Ascension's Roasts Are Dark and its Parking Thin, but I Might Just Love It Anyway
Former barista Liz Goulding drinks coffee around Dallas so her head doesn't hurt and so she can help keep yours from hurting, too. Got a place to suggest? Leave it in the comments.
I have a confession: I've been pretending that Ascension doesn't exist. When I decide it's time to put on real pants and type on my computer in the real world I think about several coffee shops to visit, but Ascension is not one of them. I don't remember exactly why but we got off to a bad start and decided not to put it in my rotation.
However, everyone at The Observer turns into a puddle at the mere mention of Ascension, so I went and gave it another try. In short, I am still not a convert, but that isn't Ascensions fault. It's mine.
As I pulled into the parking lot the car in front of me took the last parking spot and my potentially undiagnosed anxiety disorder kicked in because my parking options suddenly became slim. I will be damned if I am going to valet park at a coffee shop. I don't care if they serve wine and food and are therefore more like a cafe; it's not going to happen.
So I drove through the valet area, past Meddlesome Moth, past the full parking on the street, and around the corner to the retail parking. I later learned patrons are encouraged to park on the other side of Oak Lawn when the lot is full, so next time I will be prepared. I was tempted to go into Meddlesome Moth instead and do some day drinking (also: ginger chews) but I fought the urge and made it to my destination.
It was a gorgeous fall day, and people were making good use of the front patio. Once inside, I went up to the counter and ordered a pour over of their El Salvador offering. I know it's not as sexy as a cappuccino or a cortado, but it is a good way to taste the coffee, which is part of the point for me.
My coffee arrived in a very red mug that matched the chairs clustered around all the tables. And here is where Ascension and I may never get along. Their coffee is a darker roast than I prefer. To be clear, I believe that at burnt craft coffee is always wrong. Unless you are a Waffle House type establishment, it's not okay, and you should have enough self-respect to know you deserve better. Beyond that, though, coffee roast is a personal preference. The longer I drink my coffee black the less inclined I am to enjoy a dark roast. But I know people that wouldn't want their coffee any other way. To them, the idea of coffee having fruit notes in their cup is unbearable. And we will have to agree to disagree, which is also where I will have to leave it with Ascension's coffee.
But Ascension offers more than coffee. It's one of those new fangled coffee shops that is more than a coffee shop. You may have noticed this type of place popping up more and more lately. They all offer coffee plus something else: beer, a full menu, clothes, etc. And there is a reason for that: coffee margins are the worst. They suck. It's really hard to make the rent and pay your employees if all you do is serve good coffee. So Ascension is a coffee shop in the morning and wine bar/cafe at night, with the two concepts overlapping in the afternoon, which can lead to some confusion on where to place your order. The basic rules are order your drink at the counter but if ordering food have a seat and enjoy table service. And for the love of all that is holy don't bring your laptop in after 7 p.m. That is not okay.
Beyond food and drink, Ascension offers a layout that makes great use of natural light through glass wall panels and skylights. The floor is made up of a variety of different tiling, each given its own square footage to occupy, my favorite being the small white bathroom tiles near the counter. The bright red chairs around each table stand out against the wooden walls and provide consistency on top of the ever-changing floor tiles. Combined with ample natural light the space feels open and light, but at night it's warmly lit and intimate. It's right at home in the Design District, full of creative types and people with carefully cultivated personal style. The staff is friendly and there are some good baristas behind the counter.
After this visit, rather than writing Ascension off always and forever, I would be happy to go back. It has great atmosphere, lots of space, and helpful staff. But next time I'll get the tea.
This coffee shop is good for:
- Fans of dark roast - First date with someone you met online - People not in college anymore - Working on your spring line - Taking up space with a group of friends
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.