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Too often we find ourselves hanging out at a certain generic coffee shop, not for the beans, and certainly not for the contrived atmosphere. If only Wi-Fi grew on trees.

Apparently, single-origin coffee does. And now the highly caffeinated (but seldom relaxed) among us have reason to rejoice: Ascension Coffee is a bona fide rising star on the local beverage-and-food scene.

The latest vision of Russell Hayward (he of the recently departed Tom Tom and the underappreciated Lazare) double dips as a coffee-and-treats place by day and a wine bar by night. But we came to amp up one recent morning.

The striking space (think blond wood, blackboards and industrial accents) is assuredly comfortable in approach, if you can say that about an establishment that features a $20,000 espresso machine. The coveted and obscure Synesso Hydra Hybrid holds pride of place at the bar, amid a bevy of equally handsome male baristas.

As the midday crowd typed and munched on items like baked-potato scones ($3.50) and soppressata and fig panini ($10), we people-watched and enjoyed a simple nonfat cappuccino ($3.80), which had little foam: all the better to highlight the rich and complex coffee.

Overheard at the bar: “After you drink this coffee, you can’t go back.”

Ascension Coffee, 1621 Oak Lawn Ave.; 214-741-3211 or

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