Who knows when Washingtonians will return permanently to offices, or when they’ll feel comfortable cramming into small restaurants again. And so, like a lot of restaurants in a position to expand, Colada Shop sees its future in the burbs. The all-day Cuban cafe will open its fourth—and largest—location yet at Cabin John Village in Potomac this April. The restaurant’s Sterling location closed at the start of the pandemic but has plans to relocate in Fairfax this spring.
“We had a lot of people that were used to the food options they were getting in DC. In the suburbs, they’re not necessarily getting those options and what they were used to fulfilled,” says co-owner Daniella Senior. “I’m not discarding opening another location in DC. However, I do think for us, moving forward, it’s probably going to be primarily expanding in the suburbs.”
Colada Shop’s “fine-casual” model was better suited than most to adapt to the pandemic’s takeout-centric style of eating. But the new outpost will open with permanent features like ordering kiosks and QR code menus. Another big appeal was space to spread out: 80 people can fit inside and 50 outside at full capacity. (Le Pain Quotidien, which filed for bankruptcy last May, previously occupied the address.) The team plans to use the covered patio for various classes, such as learning to pot herbs like cilantro and mint and then cooking and making cocktails with them.
“People are really looking for engagement right now. It’s been a long year for everyone,” Senior says.
In the mornings, expect the same menu of Cuban-inspired coffee drinks, including café con leche, cortadito, and the namesake colada—a four-ounce espresso that’s traditionally shared. The cocktail menu, created by co-owner Juan Coronado, will bring along classics like a piña colada and mojito as well as seasonal specials such as the “Umeshu a lo Cubano” with gold rum, plum wine, lemon bitters, and tonic.
Chef/partner Mario Monte will continue to serve up favorites such as empanadas and Cuban sandwiches, but has created new dishes specifically for Colada Shop’s Potomac neighbors. The restaurant is looking to appeal to the local Jewish community with a plate of plantain latkes and mojito-cured salmon. Meanwhile, “platanachos”—plantain nachos—were created with nearby high school students in mind. No item is priced higher than $14.50.
Like its other locations, this one will also be colorful and filled with greenery. Dominican artist Kilia Llano, who painted Colada Shop’s Wharf location, will be working on murals here too, including a large portrait of a Dominican woman carrying flowering plantains.
“To me the murals give each location its own person. Each store has its own identity, its own community, its own personality, and they all behave a little bit differently,” Senior says. “They’re from the same parents, but they’re all different children.”
Colada Shop, 7993 Tuckerman Lane Potomac, Md.