During the interminable freezing months, ZenCha's Short North tea salon is one of the most inviting places in town. Bright lights and lots of blond wood make the place seem positively glowy, and the steam from the pots of hot tea fogs up the windows.
But don't overlook ZenCha during the summertime. Here's why: iced tea! Yes, many of ZenCha's Asian, European, African and South American teas can be iced - just ask your server which kinds chill best.
And actually, a new ZenCha outpost in Bexley is a fantastic place to hide from the heat. With dark wood walls, cavernous ceilings and low lights, it feels like a really swanky cave.
The ambiance is soothing and conducive to lingering, especially because the teas are served in pots (or, for the iced teas, carafes) perfect for sharing.
ZenCha's fresh-fruit tea blends are lovely in the summer. Your choice of green or black tea is steeped with fresh-cut seasonal fruits.
Try the berry-heavy Spring Blend or the Summer Blend, a tropical blend with mango, pineapple and papaya. The fruit flavors pair beautifully with the subtle, clean taste of the iced green tea. It's the kind of summer indulgence you don't have to feel guilty about.
There are also warm-weather-friendly food options such as salads, sandwiches and noodle dishes.
What's neat about the ZenCha menu is that tea is an ingredient in many of the dishes, like an Earl Grey Apple & Brie sandwich with hot caramelized apples, cranberries, walnuts and spinach.
Chai tea is the key ingredient in the simple and sweet Mango Chai salad ($10). Spring mix lettuces are tossed with chunks of fresh mango, orange slices, thinly sliced red onion and blue cheese crumbles tossed in a honey-mango dressing. On top of all that is a pile of granola infused with spicy chai tea - yes, granola on a salad! Love it.
The nut-and-berry-flecked granola gives this meatless salad some heft, but if you want something a little more substantial, try the Ginger Beef ($11). Tender and well-seasoned strips of beef are tossed with grilled vegetables and layered over napa cabbage, then drizzled in a tangy ginger dressing.
Shelley Mann is the editor of Crave, Columbus' new dining magazine. Keep up with her at ColumbusCrave.com