulled pork as an add-on. On the breakfast menu, diners can find Southern egg pies, frittatas, and Belgian waffles, while the all-day menu features savory flatbreads, salads, soups, and hot sandwich melts. There are also five different smoothies available, and through the end of October, proceeds from the sale of the Berry Roxbury Smoothie will be donated to the YMCA of Greater Boston. A number of vegan and gluten-free options made it to the menu as well, after Grace heard from focus group members with dietary restrictions.

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“Being able to adhere to dietary restrictions without having to sacrifice flavor is something we’re excited about,” she said.

Like Darryl’s, The Underground aims to be a community space, with acoustic nights coming up in the near future. The cafe currently hosts an art installation featuring roughly a dozen pieces of artwork from youth artists involved with Artists for Humanity. After four months, a fresh selection of artwork will be installed, and each new installation will give customers the chance to meet with the artists. Grace, who is also co-founder of the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition, said she’s open to offering the space for meetings or fundraisers as well — whatever helps the cafe to be “utilized by the personnel and students and community.”

While The Underground has been in soft opening mode since Sept. 7, Monday’s grand opening will kick off its official debut. A speaking program is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m., and a number of notable attendees will be on-site, including Mass. state representative Chyna Tyler, councilor at-large Julia Mejia, acting mayor Kim Janey, Artists for Humanity co-founder Rob ‘Problak’ Gibbs, and more.

Check out the menu for The Underground Cafe + Lounge:

The Underground Cafe + Lounge menu
Breakfast menu. – The Underground Cafe + Lounge
The Underground Cafe + Lounge menu
All-day menu. – The Underground Cafe + Lounge

The Underground Cafe + Lounge; 742 Columbus Ave., Boston; Mondays—Fridays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; theundergroundboston.com

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