The creative culinarians at Aquarius Star’s Om Café transform organic, local ingredients into savory salads, sandwiches, and wraps that pair perfectly with fair-trade coffee and tea. The menu offers meat-free munchers a slew of vegetarian and vegan options, including the shareable organic hummus and veggie plate ($8.75), Om’s grilled blackened-tofu wrap ($8.75), and the Om salad, topped with raw nuts and homemade lemon-garlic dressing ($9.75). Om Café's Double Decker turkey sandwich ($9.25) delights eco-conscious carnivores with its blend of free-range turkey, locally sourced veggies, and organic mustard, mayonnaise, or aioli.
Roxx Electrocafe, located near the UC campus, boasts three 42-inch televisions and a massive 73-inch-wide screen that display heated bouts of digital competition across the café's spacious interior. Fourteen powerful gaming computers ($4/hour) enable activities such as cooperative robotic testing in the depths of Portal 2 or competitive right-clicking contests on the battlefields of League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth. Late-night hours yield to marathon console-gaming sessions of Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Halo 3, and Rock Band ($4/hour)—all fueled by iced coffees ($2.50) and smoothies ($4), which ensure proper hydration and appropriate glottal lubrication. As the café's four Xbox 360s, four Wiis, and PlayStation 3 enchant eyes and coordinate drill teams of button-pressing thumbs, comfortable chairs and modern décor invite board games or study sessions.
As the name Tea N’ Bowl might suggest, the chefs specialize in two things: bubble teas and rice bowls brimming with vegetables, chicken, and beef. Along with topping bowls of white and brown rice with orange chicken or shrimp tempura, the cooks also craft teriyaki wraps, stir-fried noodle entrees, and crab rangoon appetizers as Tea N' Bowl is currently in the running for "The News Record: Best of UC" for Best Ethnic Cuisine. From the bubble tea side of the menu, the staff members customize signature drinks with or without milk available hot, cold, slushy, or not on fire. They fill each cup with tapioca pearls for a burst of texture and flavor the drinks with coconut, lychee, taro, and coffee.
Five-time winner of Cincinnati CityBeat's Best Bookstore (Non-Chain) award, Blue Manatee Bookstore & Decafe enthralls young minds with a literary selection ranging from eye-pleasing picture books to award-winning young-adult classics. Teach your favorite pintsize person the wonder of words with a tome from the Baby Unplugged series ($7.99), which fosters brain development through an interactive exploration of pets, the backyard, and the Babygate political scandal. Beginning readers learn to love reading as they progress through the simple sentences and companioned adventures of Bink & Gollie and Pigs Make Me Sneeze!, while older readers can explore the throes of teenage angst with the edgy drama Where She Went. Shroud a prereader in a 100% organic cotton humanatee onesie ($18), or supply a plot enthusiast with a green manatee tote, perfect for carrying newly purchased books or tricycle owner’s manuals. Blue Manatee also hosts educational and artistic activities for younger children, which are open to customers for an additional fee (not covered by today’s Groupon).
Essencha's leisurely tea lunch begins with your selection of either a hot pot of tea or a shot of matcha (finely milled green tea). The tea house lets you choose from over 70 varieties of high-quality blacks, oolongs, greens, whites, rooibos, herbals, and organic flavors. Essencha's passionate staff of tea-totalers will help you navigate this voluminous variety until you find the tea you never knew you craved. Next, a soup of the day or miso soup stretches tongue tendons, followed by a fruit salad or a café salad with seasonal greens, veggies, dried fruit, pine nuts, and lemon vinaigrette. After you fill up on finger sandwiches with your non-teacupped free hand, enjoy a scone paired with clotted cream and jam. A cupcake or triple-chocolate-chunk brownie caps off a meal fit for tea tycoons and tea-drinking raccoons alike.
Setting up shop in a formerly run-down launderette, Lavomatic Cafe provides an opportunity to dine on hearty fare without attracting uncomfortable leers from surrounding shirt-folders. Charming exposed pipes and soft tones accentuate Lavomatic’s décor, which creates a perfect setting for sampling the establishment’s well-stocked wine bar. The menu offers a modest yet satisfying selection of comforting classics with a twist, like when grandma gets tipsy and mixes acids with bases. Start with small bites such as tater tots with chives, cheddar, parmesan, and ranch ($7.33). Warm up with tomato bisque ($5.35) or a fish sandwich with gruyere on an onion bun ($9.40). Refresh the palate with a fusion of flavors thanks to the pesto penne with kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, and tomato confit ($15.16) or smoked pork chops with Sheltowee Farm mushrooms and red wine caramel ($20.47). Sharable sides such as cornbread ($2.92) and onion straws ($3.64) are also available.