Secret suppers, covert concerts, coral in New Albany, the zoo's shyest animal and more

Pallas Intrigue
What do you do when you live in cold, arid climates with lots of hungry predators? You hide, of course. That’s likely why the Pallas’ cats at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium can be so tough to spot in their habitat. But Jen Fields, director of communications for the zoo, says you just have to know where to look: Paval, the male, likes to lie behind a log in the back of the habitat, while female Manda prefers a crevice on the left side. “The best time to see them is earlier on in the day, especially as soon as the zoo opens,” Fields says. —Emma Frankart Henterly

Phoning It In
Walk by the all-black building at 119 E. Chestnut St. and you might glimpse something out of place in 2019: a pay phone. That anachronistic touch is the portal into No Soliciting, the members-only speakeasy created by Rise Brands (Pins Mechanical Co.). But knowing about the high-end bar won’t get you in the door. First, your application must be approved by No Soliciting’s founding members. Then, a $1,000 annual fee will get you in, but it won’t pay for your bespoke bourbon cocktails. Members are billed monthly for the libations, and no cash is exchanged. This fall, the exclusive cocktail bar will add a second location in—where else—Dublin’s Bridge Park. —Erin Edwards

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Secret Chef-Driven Suppers
Andrew Smith may have left behind the daily grind of working in a restaurant kitchen, but the former Rockmill Tavern executive chef is still creating excellent food and everyone’s invited—sort of. Since January, Smith and his wife, Devoney Mills, have been hosting private suppers—the Roys Avenue Supperclub—twice a month in their greenery-filled Westgate home. (Mills manages Stump in German Village.) The omakaselike dinners feature 10 inventive courses prepared by Smith, and with only 12 guests each night, the private suppers have become some of the most unique (and sought-after) dining experiences in town. To score a seat, try messaging
@roys_ave_supperclub on Instagram, but be aware that the waitlist is upwards of 300 people. On any given night, the guest list can be a mix of newcomers, fans of Smith’s cooking (of which there are many) and even some of the city’s best chefs—from Gallerie Bar & Bistro’s Bill Glover to Ryuki “Mike” Kimura, the longtime chef-owner of bygone Kihachi Japanese Restaurant. Smith seems to be having more fun than ever, and now plans to continue the supper club concept with a series of pop-ups at area restaurants, including Baba’s and The Lox Bagel Shop. —Erin Edwards

The House of the Future (Now of the Past)
The metallic modular homes were supposed to revolutionize post-World War II housing, creating an affordable, low-maintenance option for the masses. Instead, the Lustron Corp. of Columbus manufactured its prefabricated, two-bedroom ranches in a former warplane factory near the airport only from 1948 to 1950 before mismanagement and production challenges drove the company into bankruptcy. In Whitehall, you can get an up-close glimpse of one of the last 18 or so Lustron homes still standing in Central Ohio. Volunteers from the Whitehall Historical Society saved the home from demolition in London, Ohio, and moved it to Whitehall Community Park, where it now serves as the headquarters for the historical society. Call 614-586-5647 to arrange a tour of the restored home, which is outfitted in period-appropriate furniture and accessories. —Dave Ghose

Mysterious Spheres
The rock walls at Shale Hollow Park are as flaky as potato chips—in fact, the shale there is known, informally, as “potato-chip shale.” But those flakes are strong enough to hold the shape of perfect rock spheres as small as cannonballs and as large as giant beach balls. Called carbonate concretions, the spheres are one of Ohio’s most startling natural mysteries. No one knows for sure how they formed, though some geologists have theories. But they are plentiful along Shale Hollow’s stream, which flows along the base of the preserve’s shale walls before feeding into the Olentangy River. They are a sight to behold, appearing as jarring disruptions to the lines of shale—globes of limestone or dolomite that seem otherworldly in their perfection. —Laura Arenschield

Coral in New Albany
You don’t have to travel to the coast to find a fully sustainable coral farm; in fact, you don’t even have to leave Central Ohio. Instead, head to an unassuming home and detached garage in New Albany, where you’ll find Reef Systems Coral Farm. The garage, which connects to a greenhouse out back, has been home to owner Todd Melman’s farm for more than a decade. Melman raises more than 90 percent of the marine life there, all of which is available for purchase. He happily gives impromptu, info-heavy tours to lookie-loos and serious buyers alike. —Emma Frankart Henterly

Covert Concerts
Most music venues go all out to promote their shows, but The Parlor is not most venues. Located Downtown on High Street, the exact location is a closely guarded secret. This “private community of friends and family,” as described on its Facebook page, aims to “let the artists do what they really want to do, say what they want to say, sing what they want to sing—with a captive, nonjudgmental audience that wants to receive all of it.” Want in? Follow the instructions at —Emma Frankart Henterly

Secret Sledding
After each big snowstorm, Bexley kids beat a path to a home in the city’s northwest corner with a deep backyard that slopes toward Alum Creek. Sledding on Miller’s Hill is a tradition established by the homeowner’s grandfather, O. A. Miller (1859–1949), president of the Central Ohio Paper Co., who once lived next door, and continued by his daughter, Dixie Sayre Miller, in the adjacent house on the same hill. She believed that such a “natural playground” should be shared with others, says her daughter, Blythe Miller Brown, who lives in the house today. Brown remembers her mother making hot chocolate for the kids who borrowed her phone to call their parents for a ride home. “Since I grew up with people sledding on my backyard,” she writes in an email, “we continue (although I personally can’t watch because it gets so crowded).” Sledders launch from the vicinity of her back patio. Brown adds a friendly word of caution. “Our big dog welcomes the sledders but enjoys stealing hats and gloves.” —Suzanne Goldsmith

Tiny Paintings
After becoming known for her large-scale murals, Mandi Caskey decided to take a different approach for a personal project now known as Brick by Brick. The artist began recreating photographs taken by her great-grandfather, painting them on individual bricks in a nod to her family’s bricklaying history. Caskey doesn’t like to reveal precise locations of her tiny paintings, preferring to have people discover them on their own. “I just want people to embrace the little moments in life. … I want to stop people in their tracks a little bit and make them appreciate the small things,” she says. Find a few of the pieces by heading into a popular coffee shop’s Downtown roastery or a Grandview butcher, or by wandering outside the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Branch. —Emma Frankart Henterly

A Bronze Bombshell
When James Rhodes died in 2001, a longtime Capitol Square rumor was confirmed. It turned out that the 700-pound bronze effigy of the four-term governor in front of the Rhodes Tower includes a hidden tribute to the four students killed at Kent State University in May 1970. “There is in fact a message engraved into the bronze on the inside of the statue that makes a statement about the Kent State shootings and the victims,” Ron Dewey, former owner of Studio Foundry in Cleveland, told the defunct Columbus alternative weekly The Other Paper, declining to reveal exactly what the message said. —Dave Ghose

Romantic Relic
Searching for a historic make-out spot? Head to Old Beechwold’s Rustic Bridge Road, connected by a stone structure formerly called the “kissing bridge.” It was part of the Columbus Zoological Gardens in the early 20th century, and according to Clintonville Historical Society president Mary Rodgers, it was common for amusement parks to designate a secluded space for couples to steal a kiss. The bridge is among the zoo’s only remnants. —Chris Gaitten

Where the Music Never Died
One of the city’s most resilient businesses occupies a pair of modest homes and an adjoining two-story cinder block building in North Linden. Musicol, Columbus’ oldest recording studio, is one of the last places in the world where musicians can record, mix, master and press vinyl discs all under one roof. With its vintage microphones, hand-operated presses and diamond-patterned carpet salvaged from the Cincinnati Convention Center, Musicol is a true throwback that has somehow managed to keep chugging along for 50-plus years despite incredible upheaval in the music business. Most days, you can still find Musicol’s 90-year-old founder, John Hull, performing his magic on a 1944 Scully lathe in an upstairs mastering suite, while other Musicol employees operate steam-heated presses pumping out vinyl from morning to night in the basement. “This is one of the greatest resources in America—if not the greatest,” said Cleveland record label owner Charles Abou-Chebl during an August visit to Musicol. —Dave Ghose