Everyone loves a sequel. And why not? Why risk your $30 or how much ever it costs to see a movie nowadays to take a chance on an unknown intellectual property when you have the safety of a beloved franchise? I mean, The Avengers movies have been pretty fun, and you better believe Marvel Studios is going to ride Tony Stark’s aging body until that night light in his chest finally burns out, so they’re good for at least a few more flicks. And it’s not just big-budget superhero films that are getting a follow-up. The Big Fat Greek sequel came out earlier this year, animated features Ice Age and Kung Fu Panda are both adding to their franchises, and there’s even another one of those magic movies, tentatively titled Now You See Me Make The Exact Same Movie Again.
And here in Dallas, coffee shops have been getting into the summer sequel game. No fewer than four cafes have doubled down and opened a second location in the DFW Metroplex these past few months. Unlike pretty much all of the Spiderman movies, I'm happy to report that these summer blockbusters have not disappointed. What’s old is new again in the Summer of Sequels: Dallas Coffee Edition.
The Remake: Avoca Coffee on Foch Street
Don’t you just love it when a beloved film makes a triumphant return to please a new generation of filmgoers? Some franchises don’t need to change, they just need to be introduced to a new crowd. That’s Avoca Coffee Roasters’ new Foch Street location. As perhaps Dallas-Fort Worth’s most established roaster to not have a second shop, Avoca was ripe for a remake. And this is a shot-for-shot love letter to the original classic.
Like their Magnolia location on the south side of Interstate-30, the new Avoca on Foch is a big open space with high ceilings, white walls adorned with a custom mural, and floor to ceiling windows. Behind the bar, the same La Marzocco Linea Classic and three Mazzer grinder espresso setup and black Mahlkönig EK 43-driven brew bar can be seen at both shops. And the similarities aren’t just aesthetic. The service and drink prep are near identical as well. Owner Garold LaRue has spent the better part of six years focusing on quality in consistency in both roasting and preparation and that singular focus has not been lost at the new store.
Maybe it’s not as sexy as turning a classic on its head, but it’s a classic because the original was already great. Don’t mess with success. Just give me an espresso-shot-for-espresso-shot remake, please.
Rotten Spromato Rating: 4 1/2 Psycho’s out of 5.
The Spin-Off: Houndstooth Coffee at Sylvan Thirty
The new Houndstooth Coffee on the outskirts of the Oak Cliff neighborhood has all the makings of a spin-off. It’s got a cast of familiar characters—like roasters Tweed Coffee Roasters and Counter Culture Coffee, a white Nuova Simonelli Black Eagle espresso machine, and Nuova Simonelli Mythos One Clima-Pro grinders—but in a wildly different setting. Houndstooth cafes are generally known for their thoughtful design with small pops of color, but the space went hyperclean with sharp whites and soft greys. Big windows letting in tons of natural light and tall ceilings really punctuate the modern aesthetic.
But a new coat of paint does not make a spin-off. For their fourth cafe (though only their second in Dallas, the other two are in Austin), Houndstooth is posing the question, “What if we were also an eatery and cocktail bar?” Unlike the other cafes, the new location has a yet-to-be-opened full-service kitchen that takes a “similar approach that [they] have to coffee: high-quality ingredients from folks [they] trust that are prepared simply,” as per owner Sean Henry. The new cafe will also share space with Jettison, Houndstooth’s darker, color palate inverted cocktail bar. Unlike most spin-offs, the new Houndstooth is positioning itself to be better than the original, or at least boozier.
Rotten Spromato Rating: 5 Forgetting Sarah Marshall's out of 5 Get Him To The Greek's.
The Reboot: Ascension Coffee at The Crescent
Anything goes with a reboot. Do you try to stay true to the original or do you say, make it an all-female cast and disenfranchise the misogynist portion of your fan base? Do you set the whole thing in outer space, a la Jason X? These are the tough choices to make. For Ascension and their new Uptown location on Crescent Court, they've stayed true to the spirit of the original while adding a little flare.
Like the original in the Design District, the new Ascension is at its heart an expression of owner Russell Hayward’s Aussie roots. Both offer sit-down service for both food and coffee, but you can just order at the counter at both locations if that sort of paradigm shift is too much to handle when you’re hungry and uncaffeinated.
But the devil is in the details and so are the differences. The new Ascension has shifted away from the boxy-type espresso machine and moved to the under-counter Modbar. The Uptown location has also started a signature beverage program that serves tasty coffee drinks like the Japanese Bulldog, a Kyoto-style cold brew mixed with Topo Chico, lime, and a Luxardo cherry. And while both locations have full food menus for any time of day, the new location focuses on sandwiches and flatbreads made with pane aria, a beautifully thick naan-like bread originally from Rome.
So yeah, the new Ascension is a reboot but you can really feel the soul of the first cafe shining through.
Rotten Spromato Rating: 4 Ghostbusters out of 5
The Sequel: Cultivar Coffee on Jefferson Street
The true sequel might be the hardest of the bunch to pull off. You have to stay true to the original while delivering something new and unexpected. I mean, if Bill and Ted just went to college and joined a frat instead of having some sort of adventure-journey, I’d set fire to my theater seat. Same thing goes with coffee—you can’t just turn a roaster into a multi-roaster cafe for their second location and not expect me to break some shit.
The new Cultivar Coffee in Oak Cliff strikes that balance of familiarity and newness. Technically, their third location, the Jefferson shop, is their first standalone cafe—the East Dallas location shares a space with an excellent deli/beer store and the Denton location is half wango donut shop—which means this is the first time owners Jonathan Meadows and Nathan Shelton have full control over every aspect. And the result is a third location that actually feels like a grown-up version of their first, the East Dallas Cultivar—kind of like how Alien3 is more like the original Alien than Aliens. The big, lacquered wood countertop and light metal motif of the original is pulled back a bit, and the steely blue-grey walls soften the overall feel of the space.
But as a sequel, we adoring fans expect more than just a refinement. And Cultivar has delivered by adding a small but thoughtful food menu—think avocado toast on bread from a local artisan bakery—and a nice selection of beer and wine. Sometimes I want a sour beer as a sidecar for my espresso. Don’t judge, it’s delicious. As with any great sequel, the Jefferson Cultivar kept what was great about the original and found a way to spice it up.
Rotten Spromato Rating: 4 1/2 Gremlins 2’s out of 5
Never has there been a better time to be a fan of established movie franchises and never has there been a better time to be a coffee drinker in Dallas. If I had to choose only one—coffee or movies—I don’t know that I’d be able to choose.
Yes I could. I’d choose coffee. I’d rather have lots of really good coffee and just go watch TV.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.