You know that first warm-ish day in March or April when a sliver of sun breaks through the grey winter sky, warming the dry, pasty faces of overzealous people packing every patio known to man? The General Manager of the AC Hotel by Marriott Columbus Dublin Orcun Turkay wanted to give those people an outdoor dining experience they didn’t have to wait until spring to enjoy.
On a windy, rainy day in mid-winter, my trusty (614) confidants and I crowded into the elevator at the AC Hotel Columbus Dublin and selected the top floor. It was the first time visiting for many of us and we were excited to finally experience it. When the elevator finally stopped, the doors glided open to reveal an inviting hostess. She welcomed us to VASO.
The rooftop bar and tapas restaurant is absolutely gorgeous. All its features are round—orb lights, half circle bench seating, circular rugs, curved bar—and the natural lighting made the happy faces of happy hour-goers at the bar look even happier. The panoramic view of the Scioto River and downtown Dublin is one of the best in Central Ohio. But, for the next few months, the view will be slightly obscured for folks dining in.
The hostess led us out onto the patio where three geometric-looking igloos sat, poised for hospitality. Made of plastic and PVC pipes anchored by sandbags, these see-through huts are simple and wildly attractive. They’re unique, cozy, and, most importantly, warm. I couldn’t wait to get inside out of the cold and actually have an enjoyable patio experience in the dead of Ohio winter.
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The hostess unzipped the doorway and we filed in across the oriental rug. The inside was surprisingly spacious, even with six chairs, a few side tables, and one communal table in the middle. I took a seat in one of the faux fur-covered chairs (which I later found out cost $1,200 each), covered my legs with a soft blanket, and switched on the heater. I was perfectly comfortable without the extra accommodations, but I was in an upscale igloo and, dammit, I was going to act like it.
We were all quick to draw our phones to begin snapping photos. We could see rush hour traffic inching down Riverside Drive, but being in the igloo felt like we were our own little Instagrammable world.
After putting in orders of hot chocolate and the Ohio spiked cider from the exclusive VASO Igloo shareable menu and the popcorn and Halibut Ceviche (which landed itself on the [web]pages of Esquire Magazine), Turkay humbly explained how his establishment became one of the first in the Midwest to introduce igloo dining as a light rain pinged the top of the plastic igloo.
He told us about how strongly central Ohioans have embraced the new eating and drinking adventure. Turkay knew he’d have to hire more people this winter to staff the igloos, but what he didn’t count on was the manpower it would require to simply manage the influx of calls.
“They answer the phone, take a reservation, hang up, answer the phone, take a reservation, hang up,” Turkay said of the three hostesses he brings in at 10 a.m. every day just to man the phones. I laughed in disbelief, choking a bit on my popcorn ceviche (delicious, by the way). I washed away the kernels with a swig of boozy hot chocolate (also delicious).
Suffice it to say, the VASO igloos are a raging success, so much so that you won’t be getting in on a weekend this winter. The tiny ecosystems are booked up through March, which is when they’ll be retired for the season. Turkay promises to have them back up in November.
After everything from cheese-filled churros to seafood paella (which were ordered by hailing our server with a remote that buzzed her wrist piece), the sun set and was replaced by LED light beams illuminating our cozy clubhouse; it was our time to go. I took one last look around and felt thankful to be on the inside looking out, even just for the evening. •
VASO is located at 6540 Riverside Dr, Dublin. The igloos can be reserved for a minimum of $100 per hour Sundays-Wednesdays and $200 per hour Thursdays-Saturdays. Visit vasodublin.com for more information.