With stunning views of the flatirons and a great surrounding neighborhood, you will find Ella, a new fine diner that replaced what once was Radda Trattoria at 1265 Alpine in a North Boulder strip mall next to Ideal Market.
Started by Edwin Zoe (operator/owner of Zoe Ma Ma alongside his mother), he also overtook ownership of Radda back in 2012 when Matt Jansen sold the space to him. Upon musingly admitting, “I’m really not that Italian,” (Zoe is from Taiwan) he realized he could do something more with the space which is what drove the recent change.
Edwin is quite the anomaly. He’s a successful software CEO (his business is still running), but has been involved in restaurants since childhood, and started Zoe Ma Ma so his mother had something once she moved to Boulder, after his father had passed. With wild success – Zoe Ma Ma is launching another location in the One Union Station space in Denver. Edwin has been envisioning an upscale, fine diner in Boulder for years which helped him finally take that leap to change up the space and menu.
Not only is he the founder, but he’s operating at head chef for Ella. When I asked who really was doing the lead cooking, he just said, “It’s me.”
He has scrupulous attention to detail, and spent days perfecting the chicken fried steak so it could be replicable by his staff, but also consistently delicious. He feels that way about all his food, starting small about obsessing over the perfect hash brown and potatoes, down to their gluten-free fish and chips by using the right flaky, white fish. With the food being made to order, it is clear he takes great pride in the variance of house-made options such as their lasagna sheets that are all made in house.
The space went through a facelift, with new white tile lining the walls, steel grey paint, custom hickory tables, and interesting hanging totems, hand-carved by Jerry Wingren, a Boulder artist. I have always liked their patio, that faces the flatirons and is surrounded by beautiful flowers and plants. A true family affair, Edwin’s mother manages and arranges their flowers. Even if it is in a strip mall, if I had to choose a strip mall to dine at, this probably would be it.
The emphasis is that you can find simple food, that tastes great and has an affordable price point. There’s interesting food on the menu such as chicken paprikash and Hungarian cream cake, as his mother-in-law is Hungarian and is in the kitchen herself, making these dishes. There’s few places, if any, you can find food like that in Boulder.
Ella’s seems to be a confluence of a true American melting pot diner with breakfast, lunch, and dinner options that reflect comfort, home cooking. They also have a happr hour from 3-6 p.m. where their draft beer is $1 off, alongside a free taco.
There are vegetarian options and probably, a little something for everyone, at every meal of the day. They have a full bar, and also have fun, spiked milkshakes (pictured below) for that real diner experience.
The name Ella came about because he always loved the name (and Ella Fitzgerald), and dreamed one day of naming a daughter of his, Ella. However, his beloved dog got the name first. Once his daughter was born, he felt naming his daughter and dog the same name might be a bit funny, so he accordingly named his new diner Ella.
Now that they’ve gotten their stride, I suggest you head over to the diner to experience some of their special dishes and enjoy the upscale, diner space. It seems the next step is ensuring consistency can be replicated, (even if Edwin isn’t behind the stove) and bringing back the locals that might have loved what once was there before. Diners are all about the people and the regulars, which is what they’re rebuilding now.
With Edwin’s track record with restaurants, we have high hopes.