Salsa is blaring and mojitos are flowing on the terrace at Colada Shop, a new DC café where Washingtonians normally on the move trickle in and out as slow as molasses.
This effect is exactly what co-founder Daniella Senior and her partners envisioned when they launched the shop’s first outpost in Sterling, Virginia, last year. “We wanted to create a place where you can hang out all day and have a quick snack, a coffee or a cocktail—not necessarily a whole meal,” explains Senior, who hails from the Dominican Republic. “I miss that so much.”
For inspiration, she and partner Juan Coronado visited Cuba, photographing the faded architecture, the scenery, and the people. Then they worked with Rebecca Bartlett, creative director of San Francisco’s Bartlett Brands, to distill their impressions into a look for the shop.
“Cement tiles were everywhere,” recalls Senior. “We played with all the textures and tried to make it slightly more modern—keeping that sense of nostalgia but in a fun way. We didn’t want to make space look too ‘Disneyland-ish.’”
The finished design incorporates vibrant tiles, weathered wood, and murals of Cuban women who left lasting impressions on the travelers. “They’ve had a harsh life but keep smiling,” says Senior.
The menu takes guests from morning café Cubano and cream-cheese pastelitos to savories such as meat and vegetarian empanadas, croquetas and Cuban sandwiches. Though the bar menus vary by location, DC’s cocktail list includes quenchingly good mojitos, daiquiris and piña coladas.
“The whole goal was to transport people,” says Senior. “We want you to forget you’re in DC.” coladashop.com.