Being a coffee hunter means we read up on these great places and then go sample and try them. It’s like Christmas morning for coffee nerds, or at least it should be. Remember that big present you got one Christmas from a distant relative that looked so wonderful … until you got the wrapping paper off and it was socks? Good socks. Nice socks. But socks.
That’s pretty much my reaction to Ascension Coffee. It’s got a super reputation. Everyone writes about it and talks about it. It’s in Dallas’ design district, a genuine hot spot. I thought it would be one of the highlight visits in our coffee trips.
But from the beginning things weren’t great. First, you can hardly get in the parking lot and then I felt like DFW Parking Space Hunter. There was nowhere to park. I circled the building three times looking for a space and was about to valet it (yes, they have valet parking) when finally someone pulled out. Then I saw the sign on the patio that said “Sign up for patio seating.” So it’s so full you can’t park and you can’t sit on the patio?! It’s not Ascension’s fault that they are popular but this seemed a bit much. It’s 11:00 a.m. on a weekday!
Once inside it didn’t take long to realize, in Stewart’s words, this is a coffee shop “for the beautiful people.” Ascension is very trendy with a super hipster vibe going on. Candidly that makes me uncomfortable because I’m so trendy and hipster I worry that I might intimidate other fellow trendster and hipster wannabes. That is never a pretty sight. On a more realistic note, mostly I was terrified someone from management would send a bouncer over to throw me out because I so don’t fit into anything as cool as Ascension is. Fortunately, the bouncer must have had the day off and Stewart and I managed to stay under the radar.
On the plus side, the waitress was very friendly and nice. She did a fine job of pretending that she didn’t notice how neither of us really fit into Ascension’s demographic. When you come in you grab a little clipboard with a menu and have a seat at a table. The waitress then takes your order and brings you whatever you want. And there’s plenty you’d want. Ascension is a full-fledged café, offering lots of delicious looking food options.
However, we aren’t food hunters. It’s coffee we’re about. They have a full coffee bar, with just about any coffee or tea concoction you could want. I had a latte and Stewart had his usual cortado.
That’s when we discovered the wonderfully wrapped present before us contained socks. I can put up with bad parking and trendy atmosphere if the shop has awesome coffee (like we’d heard). Yet, while my latte was very good (but not great) Stewart’s cortado was disappointing. It was bitter and had a real edge to it. It also was not served with a mineral water spritzer like we’ve found at other shops. What’s the deal with that?
So our summary for Ascension is … socks. Nice socks. They’re above average, for sure. But they are just socks. Ascension is probably a wonderful café if you need breakfast, lunch or dinner. They can give you a Chemex pour over if you want a regular cup of coffee and I’d like to get back and try that. They roast their own beans and are obviously into great coffee. But their trendy vibe and much less than optimal cortado and scone were just not up to the standard set by some of the other shops in our area.
If we lived in a small town and the choices were Ascension or Mel’s Gas and Greasy Spoon (where the coffee is four days old and you can stand a spoon in it) … well, we would all be thrilled to have coffee at Ascension. But as coffee hunters we’ve had exceptional coffee and that’s what we are looking for: far better than average, better than even really good. We’re looking for “Oh my I can’t believe what I’m having here.” Our expectation is we will find crazy joy in a mug. We want coffee nerd nirvana. Sadly, Ascension just didn’t meet those expectations. There are some good things at Ascension (or the parking lot wouldn’t be packed) but for the DFW Coffee Hunters there are better choices in the Metroplex.