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Food & Drink

Password Please: Exclusive look inside Columbus’ top secret cocktail bar

Regina Fox



Imagine strolling down Chestnut Street between 3rd and 4th Streets in Downtown Columbus and you notice an old-timey pay phone behind a glass door. 

“Hm, that’s funny,” you muse to yourself. “I don’t recall ever seeing that before.”

Curiously, you pick up the receiver and hear a muffled ring on the other side of the wall. A voice comes through your earpiece, inquiring about your name and member number. Then, one of two things will happen: either you’ll have no clue what the person is talking about, or, you’ll rattle off your personal code and be granted access to one of Columbus’ best-kept secrets: No Soliciting.

Photo by Brian Kaiser

If you aren’t among the roughly 320 individuals who possess one of those personal codes, it’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of this secret, members-only bar, let alone been inside. And this, dear readers, is precisely why the talented and trusted Brian Kaiser and I, armed with camera equipment, pen and paper, pretended to be No Soliciting members for an afternoon. 

From the small foyer with the old payphone where members check in, what appeared to be a black panel wall slowly swung open (imagine Addams Family-style, but cooler) and I stepped inside.

Oaky and sweet smells greeted me upon entry. This was no mistake. No Soliciting’s unofficial official drink is an old fashioned smoked with cedar and cinnamon. (As a person who can’t usually palate bourbon with ease, I put this handsome devil down effortlessly). Bartender Chris Yoha purposefully scorches a bowl of the wood chips and spices before the bar opens. Smart. 

Photo by Brian Kaiser

The front bar area was sharp and sophisticated. The leather booths adjacent to the bar were adorned with vintage headshots of America’s greatest entrepreneurial spirits—Walt Disney, King Camp Gillette, Alexander Graham Bell. I imagined all the important decisions No Soliciting members made in those booths, all while their heroes watched silently over them. You see, most of the club’s membership is comprised of business owners around the city. 

About a year and a half ago, before No Soliciting was No Soliciting, the space was simply part of Rise Brand offices. But, it wasn’t long before CEO Troy Allen was persuaded by local business owners and close friends to open the space to the public…curated public, that is. 


It began with 15 people close to Allen who are now known as the Founding Members. Wanting to create a space of like-minded individuals, Allen and his team began accepting applications with a vested interest in Columbus business owners. 

“It’s always nice to have that sounding board of other like-minded people when it comes to business owners to be able to talk to, share with, and understand perspective,” said Allen. 

Allen does not consider No Soliciting an eletists’ bar, but stands by the vetting process to protect the unique exclusivity it offers.  

The application contains all the normal fields—name, phone number, email—but further down, hopeful members are prompted to disclose more unique info, such as their expectations of being a member, what they would tell their 21-year-old selves, and who their reference(s) are. 

While there is a “Who do you know here?” tone, Allen says it’s not imperative to have a referral to get in. Rather than a name in the reference field, Allen can respect a “I’m looking forward to meeting someone,” response. He also shot down the notion that No Soliciting is a “boys club.” 

“The diversity that’s in here within the walls when we’re open is welcoming,” said Allen. 

Between members and their guests, Allen estimates the ratio to be a 50/50 split when No Soliciting is open. He guesses women make up a third of the membership, a number he’d like to see rise.

“The ladies who are members are kickass members, frankly,” Allen said. 

Photo by Brian Kaiser

Once members make a selection from the upscale cocktail menu, choose from one of No Soliciting’s 300+ bourbons, or order up a customized adult beverage from the skilled bartenders (all member purchases expensed to their house account), they can venture further into the venue where a stately lounge awaits.

Worn leather couches and armchairs are circled up and poised for conversation. Flags adorn the walls, concealing TV screens underneath. Animal hide rugs and foliage dangling from the skylight soften up what might be a masculine feel. The place has a tasteful sophistication that mentally and emotionally matured me at least a decade. I should’ve wiped the mud from my boots before, I scolded myself.

Allen gleaned inspiration from his experience as a member of Soho House, a chain of private members’ clubs around the world. He respects what the other clubs around town are doing—country clubs, the Athletic Club, the Columbus Club—and extended admiration towards local cocktail bars, as well. But, what he saw lacking in Columbus was a more elevated experience that combined the two.

“To me, there was a hole in this market. So, when we started to do No Soliciting, it was because of my experiences at Soho House…. I wanted people to get that same experience here on a smaller, more intimate level.” 

Above all, Allen’s main m.o.—besides intimacy, exclusivity, and quality—is comfortability. He wants his members to feel a sense of belonging and connectedness, all while enjoying the luxuries No Soliciting can afford upon every visit: excellent cocktails, exceptional service, compatible community, controlled capacity. 

This is the culture Allen and Rise Brands hope to reciprocate in Dublin’s Bridge Park. Not only will there be a second No Soliciting, but the flagship location will also be undergoing some major changes soon as the Rise Brand headquarters relocate to Long Street and are replaced by a full-service kitchen and event spaces for the members.

“Rules are made for people who aren’t willing to make their own,” reads writing on one of the main walls in the lounge. And with No Soliciting’s speakeasy-style access, hushed and humble existence, yet powerful presence in a select part of the community, No Soliciting is certainly willing to write its own.

No Soliciting memberships carry a $1,000 annual fee. While the club is currently not accepting new members, you can be added to the waitlist at

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Food & Drink

Eat Like a Kid: 6 childhood favorite foods, all grown up

Madi Task



Sometimes I think back on the food I ate as a kid and wonder how the heck I was able to go back outside and continue playing with surely fewer nutrients than the human body needs to work with. Pop a quick Little Debbie Fudge Round or inhale a bowl of Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese and go. I don’t know how I did it, but I know that today I definitely value food existing as an experience all on its own. With this list, I give you memory-making foods that will either flash you back to a simpler time, or feel like a true upgrade from the fast-meal nature you used to adore but sadly outgrew. Stay gold!

Boozy Milkshakes| HADLEY’S BAR + KITCHEN | 260 S FOURTH ST.

The shortcut to turning any kid treat into an adult favorite is simple: add booze. And at Hadley’s, they are all too familiar with this formula. The menu here features sophisticated flavors like Oreo Bonanza with Smirno Vanilla, Key Lime Pie with Absolut Lime, and a Bacon Bourbon Maple with Bulleit Bourbon. Of course, we all have a vegan friend who avoids dairy, and Hadley’s made sure they were covered with a vegan Coco Coffee Shake with Watershed Vodka. Usually, I’d say grab a few straws and share with your friends, but these are best enjoyed separately.

The Octodog | DIRTY FRANK’S | 248 S FOURTH ST.

Some of those disgusting combinations you crafted as a child have potential in the eyes of the chefs over at Dirty Frank’s. Forget cut-up hot dogs mixed into mac ‘n’ cheese, you completely neglected to consider the presentation of the dish. (Classic kid move.) Order The Octodog, an octopus-shaped hot dog sitting happily on top of a pile of mac ‘n’ cheese from Dirty Frank’s. This could also be seen as the adult-equivalent to dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Since when was the last time you ate something shaped like an animal? Probably before junior high. Feel young again by stuffing your face with creamy mac ‘n’ cheese and an octopus hot dog cooked to adult standards, but visually appealing to the five-year-old at heart.

Ramen Noodles | FUKURYU | 1600 W LANE AVE.

Photo: Kyle Tracey

Here we transition into adulthood and arguably the first meal you ever learned how to cook: ramen noodles. Your standards have surely upgraded since the last time you made a $0.98 meal from home, so prove it at Fukuryu, where you can eat actual, authentic Japanese ramen. This quick-and-easy, Costco-style dinner has been given a bad rep for far too long, because one trip to Fukuryu will show you how ramen is supposed to taste. Piled with chicken, pork belly, soft shell crab, or tofu, and a mountain of toppings you pick like sweet corn, chili pork, naruto, leeks, chili oil, toasted garlic oil, and more, their flavors are more expansive than your under-developed child taste buds could probably take. Now, they’re right up your alley. Get slurpin’.

Edible Cookie Dough | COOKIE DOUGH CREAMERY | 7227 N HIGH ST.

Butter, flour, sugar, and a secret ingredient...don’t worry, it’s not eggs. No one’s getting hit with a spoon for eating raw cookie dough around here, they’re just getting tips at Cookie Dough Creamery. Fill a cup with one of six cookie dough flavors and pile it high with ice cream and toppings the way you always over-did as a kid. They have five main flavors of cookie dough: chocolate chip, sugar cookie, Oreo, peanut butter, and brownie batter. Plus, every few months they offer one to three seasonal flavors to try. (This summer it’s lemon!) As far as making your own cookie dough at home goes, quit the risk and trust whisk at Cookie Dough Creamery. I can tell you from experience it’s just like Mom’s, minus the lecture for eating it.

Gourmet Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches | KREMA NUT COMPANY | 1000 GOODALE BLVD.

Photo: Julian Foglietti

The picky eater in all of us died at age 12 when we quickly became aware of how good food combinations foreign to us actually taste. In other words, we aren’t as stuck to only strawberry or grape jelly as we used to be. We’re not as hard on our friends who were scared to try peanut butter and fluff as a kid. Today, we go gourmet. Krema’s has a wide variety of PB&Js, all with an unconventional twist. Strawberry preserves are used instead of strawberry jelly, and fresh slices of strawberries sit in the sandwich with it. Other combos include The Kicker, or peanut butter and spicy raspberry preserves for the kid who made sure everyone knew it was his rock, not the neighborhood rock. Plus other game-changers like PB Apple Cheesecake, and almond or cashew butter instead of peanut butter are up for grabs at this one-of-a-kind nut company serving classic American favorites with a twist.

Cotton Candy Cocktail | FORNO | 721 N HIGH ST.

The days of begging your parents for overpriced u at baseball games are over, but the days of making our everyday cocktails more Instagrammable are coming quickly. As a result, Forno is now serving a new cotton candy cocktail served in two glasses: one for the drink, and the other to hold a cloud of pink cotton candy, set aside for you to dissolve when your iPhone ash is ready. Sip one and you’ll start acting like those sugar-high cartoon characters who were actually acting drunk to get a laugh from the parent viewers helicoptering over their kid’s TV shows. Grow up and spike your cotton candy this summer!

Cover photo by Brian Kaiser.

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Food & Drink

Survival Guide: Columbus Summer Beerfest




Every year, beer enthusiasts flock to Express LIVE! to sip, sample, and savor brews from 90+ of the best breweries this country has to offer. That's right, lushes, Columbus Summer Beerfest is back this weekend with food, entertainment, and, of course, lots of great craft beer.

Some of you may be first-timers, others have had their pretzel + string cheese + beef jerky necklaces on lock for years. No matter, there are always ways to improve the way you experience this celebration of beer.

Welcome to the 614NOW Summer Beerfest Surivival Guide. As always, drink responsibly.

It is not a race, seriously

Sometimes, kegs do kick, but it's not going to happen within the first hour of doors opening. Relax, there is more than enough beer to go around. I'm talking to you, Kevin, who feels the need to elbow throw the queue and sprint inside the venue every year.

There's truly no need to pregame

The Beerfest-issued plastic mugs may be small, but those samples add up fast. You're gonna wish you hadn't shotgunned that mango White Claw before you left your apartment, we promise.


You're not going to miss anything if you take a five minute hydration hiatus. It'll most likely be hot and the only thing that will quench your thirst from all those salty pretzels is a cup of cold agua. Do yourself a favorite and spend some time near the water stations throughout the night.

Don't wait to use the restroom

The lines are going to be long—real long—all night long. Rather than waiting until the absolute last minute to visit the restroom, grab a sample and head that way before your bladder deems necessary. That way, when the agony sets in, you'll already be next up for a stall.

No really, it's not a race

Slow. Down. This is your chance to try tons of new exciting brews and decide which ones you'd like to add to your normal drinking roster. Brewers from all over the U.S. worked tirelessly to perfect their beers—don't disrespect them by chugging.

Feed your face

Don't let the excitement of the festival distract you from your growling stomach. There will be plenty of food trucks present to tide over even the most specific craving, though everyone knows the best options are always deep friend and covered in cheese.

Walk, bike, rideshare

Most people exiting the Express LIVE! gate at the end of the night are in no shape to drive and neither should you. Not only would you have to deal with parking if you drove yourself, but walking, biking, or ridesharing to and from the festival is the only way to ensure safety.

Tickets to the Columbus Summer Beerfest are still available. Visit for more information.

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Food & Drink

Olde Towne East’s first brewery to open doors tomorrow




Late is always better than never, especially in the case of a new local brewery. After setbacks, Gemut Biergarten will officially open tomorrow at 734 Oak St. Prost!

"We'll be pouring biers, serving food, and dishing ambiance for all you patient, and not so patient, folk tomorrow!" wrote Gemut Biergarten on Facebook.

The brewery was supposed to open to the public on August 16, but ran into a "little bump with the state."

Guests can expect European and German-style lagers and pilsners brewed by former Four String Brewing Co. employees Kyle Hofmeister, Rob Camstra, and Nick Guyton. Gemut Biergarten is owned by Camstra, Guyton, Hofmeister, and his wife Chelsea Rennie.

In addition to brews, the venture will serve wine, cocktails, and traditional German and European fare.

Click here for the food and beer menus.

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