March's Can't-Miss Dish

Creole Jambalaya at Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen - Boston
By Ellen Bhang · 03/01/2022

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it.

Creole Jambalaya at Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen


On the plate: Creole Jambalaya

Where to find it: Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen turns out the most jubilant versions of Southern fare in Boston. Shrimp & Grits, for example, is all brightness and sass, featuring plump crustaceans and wedges of griddled polenta drenched in tangy tomato gravy. The fried wings of the Chicken & Waffles are scrumptious, especially with the red velvet version. This spot’s exuberance is not confined to the plate. There’s live music in the evenings, Thursday to Saturday, as well as on Sunday mornings at the all-you-can-eat Jazz Brunch Buffet.

Nia Grace, the South End venue’s owner, is making sure that the good times continue. Before buying DCBK from former owner Darryl Settles in 2018, she worked as the restaurant’s general manager. She saw firsthand how beloved the spot was to generations of patrons and how it served as a vibrant hub for the city’s Black community. So when the pandemic threatened the longevity of businesses like hers, she took action, forming the Boston Black Hospitality Coalition to raise the visibility of Black-owned businesses and advocate for a more equitable restaurant industry. 

And she herself did the cooking when COVID temporarily thinned staff ranks at Darryl’s. So more than ever, the latest iterations of most of the dishes reflect her special touch.

Notes on the nosh: Creole Jambalaya—a soulful, one-pot dish of rice, meat, and seafood that’s a fixture of New Orleans cuisine—bears Grace’s expert touch. The satisfying serving arrives on the table adorned with glossy red crawfish, direct-shipped from Louisiana, as well as whole shrimp that retain their snap. The seafood rests on a mound of tomatoey, long-grain rice, seasoned with bell pepper, minced garlic, bay leaf, and a spicy dash of red chili pepper. Meaty pieces of chicken thigh and spicy Spanish chorizo dot the moist—never mushy—grains.

“The dish itself definitely has roots in African American culture—truly African culture, and even French and Spanish influences,” Grace explains. “It starts with a hearty grain, which tended to be, and still is, a very frequent base of African dishes.”

Sip alongside: DCBK’s beverage list offers the most robust selection of Black-owned wine brands we’ve encountered at any restaurant in town. Grace is happy to suggest two, in particular, to pair with jambalaya.

“When we talk about cooling your palate, the ‘Love Drunk’ Rosé is something I would recommend,” Grace says, referring to an Oregon-made wine from Maison Noir, the brand of winemaker André Hueston Mack. “If you want a little sweet with that heat, then the McBride Sisters ‘Black Girl Magic’ Riesling is a great option, too.” That refreshing white, made from California-grown grapes and crafted to retain a little residual sugar, is produced by entrepreneurial siblings Robin and Andréa McBride.

Grace says that if more restaurants featured Black-owned wine brands, these bottles would become part of everyday conversations about wine, rather than regarded as novelties. At DCBK, servers love to share the backstories of these outstanding products. “When we talk about our wine selection,” Grace says, “it’s an opportunity to really show you why we’re happy you’re our guest today.”

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