No overnight stay required
In Chicago, there's the Drake Hotel's Coq d'Or, a cozy, wood-paneled bar that opened the day after Prohibition was repealed. In New Orleans's French Quarter, there's the over-the-top, rotating Carousel Bar & Lounge at Hotel Monteleone. Columbus can't claim any hotel bars of such iconic stature, but we're seeing signs of life thanks to a wave of hotel openings and renovations. Sure, you might pay a premium for a classic cocktail with charcuterie, but there's something alluring about playing a tourist in your own city. We took a look at Columbus's range of hotel bar options, from a little-known burger joint inside a Holiday Inn to a brand-new rooftop bar in Dublin. Some are worth visiting even if you aren't staying overnight, while others could stand to up their amenity game.
Soul at The Joseph
The first thing you might notice at Soul at The Joseph is artist Nari Ward's clever “West Liquorsoul,” an upside-down liquor sign—the word SOUL spelled out in neon. It's an indication that this is not your average Columbus hotel bar but a gallery that happens to serve refined cocktails. Located at the north end of the lobby inside this Short North boutique hotel, Soul is an intimate space with 12 bar seats, an eight-top community table and a few high tops. Bar manager Ian Gulley says wines by the glass and craft cocktails are the big focus here. (We recommend the Champagne Cocktail or the London Fog with gin, balsamic vinegar, St. Germain and strawberries.) And although its neighbor The Guild House executes the food, Soul boasts its own fine menu, including a delicious poutine featuring cheddar curds from Granville-based Black Radish Creamery. Lacking an expense account? Happy hour takes place 3–6 p.m. Monday–Friday when signature cocktails are $8 (normally $11–$13), select draft beers are $3 and select wines are $6 per glass. And by all means, don't forget to head upstairs to explore the hotel's in-house art gallery featuring works from Columbus's own Pizzuti Collection. soulatthejoseph.com
Vaso at AC Hotel
The newest entry on the hotel bar scene is Vaso, a tapas-focused concept, that opened last month at the top of Dublin's new AC Hotel. “We'll see if Dublin is ready for us,” says the hotel's general manager Orcun Turkay, alluding to the lively Spanish lifestyle: eat late and party even later. The big draw of the 5,818-square-foot restaurant and bar is its rooftop patio, which features private cabanas, fire pits, community tables and views of the Scioto River. As a gin-first bar, Vaso will feature a gin-and-tonic cart that roams the premises, stocked with different herbs and spices for customizing your G&T. In addition, Watershed Distillery created a gin exclusively for Vaso, tweaking its Four Peel Gin with the addition of Meyer lemon and Seville orange. In another nod to Spain, sangrias will be served from long-spouted, glass porrons at happy hour. (Tip: Don't wear white.) marriott.com/hotels/travel/cmhac-ac-hotel-columbus-dublin
Buckeye Bourbon House at Residence Inn
Brown liquor—bourbon and other whiskey—is the focal point at this Gay Street bar. That is, unless you're staring up at the historic building's lovely, 50-foot-high ceilings. As spaces go, Buckeye Bourbon House is a standout. Located in the old Buckeye Federal Savings and Loan building, the bar opened earlier this year under the same roof as the 126-room Residence Inn. “We're a bar in a hotel; we're not necessarily a hotel bar. I'd say 85 percent of our guests come from off the street,” says general manager Matthew Brady. One attraction is BBH's impressive bourbon collection, which Brady says is the largest in Columbus. (As of this writing, it has both the highly sought 10-year and 12-year Pappy Van Winkle.) The bar offers a small menu of Southern-inspired snacks and plates, like bourbon-roasted peanuts, black-eyed pea hummus and Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches (which originated in Louisville's Brown Hotel). And trivia lovers can check out BBH's new trivia night every Sunday starting at 6 p.m. buckeyebourbonhouse.comBAR HOTEL ADDRESS VIBE UPSIDE DOWNSIDE GALLERIE BAR & BISTRO Hilton Columbus Dowtown 401 N. High St., Short North Stylish, newly renovated bar complements one of the city's most creative restaurants Excellent bar fare by chef Bill Glover and a view overlooking High Street You might not want to look at your tab. VASO AC Hotel Columbus Dublin 6540 Riverside Dr., Dublin Spanish-inspired tapas restaurant and rooftop bar specializing in gin drinks Private cabinas, fire pits and excellent views of the Scioto River from the rooftop If tapas aren't your thing, look elsewhere for big entrees. MODA Marriott Columbus University Area 3100 Olentangy River Rd., Campus "Artisan" gastropub in a brand-new, Campus-area hotel Hotel still smells new and the menu offers all of the trendy hits, from hot chicken to ramen It's a bit formulaic and not in a walkable area, unless you count the cemetery next door. THURBER'S BAR The Westin Columbus 310 S. High St., Downtown Located in a historic hotel, it's named for the famous Columbus humorist and cartoonist Great James Thurber prints and convenient location next to the Southern Theatre The "meh" atmosphere doesn't live up to its famous name. SOUL AT THE JOSEPH Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph 620 N. High St., Short North Sunny coffee bar by morning and hip, boutique cocktail bar by night A gallery-like atmosphere, plus excellent cocktails and small plates Parking can be a challenge, and the bar has limited seating. BURGER THEORY Holiday Inn Columbus Downtown/Capitol Square 175 E. Town St., Downtown Casual spot for burgers and craft beers Above-average burgers and 12 local beers are on draft. This Holiday Inn lacks charm (psst...Little Palace is around the corner). THE PLAZA RESTAURANT & LOUNGE Sheraton Columbus at Capitol Square 75 E. State St., Downtown An expansive hotel bar and restaurant that's all business Grand views of the Statehouse and plenty of room to spread out Regrettable upholstery and average menu. BUCKEYE BOURBON BAR Residence Inn Columbus Downtown 36 E. Gay St., Downtown Bourbon-focused bar inside the historic Buckeye Federal Savings and Loan building An impressive bourbon selection and even more impressive, high-ceilinged space Those craft cocktails don't make themselves—patience is required. THE KEEP LIQUOR BAR Hotel LeVeque
50 W. Broad St., DowntownSpeakeasy-inspired craft cocktail bar inside the iconic LeVeque Tower Low lighting adds romance to go with the solid wine list, cocktails and small plates. Stay away if you're on a shoestring budget or hope to catch the views of the river. MAX & ERMA'S The Lofts Hotel 55 E. Nationwide Blvd., Dowtown Columbus' own kitschy burger chain is attached to this boutique hotel Convenient to Nationwide Arena and big enough for large groups The Max & Erma's heyday is long past.