If drinking and lingering is your thing, then Ascension Coffee has you covered from sunrise to sunset. The indie coffee joint, which opens the first week in December, will become a wine bar at night. It's setting up shop next to Meddlesome Moth, and it's the brainchild of the colorful, Australian-accented Russell Hayward, a veteran Dallas restaurateur.
Hayward, who ran a number of places in West Village, including Lazare and Tom Tom Noodles, is reaching back to his early exposure to fine coffee in his native Australia.
“It’s a cute little space, and the visibility is amazing,” says owner Russell Hayward. “There’s nothing in the Design District like this.”
“I just wanted a coffee place, and that’s where it started,” he says. “I’ve been in this country 22 years, and coffee here has always been a disappointment for me. You probably don’t think of Australia as a place for coffee, but the country had a massive influx of Italian and Greeks and with them came espresso bars. I grew up with good coffee.”
A year ago, he started thinking seriously about how he would do his own coffee place.
"If you look at any Starbucks, it serves as an incredible center of the community. But, for me, it was missing a few things," he says. "After 2 pm, the experience didn’t support what people were looking for. So this coffee shop will turn into a wine bar at 5 pm."
As for location, he initially thought he’d open in Uptown — “because I’m an Uptown guy,” he says — but he couldn't find a space he liked.
"Uptown is so jammed now, so many buildings, it's hard to stand out and hard to park," he says. So he decided on the Design District instead.
“It’s a cute little space, and the visibility is amazing,” he says. “There’s nothing down there like this. We share the floor with Meddlesome Moth, and there are whole sections with different types of tile. We're keeping all that, and we're keeping a whole wall of terra cotta tile. We’re not trying too hard — just using things where we can use them."
Lunch will consist of sandwiches, salads and soups. At night, there will be cheese plates and steak sandwiches on crostini — nothing that requires a fork.
All of the food will be made in-house. Chef Eric Justice consulted on the menu, which Hayward describes as “muffin-free.”
“I'm doing that on purpose. I think muffins are indicative of the old-world, old-school coffee deal," he says. “You see muffins, you think the wrong thing.
"It'll be chef-driven food but all inexpensive — what I call ‘conversational’ food, what you’d expect from a coffee house during the daytime and then what you’d expect from a wine bar at night."
Lunch will consist of sandwiches, panini, salads and soups. At night, there will be cheese plates and steak sandwiches served on crostini — nothing that requires a knife or fork.
For beans, he's partnered with Coffee Eiland, a local roaster. Coffee machines are a big deal these days, with all the La Marzoccos in town. Hayward went with one made in Seattle, called a Synesso Hydra.
“It’s made in Seattle by one of the ex-partners of La Marzocco America,” he says. "I did research on who had the machines and found that there were 30 of these machines in — of all places — Melbourne, Australia."