Noodles are one of Edwin Zoe’s great passions in life. “Ever since I was a child, it was truly always a favorite thing of mine, and it seems like I never grew out of it.”
So when Zoe and his restaurant team were looking for a way to rebound from the loss of business caused by the COVID-19 pandemic — and to heal from the wounds it caused — they decided to focus on what Zoe calls “our core strengths and passions.” In other words: noodles.
Earlier this year, Zoe transitioned Chimera, his four-year-old full-service Pacific Rim-menued restaurant in Boulder, into Dragonfly Noodle, and last week, he opened a second Dragonfly at 1350 16th St. in Denver, on the long-suffering 16th Street Mall.
Both locations feature a streamlined menu of ramen dishes (including one that is served with two char sui pork ribs on top), along with yaki udon, Singapore curry noodles, and a wide variety of fun bao buns, like spicy bulgogi, panko eggplant and butter lobster.
“The spectrum of Asian noodle dishes is so wide – it’s practically limitless. So, I have selected some of my favorites … ones that reflect my palate and style,” he continued. Zoe’s restaurants are among just one or two others that make their own noodles by hand in each store.
“Coming out of the pandemic, I wanted a fresh start that is no longer tied to the past and looks to the future,” said Zoe, who also owns Zoe Ma Ma, not far away at 1625 Wynkoop St. “The dragonfly is a revered symbol in Asian culture. It symbolizes transformation.”
Transformation both for Zoe’s restaurant – and, he says, for the 16th St. Mall, which was already struggling to attract people to its businesses before the pandemic and has since declined even further as many office workers continued to work from home rather than return to their desks in the city. Most recently, Banana Republic closed its store in the Denver Pavilions, and a planned two-year-long mall renovation project has further hindered pedestrian traffic.
“It’s sad to see the 16th Street Mall with so many restaurants shuttered. It was always such a vibrant area in Denver,” said Zoe, who in March was named as a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards in the category of outstanding restaurateur.
“I still believe it will come back to the vibrancy it once held. “I feel it’s important for it to come back, but we can’t do that unless there are businesses there,” he added.
Earlier this year, chef Mary Nguyen, who owns the restaurant Olive & Finch, said she plans to open a cafe, at 1490 16th, also on the mall. Little Finch will specialize in takeout.
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