Zoës Kitchen Comes to Colorado — "The Birthplace of Fast-Casual"

Chef Antonio Iocchi pours an olive-oil flight.
Chef Antonio Iocchi pours an olive-oil flight.
Lindsey Bartlett

Zoës Kitchen is the newest out-of-state chain to make its way to Colorado, with a goal of bringing the freshest and healthiest food possible in a fast-casual setting to our lovely state, or as Zoës CEO Kevin Miles calls it, the "birthplace of fast-casual." (We'll take it.)

But Zoës feels anti-fast-casual for several reasons: a commitment to highlighting simple flavors, a disdain for preservatives, and a hands-on approach to scratch cooking, with several hours of prep beginning each morning at every store before the doors even open. (But isn't that what every restaurant should do?)

The unveiling of Zoës in the Mile High City will begin with six stores rolling out over the course of 2016. The inaugural location, at Southwest Plaza mall in Littleton, is set to open on March 26, adjacent to a Panera Bread outpost in a remodeled space with an indoor-outdoor patio. 

Following that, Zoës will open in Westminster on April 26, Fort Collins on May 14, and Union Station on August 4.  Next fall, Boulder will get two Zoës — one on 29th Street and one at FlatIrons mall. While those estimated dates aren't set in stone, it's an aggressive schedule — but that's only the beginning. Overall, Zoës has scouted forty potential locations that it intends to open over the next several years, and has prioritized them as favorite spots in the state to open first.

A pop-up shop of Zoës Kitchen in the Black Eye Coffee location in Highland.
A pop-up shop of Zoës Kitchen in the Black Eye Coffee location in Highland.
Lindsey Bartlett

Zoë means "life" in Greek, according the corporate team, which previewed the menu at a recent pop-up dinner hosted by Black Eye Coffee in LoHi. Born in the Mediterranean and raised in the South, Zoës Kitchen hails from Texas, where founder Zoë Cassimus modeled the menu after her family recipes. The board draws inspiration from the cuisine of Greece, but also Italy (head chef Antonio Iocchi's homeland), France, Spain and some twenty other Mediterranean countries. It's a big menu, especially for a fast-casual eatery, and beer and wine are also a part of the program, adding a little incentive for parents who bring their kids in for a healthy alternative to burgers and fries. 

Zoës takes healthy food seriously, with hummus made from scratch daily. The popular hummus trio appetizer goes for $6.99 in-house, but  tubs of the garbanzo-bean spread are also available to go, with flavors like original, pesto, and roasted red pepper with a hint of spice. A spokesman for the company condemned preservative-laced hummus typical of grocery-store brands. 

Mediterranean baked Feta.EXPAND
Mediterranean baked Feta.

Another crowd-pleasing item served at the pop-up dinner was a rosemary-ham-and-mozzarella piadina (a type of Italian flatbread), which Iocchi explains is meant to be light. It pulled apart with melty cheese and flavorful ham on the inside, finishing with the crunch of the piadina, and was perked up with lemon vinaigrette and Calabrian pepper aioli.

The Zoës team was also proud of its super-food-packed salads; the Live Med was prepared in front of our eyes by Iocchi, who ribboned zucchini and squash, added fresh spinach, farro, lupini beans, cherry tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, tossing it all in a Calabrian pepper dressing. The quinoa salad and the tossed Greek are also big sellers.

The rosemary-ham-and-mozzarella piadina.
The rosemary-ham-and-mozzarella piadina.
Lindsey Bartlett

Kevin Miles of  Zoës is responsible for menu development; he introduced the steak kabobs, which he joked just meant he went to the office one day and said, "Can we put beef on a stick?" All of the kabob dishes come with hummus and pita, among other sides. Miles says his other favorites include the chicken-orzo soup and salmon kabobs.

While it's difficult to get a sense of what Zoës Kitchen will be like when the first one comes to town based on an elegant, carefully planned dining experience, the small sampling provided at the pop-up dinner gave an indication of the company's potential to please those with a fresh-food obsession. As other chains have already proven, if it's big in Texas, Denverites will show up in numbers.  

The hummus trio, family size.
The hummus trio, family size.
Lindsey Bartlett
Iocchi sets the table with his freshly made Live Med salad.
Iocchi sets the table with his freshly made Live Med salad.
Lindsey Bartlett
Kabobs galore.EXPAND
Kabobs galore.
Lindsey Bartlett
The quinoa salad.
The quinoa salad.
Lindsey Bartlett
Yaya's handmade chocolate cake, made slightly differently in every Zoës Kitchen in the country.
Yaya's handmade chocolate cake, made slightly differently in every Zoës Kitchen in the country.
Lindsey Bartlett
Zoës Kitchen Comes to Colorado — "The Birthplace of Fast-Casual" (28)
Lindsey Bartlett
A family-sized portion of the Live Med salad.
A family-sized portion of the Live Med salad.
Lindsey Bartlett
Use Current Location

Related Locations

miles
Southwest Plaza

8501 W. Bowles Ave.
Littleton, CO 80123

303-973-5300

www.southwestplaza.com

miles
Zoes Kitchen

8501 W. Bowles Ave.
Littleton, Colorado 80123

303-904-9398

zoeskitchen.com


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