Buena Vista Social Club. Pastelitos. Croquetas. Anyone who's spent much time in the Caribbean or South Florida should recognize those three things -- the legendary Cuban band, the flaky pastries, the béchamel fritters.
But how about Bola de Nieve, croqueta preparada and palo santo?
That trio can be more difficult to place.
Colada Shop, an upcoming Cuban cafe in Sterling and D.C.'s 14th Street NW corridor from Barmini alum Juan Coronado and partner Daniella Senior, incorporates all of these elements into a unique eatery that offers classic touches and playful twists on Cuban staples.
The playlist will churn through such familiar Buena Vista Social Club tracks as "Macusa" and "Candela," interspersed with music by the more obscure pianist Bola de Nieve. There will be Cuban sandwiches (slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard), but there will also be a dish rarely found in Washington: the croqueta preparada, a mighty sandwich crammed with ham, Swiss cheese and a chicken-stuffed croqueta.
You probably won't find any cocktails in the area quite like Colada Shop's. The Manicero Negroni will feature peanut-infused gin (manicero means peanut vendor in Spanish). The ingredients in the Cha Cha Cha! read like a standard mojito -- rum, sugar cane juice, lime, mint -- until you get to the syrup. It's made with palo santo, a type of wood used as incense across Latin America for warding off evil spirits.
The cafe "showcases the passion and the way of living, from the morning to all the way in the evening, in the Caribbean," said Coronado, a native of the Dominican Republic. The name reinforces that idea: Order a "colada" at any Cuban takeout window in Miami, and you'll get an inky, syrupy espresso served in a large Styrofoam cup, a powerful caffeine boost that's meant to be shared with a group.
"You have a colada with three or four of your friends," Coronado said. "It’s a moment for you to put your guard down."
The coffee menu will include the namesake drink plus a cortadito (espresso with steamed evaporated milk), café con leche (sort of like a latte) and café bon bon (espresso with condensed milk).
The shop won't be like most D.C.-area Cuban restaurants, which serve hearty meals of grilled chicken with white rice, black beans and fried sweet plantains. Colada Shop, rather, will be a laid-back spot to grab an afternoon coffee and a beef empanada or a casual dinner of salad and South American wine.
The offerings include omelets, Cuban snacks, sandwiches and such desserts as tres leches, bread pudding and Cuban flan. Vegetarians will be catered to with a mushroom croqueta and a veggie Cuban sandwich with marinated portobello mushrooms and roasted cauliflower.
The Sterling location is scheduled to open Aug. 22. Expect the D.C. outpost to debut mid-fall.
Colada Shop, 21430 Epicerie Plaza, Sterling. 703-429-1362. 1405 T St. NW.