When Alysia Davey met Ryan Anderson, there were fireworks—literally. Today, the two own and run Zomo, a hot Asian-fusion restaurant located in Englewood. The initial sparks started flying when Alysia was working at a firework stand and Ryan walked over with his sister to buy some Ground Blooms. “I think he liked that I loved fireworks as much as he did,” she said.
More than a decade later, Alysia and Ryan decided to continue her family’s legacy of food and open Zomo. They were building on the foundation started by Alysia’s grandmother, Chi, and grandfather, Ty, who owned three restaurants in Kansas—Ty and Chi’s Oriental and American Restaurants. Alysia explains, “I have always been really close with my grandparents— growing up I loved walking to their house to get food.”
The decision to open their own restaurant was also grounded in concern for family—Grandma Chi was working at another restaurant in town and needed the income, but also needed a better work/life balance. Alysia shares that, “Ryan’s family has owned the building for decades and we had the chance to enter the space as a business. Instantly, Ryan and I agreed we needed to give the grandparents another go, but this time a little more new school with the grandkids involved.”
Zomo is an opportunity to re-imagine Ty and Chi’s for a modern audience. Asian flavors are balanced with a western palate in creative and imaginative ways, many of which hail from Grandma Chi’s time in Kansas. Alysia explains, “Grandma was adopted by a church in a small small town, Stock- ton, Kansas. She was taught by the ladies in the church how to cook and provide for her family. When she was taught how to cook meatloaf, she thought to herself, “Why would they put breadcrumbs in there? It makes it so dry!” and voila! She decided to put bean thread noodles in there. That is a practice done with our egg rolls to hold the filling together.”
Ryan, Alysia, and Grandma Chi all have their favorite dishes and the meaning behind each is as savory as the dish itself. For Alysia, it’s all about the fried rice. “It is nostalgic for me, what I grew up eating. It is light and fluffy, but still flavorful. I get mine spicy with a fried egg on top. I like the yolk to mix in.”
Ryan loves either the rice bowl or the pho. “The rice bowl reminds me of flavors and foods I ate at my Chinese grandmother’s house. And who doesn’t love pho?” Grandma Chi prefers the yellow curry, “I like the rich flavors, the pumpkin and the veggies—the combo has the most flavor with all of the different meats.” But perhaps the most sentimental dish on the menu is Ba’s Shrimp. Alysia explains that it’s named for “My grandpa Ty, who didn’t get to see this place open. The rice even comes out on the plate in a heart shape to commemorate him.”
Alysia and Ryan have been in business together since they were 17, first in construction and now running Zomo. It’s clear that at this point, it’s second nature for them to work together. Or as Ryan says, “We really get to share all of the special moments, joking with Grandma and really the whole build-out of the place. Also, we always have a second hand when loading and unloading groceries from the market or buying a new oven. Some- times the stresses of the kitchen get to us, but we always come together before bed and reflect on how things should change the next go around.”
Grandma Chi rules the kitchen, including making all of the sauces, marinades, meatloaf and Jell-O cake. She curated her perfect staff as Alysia and Ryan spent years building the restaurant itself. Alysia says that, “Grandma Chi and her elderly friends make that kitchen the light that shines. All of the flavor, that is Grandma.”
But Grandma isn’t the only family member Ryan and Alysia pulled into the business of Zomo; Alysia’s mother, Kris, runs the front of the house and is indefatigable. Kris’ husband, Son, provides IT support in addition to being CIO for a major company. Ryan’s parents, Wanda and Todd, were there for every step of the three-and-a-half-year build-out (Wanda hand-sanded all of the brick on the exposed wall) and are now Zomo’s most loyal customers. Alysia’s big sister Cerise trains the staff for best practices for alcohol and food safety, her brother Son Jr. is a bartender and mixologist, and her little sister Mya is a server and social media specialist.
Alysia and Ryan hope that Zomo “continues to feed and bring joy to people for a very long time. This place is so much more than a restaurant to all of us and we want that feeling to radiate as long as we are around.”
3457 S. Broadway Englewood, CO 80113
Elizabeth Kosar is a writer and strategist in Denver. Her family food traditions include her grandfather’s Bloody Mary recipe.
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