From January 2023
Ascension Coffee, the popular all-day Australian-style cafe with a half-dozen locations, first rose up in Dallas in 2012. The menu spans from brekky (Australian slang for breakfast) all the way to happy hour at some locations (check out the half-off wine bottles at the Design District location after 3 pm, Sunday to Thursday). Guests seat themselves, just like at most cafes in Australia, and servers share responsibilities, ensuring all customers are taken care of. Breakfast items include classic Aussie imports, from avocado toast to the flat white, the Australian version of a latte. It’s all friendly and familiar but with a microfoam twist. A decade on, one thing is clear: this cheeky upstart was just the prelude to a full-fledged Aussie invasion.
A quick google search will readily identify a few iconic Australian foods: Vegemite, a salty, tarlike fermented yeast spread meant to be paired with butter and toast; lamington, a rectangular sponge cake with a layer of cream that’s coated in chocolate sauce and coconut flakes; and pavlova, meringue topped with fresh fruit and passion fruit curd. But that’s just the tip of Mount Kosciuszko. Australian dining draws inspiration from Aboriginal to global cuisines, and it’s about more than just the food. The experience at the restaurant matters, too. Fortunately for Dallas, emissaries from the land down under have quietly arrived.
3930 Preston Rd., Ste. 120, Frisco
Angie and Lui Monforte moved to Frisco in 2018, after the lease on their coffee shop in Brisbane was up. The couple always had a pipe dream to live in the United States, and they decided on Frisco because it reminded them the most of Brisbane. “I think most of us romanticize about living in New York one day, or like Cali, or whatever,” Lui says. “But as far as livability, Texas felt really homely.”
The Aussie Grind opened at the end of 2019, and Lui says the restaurant survived the pandemic by way of excellent Yelp reviews. The restaurant’s all-day Australian-style breakfast and lunch menus kept people coming back. Staples include avo toast (topped with cherry tomatoes, charred corn, Danish feta, and beet-whipped cream cheese) and the Big Breaky (a plate of bacon, eggs, sausage links, roasted wild mushrooms, and house-made chutney). For lunch, try the Australian-style Chicken Parmy (chicken Parmesan served on fries instead of pasta) or the fish and chips, which are dipped in a batter lightened by a splash of Shiner.
4514 Travis St., Ste. 132
Chef Christian Dortch—who spent a year in Australia immersed in its food scene with chef Curtis Stone before opening Georgie—says hospitality plays a huge part in the Australian culinary experience. He equates dining in Australia to eating at Grandma’s house. Even something as simple as peeling a carrot is done with care, and customers can tell.
“It’s the integrity,” he says. “It’s very easy for people to just make it seem like it’s a job, and you have to make them fall in love with the connection of the product.” For the full cattle station experience, order the Blackmore wagyu, which is flown in from a family ranch in the Victorian high country in Australia, followed by the strawberry pavlova.
408 W. Eighth St.
In 2019, Australian David Orr, who once ran a property company that became the largest owner of townhouses in New York, founded Parched Hospitality Group. The venture started by opening a popular brunch spot, Hole in the Wall, in the Financial District. Hole in the Wall’s success led to Isla & Co., and Isla & Co. just opened a Dallas outpost in the old Lucia location.
The Australian-inspired brasserie adds a Mediterranean twist to its dinner menu. The braised lamb shoulder is served with labneh, Swiss chard, and fingerling potatoes, and the pork sausage rolls are served with a sweet chile sauce. Brunch stays truer to form, with avocado toast topped with pickled onions and feta, and a brekkie roll filled with scrambled eggs, cheddar, bacon, arugula, and peperonata.
Orr says he chose Bishop Arts because he felt that the neighborhood best resembled what he wanted Isla & Co. to be: a place where people could enjoy food and feel comfortable. “When I think of Australian food, it’s not just what’s on the plate. It’s also the environment that you’re in,” he says. “I think about my favorite restaurants back home, and you almost always have a relationship with the staff and with the owners.”
Australians love espresso, but Adam Lowes and his brother quickly learned Americans aren’t huge espresso drinkers. So when they opened LDU Coffee in 2017, they adjusted their menu to include two specific drinks that virtually don’t exist in Australia. “On a hot summer’s day [in America], two out of every three people are drinking iced coffee and iced lattes,” Lowes said. “In Australia, there are almost zero cold drinks from a coffee shop.”
LDU’s limited menu includes espresso and espresso-based drinks, flat whites, and iced lattes. Even its batch-brewed coffee is espresso-based, which Lowes thinks tastes better. “If someone’s been drinking drip coffee their whole life, once they drink an espresso-based drink that’s made well, it’s very hard to forget the intensity of that flavor,” Lowes says.
His goal is for LDU’s vibe to be that of a premium coffee to-go experience in Australia. “We’re trying to make people feel special and feel like they’re part of something,” he says. “Even though, in general, we’re only getting five to 10 minutes with them every day.”
This story originally appeared in the January issue of D Magazine with the headline, “Tucker Trends.” Write to [email protected]