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Restaurant Road Trip: Zen Clay Cafe

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Zen Clay is hard to define.

"Zen Clay is just Zen Clay," said manager Corey Buzzo, "but downstairs, there's a working pottery studio a little artisan shop and we have three galleries between the three floors."

There are bookshelves and pottery displays between the tables, a fish tank, a bar, and an area with lounge chairs and a Buddha statue.

"I've come in here for years," customer Dann Hardman said, "and it is just kind of a place where I can calm and center myself.

"I can feed my stomach and my soul at the same time."

The cafe menu is even a moving target, managed by Buzzo, the ‘ten-zo.'

"A ‘ten-zo' is a person who is responsible for preparing meals for a community," Buzzo explained. "We have a really different style here and like in a monastery, that's the person who is responsible for preparing meals for everybody so it's kind of the same thing."

The coffees and lattes are all made with organic or rainforest certified coffee beans, using a precise method.

"It's more old-school when it comes to the coffee beverages," Buzzo said.

Ingredients are as local as possible and their most popular dish is the "spicy lotus"

"It is the best thing ever," said Kurt Teeter, a pottery instructor in the studio downstairs, "whether it's first thing in the morning or mid-afternoon snack, or whichever."

Teeter and another artist make all of the pottery used and seen in the restaurant. They also offer classes, which Teeter said keep growing.

Teeter is also in charge of choosing the gallery exhibits for all three floors, which change every two months and usually focus local artists.

"It's always kind of interesting to see who likes what and which aspects of it," Teeter said.

Soon, the restaurant will feature a new ‘sattori' on its menu.

"Sattori's just a Japanese word that means like that instant of bliss, like that little slap across the face of ‘wow everything's amazing,'" Buzzo said. "It's a little over the top compared to everything else we serve."

The next feature will be "Krabby Patties," or crab cakes, as long as the Buzzo can keep the crab meat in stock.