As soon as Monday, the Denver outpost of Zoe Ma Ma will open its doors next to Union Station. The original quick-service shop serving authentic Chinese dishes came to Boulder in 2010 via entrepreneur Edwin Zoe, and his mother, known as Ma Ma.
The two started the venture after Zoe's father passed away, with Ma Ma responsible for all of the street-style recipes from their native country. Utilizing quality ingredients like organic flour, cage-free eggs, and no MSG, everything is made fresh in house, from noodles to bao buns.
Among the reasonably priced menu items are staples such as potstickers, vegan dumplings, hot and sour soup, and noodle and rice dishes—think za jiang mian with egg noodles and savory ground pork sauce, or the "CPR," a stewed chicken and potato gravy served over rice. The board is the same as the original, with one addition of fried rice with fried dried shrimp and pork.
Depending on the day, you'll also find designated daily specials, a tradition that carries over from the Boulder location; because of the small kitchen not everything can be served all the time. Among these are roast duck and wonton soup on Friday and Saturday, Wednesday and Thursday get the "lion head"—a softball-size pork meatball that's flash fried then stewed for hours with shiitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, and sliced bamboo shoots—and the Sichuan braised beef noodle soup for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.
"The Sichuan braised beef noodle soup is one of the most beloved Chinese dishes that Americans don't know about," says Zoe. "When I came to the United States I looked for Sichuan beef noodle soup, and nobody has it."
In addition to various teas and soda, the beverage list offers two beers: Tsing Tao and Dale's Pale Ale from Oskar Blues. Three wines round things out, with dry Riesling and Pinot Noir available by the glass or bottle, or for a splurge the white Burgundy is bottle-only at $95. The counter-service ordering system lends itself to being a place for a quick bite, whether you stay and eat or take it to-go. Delivery is an option that Zoe is considering for the future.
As you move through the narrow space, the venue transitions from the Eastern-inspired Zoe Ma Ma side to a more European beverage concept called the Orient Espresso, a play-on-words name choice appropriate for its view looking out to the Union Station platforms. The spot will double as additional seating for the eatery plus serve coffee and tea. Zoe has also applied for another liquor license to be able to pour spirited coffee drinks, beer, and wine. The locomotive theme is also carried out with a multimedia wall of three big-screen TVs, recessed into the wall and surrounded by wood panels to create the effect of a train car's windows.
Zoe may pursue additional locations in the future, but for now he's happy to showcase his mother's food in LoDo. "The Union Station development is, I think, just one of the most wonderfully executed redevelopments I've seen," Zoe says. "It's really thoughtful in terms of the efficiency as well as the elegance that they've executed....So I was really excited to do a project here."
Zoe Ma Ma is located at 1625 Wynkoop Street with hours from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Orient Espresso will be fully open in about a week, from 7 a.m. to the same closing time as Zoe Ma Ma.