There is one reason more compelling than utter deliciousness to get a cast-iron grilled hot dog made with dry-aged Roseda Black Angus Farm beef from the mobile Catalyst Hot Dogs stand and that’s to hear its owner, Silver Spring resident Chris Van Jura, pronounce “hot dawwwg” in his native New Jersey accent.
Van Jura, 39, considers selling Jersey dogs his true calling. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in theater from Western Connecticut State University in 2005. After college, he worked at a deli in Lodi, New Jersey, for four years to support himself between auditions and acting gigs. “What I was doing there is what I do now—over-the-counter banter,” he says with a laugh. He went on to work for various restaurants, rising through the ranks to upper management. A job as a manager for Fiola Mare in D.C. brought him to the area in 2017. When COVID hit, he had just started a new job at Via Sophia in D.C. He got furloughed twice.
“Like millions of hospitality professionals, I spent 10 months of 2020 not knowing what would happen. Without that, though, I wouldn’t have stepped up to do what I always wanted to do—open a hot dog truck,” Van Jura says.
In May 2020, Van Jura drove by a Silver Spring parking lot where a hot dog trailer was for sale. He started a GoFundMe and raised $25,000 in seven weeks, opening Catalyst Hot Dogs in December. Depictions of floorboards, footlights and a curtain are painted on the trailer’s side, and the window is Van Jura’s stage, where he engages customers with animated repartee, showmanship and charm as he prepares their orders. The name Catalyst is a tribute to Van Jura’s oldest brother, Michael, who died in 2012. “At the viewing, a friend of [Michael’s] told me that [Michael] was going to open his own bagel shop called The Catalyst, so I knew that had to be my stand’s name,” Van Jura says.
The menu is simple: grilled all-beef or vegan dogs on Martin’s potato rolls, Herr’s potato chips and cold drinks. It’s the high quality of Van Jura’s ingredients and his gregariousness that set this stand apart. Even a $3 plain dog with mustard or ketchup is a labor of love to him. Specialty dogs ($6) include All the Way (chili, mustard, onions), Classic (chili and cheese), Lincoln Logs (butterflied hot dog with a smear of cream cheese) and The Capital Dog (onions and Capital City mambo sauce). Van Jura makes his own Texas-style chili (also with Roseda beef) and bright yellow cabbage-based relish at a commissary kitchen in Gaithersburg.
Recent areas where the Catalyst stand has popped up include Rockville’s King Farm neighborhood, Silver Spring’s Indian Spring neighborhood and the Home Depot in Silver Spring.
The cool vibe of Colada Shop—a D.C.-based, fast-casual, Cuban-style cafe that opened in Potomac’s Cabin John Village in April—is evident even before walking in the door. On the sky-blue brick backdrop of the cafe’s facade, Dominican artist Kilia Llano’s boldly hued mural of a smiling woman carrying plantains on her head catches the eye. Salsa music sets a festive mood as you enter, and affable employees stand at the ready to take orders for such offerings as pastelitos (flaky pastries with sweet and savory filling, such as guava or ground beef), empanadas, tostones (fried mashed plantains) or key lime pie layered in a screw-top jar so you can save some for a treat at home later.
The conviviality of Colada Shop is built into its name—a colada is a four-shot serving of espresso topped with espumita (sugar foam) that comes with four little cups so it can be divvied up and shared. Colada Shop’s CEO and founder, 32-year-old Daniella Senior, says the cafe is meant to be a social gathering space different from “the sea of coffee shops serving the same scone or muffin” she had seen in travels all over the U.S. “I wanted a place that represented Latin culture in a positive light,” she says. “Coffee culture had evolved to very large coffees with your name on it that you grab and go—the opposite of what I grew up with [in the Dominican Republic]. We wanted an environment that makes you slow down and forget your hectic life for a minute.” Senior envisioned a place to cater to people’s needs all day, whether to have a morning coffee, hold a meeting, do some work, enjoy a Cubano sandwich or a rice bowl for lunch or sip cocktails in the evening.
This is the fourth location of Colada Shop and the first in Montgomery County. “We were getting a lot of requests to open in Potomac, so I started paying attention,” Senior says. “The landlord reached out about the former Le Pain Quotidien space and I saw the environment on the plaza—the openness, the ability to have a lot of outdoor seating.”
The 2,600-square-foot cafe, which seats 100 inside and 65 outside, is airy and appealing. Plants hang from the ceiling and small succulents adorn each table. Another colorful Llano mural graces a back wall. The menu offers breakfast items, salads, sandwiches, pastries, snacks, desserts, coffee drinks and cocktails. Dishes served exclusively at the Potomac location include plantain latkes with house-cured salmon and cilantro dill crema; plantain nachos; and tostones stuffed with ropa vieja (braised beef).
Senior says the shop will host occasional events with live music, including a Pina Colada Festival from July 8 to 18.
Colada Shop, 7993 Tuckerman Lane (Cabin John Village), Potomac, 240-332-8870, coladashop.com
Comings & goings
Chef Mike Friedman, who lives in Olney and owns acclaimed D.C. restaurants The Red Hen and All-Purpose Pizza, will open two restaurants at 4747 Bethesda Ave. in 2022: Aventino, a 120-seat full-service restaurant serving Roman-style dishes, and a 20-seat outpost of All-Purpose Pizza.
A Scandinavian-influenced restaurant called Café Sophie will open in the Montgomery County Airpark in Gaithersburg this summer. Thai Chef Street Food, a D.C.-based restaurant, plans to open in Rockville Town Center in late summer. Another D.C.-based concept, Shouk—a kosher, plant-based, Middle Eastern fast-casual restaurant—is opening two Montgomery County locations in the fall, one in Rockville and one in Bethesda. Bethesda Bagels will open in Rockville’s Fallsgrove Village Center in the fall. It will be the local chainlet’s third Montgomery County outpost.
The French pastry shop Patisserie Manuel in Bethesda’s Westfield Montgomery mall closed in March.
The Grilled Oyster Co. closed at Cabin John Village in Potomac in April, with plans to relocate to the Kentlands in Gaithersburg at the end of the year.
The Bethesda pizza joint and pinball arcade VÜK closed in May. So did the Silver Spring location of Olazzo restaurant after a 15-year run. The original Olazzo, in Bethesda, remains open. At the end of May, the coffee shop and record store Bump ‘n Grind closed its East West Highway location in Silver Spring. Nando’s Peri-Peri, a South African fast-casual chain specializing in roast chicken, will relocate its Bethesda Row outpost to a yet-to-be-disclosed Bethesda location in January 2022.