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

Regina Fox

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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. 

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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 nosolicitingbar.com.

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Food & Drink

Clintonville Brunch Crawl: We dare you to squeeze all 3 stops into 1 day

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Clintonville is lovely this time of year, especially when you make three separate stops for brunch. 

Whether the weather is gracing the charming little burgh with a healthy dose of vitamin D or giving it a couple spins around the Lazy Susan that is Ohio’s climate, a trifecta of morning food destinations is sure to keep your mood afloat.

BLunch  • 2973 N High St.

blunchcolumbus.com

Yes, we know that Columbus now is home to a Drunch AND a BLunch.

Snicker all ya want—if you do, you’d be missing out on one of the culinary scene’s welcome newcomers—a half-day cafe that carries the comforts of a First Watch, but with the sophisticated execution of Tasi or Katalina’s.

The White Family has decades of hospitality under their belt—the family owned Galena’s Mudflats until recently, and dad Jeff has been running the OSU Faculty Club for the past 20 years.

Those two were training grounds for son Jeff, once a young, eager dishwasher and now head chef for the White’s new “daylight eatery and bar.” Mom Jane, despite her own admission that in the family’s tavern-running days breakfast didn’t get served until halfway through afternoon, now relishes an intimate spot where people can maintain their own balance between booze and breakfast.

A full-bar at brunch is a rarity in the peculiar little burg, and positioned near Lineage, Old Skool, and Condado, BLunch could be the perfect starting point for a casual Clintonville crawl.

Then again, you may not have another stop after Chef Jeff gets done with ya. He and the White family have concepted a bennies-and-batter focused menu, where you’ll be sure to come back after a healthy amount of indecision. Me? I’ve been dreaming about the Bananas Foster pancakes (topped with ice cream) and the huevos rancheros over masa cake for weeks. – Travis Hoewischer

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Dough Mama • 3335 N High St.

Dough-mama.com

Dough Mama is the top of my list for my favorite breakfast joint. I love so much about this place.

The atmosphere is super chill, laid back, and inviting. The food is so so good. I would call it comfort food with an extra sprinkle of love and thought.

From pie to salad, it’s all good.

They use a variety of local and seasonal ingredients and support some of my favorite local delicacies with Dan the Baker bread and Thunderkiss coffee … YUM! They also have a variety of vegan and gluten-free options.

I am smitten with the Gluten-Free Lemon Poppy muffin. This place is my go to for a yummy drippy egg, roasted potatoes, salad, a sweet treat and a perfect cup of coffee.

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My husband loves Grammie’s Sammie and a piece of Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie. I somehow manage to splurge here and feel really really good about it.

Their menu has some great staples but they also always have specials that look and are amazing.

Right now they serve both lunch and breakfast during the day and I’ve heard it through the grapevine that they will soon be open in the evening and serving dinner. I cannot wait to see what delicious dishes they create for that menu. – Jana Rock

Baba’s • 2515 Summit St.

babascolumbus.com

Baba’s is my go-to breakfast spot in Columbus. You can grab a breakfast sandwich on their homemade griddle muffins (aka little pillows of heaven), order a rack of ribs, or in the spirit of Alabama Worley, have a slice of perfect pie and a cup of Thunderkiss coffee.

Their delicious baked goods are made in house, they smoke all of their own meats and their produce and coffee are all sourced locally, though their espresso will send you to the moon.

The service is fast, their team is super-friendly and there are never any pretentious vibes in the super chill atmosphere they have created on the corner of Hudson and Summit.

They’ve made a beautiful impact in their short existence in the SoHud neighborhood, fostering local artistic connections and bringing beautiful new mural art that rotates different artist from the community throughout the year. Don’t forget to grab one of their perfect cinnamon rolls for later. — Vanessa Jean Speckman

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Harvest Pizzeria sowing last seeds in German Village

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Eight years ago, Harvest Pizzeria cropped up in a small space in German Village. Today, the local pizza chain announced the closure of its flagship location.

Harvest Pizzeria German Village will open its doors for the final time on Saturday, April 27th.

“Despite the success of Harvest in German Village and our strong ties to the neighborhood, the owner of the property will not honor our renewal of the lease,” wrote founder Chris Crader in an email. “…the landlord’s demands for a new lease at a higher rate would not allow our little pizzeria to remain viable.

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Crader added that he is proud of the strides Harvest German Village has made over the years, and thankful for the community that’s supported it. He hopes they can return to the neighborhood when the right spot presents itself.

As far as the employees go, Crader wrote that with the success of the other locations, the German Village workers will be able to join a team at another restaurant.

“Harvest sincerely thanks all of its loyal supporters and we hope to see you at our other locations soon,” wrote Crader.

This news follows the announcement of the Grandview Harvest closing back in February. Read more here.

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Crawfish boils claw their way into Columbus Saturday

Mike Thomas

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What’s the deal with crawfish boils? Sure, they’re delicious, but as a true land-lubbing midwesterner, my knowledge of this particular culinary phenomenon is fairly lacking.

That said, I definitely can’t tell you why there are multiple crawfish boils going down this Saturday. Best not to overthink it—just enjoy the experience!

Pecan Penny’s |113 East Main Street
Saturday at 4 PM – 7 PM

Sponsored by Brewdog, downtown BBQ joint Pecan Penny’s is kicking off patio season with an all-you-can-eat Crawfish boil, complete with giveaways and a DJ.

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Rehab Tavern | 456 W Town St
2 PM – 6 PM

Rehab’s own 4/20 crawfish boil kicks off at 2:00. Your $15.75 entrance fee will net you a pint of beer in addition to all-you-can-eat crawfish and fixins’!

Can’t make either of these, or want to try the boil experience before committing to a large-scale event? Check out Kai’s Crab Boil or Boiling Seafood Crawfish—both on Bethel Road —for first-rate seafood experiences you won’t soon forget.

Why are there two crawfish boils on the same day? Why are there two crawfish restaurants on the same road? We may never know, and honestly, who cares? Crawfish is the bomb! Just put on your bib and get crackin’!

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