Openings and Closings

Three Years in the Making, Zomo Opens in Downtown Englewood

Zomo is now open on South Broadway in Englewood.
Zomo is now open on South Broadway in Englewood. Mark Antonation

The word "persistence" comes to mind as Alysia Davey describes the three-year journey that she and her fiance, Ryan Anderson, have taken in opening Zomo, their new Vietnamese-American restaurant at 3457 South Broadway in downtown Englewood. "Ryan and I can truly call this restaurant ours, but we couldn't have done it without all of our family," Davey says.

In spring 2016, the couple took over the vacant restaurant space that had been El Tepehuan (which relocated a block south) for forty years. As first-time restaurateurs, they tackled every aspect of the renovation themselves. Anderson is a mechanical engineer, so he, along with his father (also an engineer) oversaw the design plans, and also learned how to weld stainless steel, among other skills required to save money during the long process. Davey became adept at design software and created everything from the wicker light fixtures above each table to the faux-bamboo decorations made from copper pipe left over from the bathroom installation. She even created the working abacus patio dividers on the plaza outside the restaurant.

click to enlarge Alicia Davey and Ryan Anderson created everything inside Zomo. - MARK ANTONATION
Alicia Davey and Ryan Anderson created everything inside Zomo.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Banh mi bites with grilled pork and pâté. - MARK ANTONATION
Banh mi bites with grilled pork and pâté.
Mark Antonation
And last year, Davey's grandfather was diagnosed with cancer, throwing the whole project into doubt. She says  that when he passed away in December, she didn't know whether it felt right to continue. But she decided that opening Zomo would honor his memory, and also give a place for her Vietnamese grandmother's cooking to shine. The whole family is there to help, with Davey's mom in the front of the house, and siblings and cousins pitching in as hosts, servers and bartenders.

Much of Zomo's menu comes from Davey's grandmother, Chi Nguyen (everyone just calls her Ma), who once had her own restaurant in Kansas and was previously the chef at Pho Golden in Golden. Everything is made from scratch, from the pho broth simmered for hours in an eighty-gallon steam kettle to the pâté on the banh mi bites (traditional banh mi served open-faced like bruschetta). Davey has been working on a recipe for making her own baguettes, but for now she's sourcing bread from other Vietnamese bakeries.

click to enlarge Kansas State Fair egg rolls at  Zomo. - MARK ANTONATION
Kansas State Fair egg rolls at Zomo.
Mark Antonation
click to enlarge Zomo's pho with rare steak and tendon. - MARK ANTONATION
Zomo's pho with rare steak and tendon.
Mark Antonation
"I want to serve Vietnamese food like it's cooked at home, not in restaurants," she explains. So there's no MSG, and all the sauces are made in-house. Among the signature items are the Kansas State Fair egg rolls, so named because they were the first food Nguyen sold to make a living when she arrived in the U.S. some 45 years ago. Davey explains that, all those years ago, her grandmother made 3,000 egg rolls and sold them at the state fair, giving her the experience and confidence to become a professional cook.

The menu is small right now, and dishes are labeled in English and Vietnamese. Traditional items include spring rolls, green papaya salad, bun (noodle) bowls, and Ba's shrimp skewers, based on her grandfather's recipe. But there's also a house burger that can be ordered "classic" or "Viet-style," along with a side of hand-cut taro fries. A menu expansion is in the works, which could include the Vietnamese-American meatloaf (made with glass noodles in the mix) Davey grew up eating, and banh xeo "tacos," which will be traditional Vietnamese crepes made in handheld size. Midwestern touches include Jell-O cake and apple-pie egg rolls for dessert.

Zomo was in soft-opening mode last week, but will be fully up and running this week, with lunch and dinner hours starting at 11 a.m. daily. Call 720-739-8882 for more details.
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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation