Friday, February 15, 2013
Restaurant review: Ascension Coffee brings a slice of San Francisco to Design District
Espresso, espresso, espresso!
DALLAS I came to my love of coffee as an adult somehow making it through college, law school, and the Texas bar exam without becoming a coffee drinker, but that all quickly changed once I began practicing law. Since then I've been making up for lost time by sampling coffee on all my travels, both domestic and international.
Now I can hardly imagine starting a morning without a freshly brewed cup of coffee, and I generally consider a cappuccino the perfect end to a nice meal. So spending a few weeks in San Francisco last January truly tickled my coffee-loving taste buds.
San Francisco's coffee culture
San Francisco takes its coffee very seriously -- sometimes so much so that the parody practically writes itself, but the independent coffee options in the city of San Francisco are staggering.
Blue Bottle, Four Barrel, Ritual, Philz, Sightglass ... the list goes on and on, and those are just the biggies with retail stores that brew their own beans. There are plenty more independent shops that serve these beans and others including those from Stumptown and Intelligensia. Then there's the brewing options: simple porcelain pour over, Chemex, siphon, various cold brews, and massive espresso machines with crazy names I'll never remember.
My time in San Francisco was a wonderfully caffeinated whirlwind of coffee options, and I tasted more coffee than I can remember.
Exploring Dallas' coffee scene
When I came back to Dallas, I was excited to explore the independent coffee options available. Except that there weren't many at all. How could that be? Dallas does food well. We may not be the first to get a dining trend. Those still tend to originate on the coasts, but we definitely don't lack for great food options across the spectrum.
A quick search for "coffee" on Yelp in each of the two cities easily illustrates the difference ... San Francisco turned up 1,232 options, while Dallas turned up only 261 options.
You might imagine that's because San Francisco is simply a bigger city than Dallas, but you'd be wrong. Dallas outranks San Francisco by almost half a million people, according to recent U.S. Census data.
Dallas does have some solid independent coffee options, and what we lack in quantity we seem to make up in quality. I personally consider Cultivar, Crooked Tree, Pearl Cup, and even Oddfellows (with brunch or after a great meal) among the best. Now there's a new serious contender in town.
Welcome Ascension Coffee
Ascension Coffee is located in the Design District next to Meddlesome Moth. I visited on a Sunday morning in the second week that they were open. It was relatively quiet mid-morning, but near the end of our visit, it began to fill up quickly. I ordered a cortado, and it was exactly as good as I'd expected.
But after talking to the very helpful and knowledgeable barista, we were convinced to try both the Kyoto (cold) and siphon (hot) brew. Both were great. When I was told that the Kyoto had notes of whiskey, I'll admit that I was pretty skeptical and imagined that this was embellishment at best. Turns out it's totally true. I could definitely taste the whiskey.
Watching our barista brew the coffee using the siphon method (on the right) was lots of fun, and it made a great cup of coffee. It's not a particularly quick process, but well worth the wait.
Here's a quick summary of the things I liked about Ascension:
- The espresso. Great cortado.
- The novelty brews. Kyoto and Siphon.
- The knowledgable and friendly staff.
- The atmosphere. Relaxed and comfortable with colorful accents and lots of light.
- The liquor license. Wine or coffee!
- The evening hours. 9 pm (M-W), 10 pm (Th), and 11 pm (F-Sa).
There's still plenty of room for more independent cups of great coffee in Dallas, as the Yelp numbers show, and Ascension is a great addition. If you enjoy great coffee, go check it out. Ascension is worth the drive.
My next stop is the newly opened Mudsmith Coffee on lowest Greenville. Sounds like maybe the word is out that there's plenty of demand for great independent coffee in Dallas!
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