Is there any venue in the world where the unemployed look so goddamn cool as a coffee shop? Run into the jobless at a bar, family party, or wedding and shame seeps from their core. Put them in a hip café though and immediately they resemble a novelist producing their next great work, rather than a desperate soul drafting a cover letter. Ashlawn Farm Coffee is camouflage for this lot, but only because every detail of the place is excellent. Its the premier locale for caffeinated beverages on the Shoreline.
The coffee itself is magnificently fresh. Raw coffee is green and gains both its color and caffeine concentration through the roasting process. A lighter roast is actually more caffeine-heavy, while a darker roast trades off some of its caffeine content for more robust and pronounced flavors. Directly next to it’s coffee shop, Ashlawn roasts its own beans, which is badass. They’ll often do unique batches like aging coffee in Bourbon Barrels — something going on this summer. See this place isn’t just a coffee shop, but an institution to the area providing fresh coffee to some of the best food and beverage outlets around. For example, Fox Farm Brewery — a fine craft brewery out of Salem, CT — utilizes Ashlawn Coffee beans in their delicious Ashlawn Coffee Stout.
Ashlawn’s coffee is unrivaled throughout the region, but its food is an equal asset towards its success. Last fall I drove seven hours in an RV to go check out the hype that is the “Bills Mafia” with a Buffalo native. The dude whose family I was visiting EATS and at 6:00 A.M. on gameday his mother, who was up to feed us at this ungodly hour, served an egg dish that was roughly one part egg, one part cheese, and two parts breakfast sausage. It was Matt’s favorite breakfast, she said. Well in Connecticut, Matt’s favorite breakfast is Ashlawn’s Sausage, Egg, and Cheese sandwich on a biscuit. The sausage is from Walt’s, the historic Old Saybrook butcher, the Melville from Mystic Cheese Co (a soft ripened goat cheese), and the biscuits are made from scratch in-house. Its pretty ridiculous and on the weekends will sell-out fast. If you’re there for the first time, its a must order. In fact, all of the baked goods at Ashlawn are made from scratch on the premises. Its all great, but I’d say the Morning Glory Muffin and the Chocolate Chip Cookies stand out. With the Morning Glory Muffin there are apples and carrots in the recipe so you can eat it and pretend its not shitty for you. With the Chocolate Chip cookies there is no pretending, but they’re absurd and you’re an unquestionable idiot if you don’t snag one with your afternoon coffee here and there.
Lastly, the layout of the place is both pragmatic and rustic. The shop is long and somewhat narrow, with three distinct sections. The first tranche has two and four top tables — great for studying or meeting up, while the second tranche is comprised of couches and lounge chairs, with the last tranche, furthest from the entrance, providing a long farm table with stools. To the right of that last section is a small play area for the kids to occupy — which is good to know if you’ve sacrificed your entire existence to the whims of intelligible beasts. What really adds to the character of this place though is the local art adorning the walls. The paintings tend to be bright with some sort of bucolic, farm theme to them. Even if you aren’t into this stuff, its hard not to appreciate the pieces and maybe even want to take one home. All of this adds to a vibrant, but relaxed atmosphere that is omnipresent throughout the café.
Strengths: Culture / Eclectic Layout / Roasts Own Beans / Baked Goods from Scratch
Weaknesses: Location. It’s Not Walkable to Anything Else.
Tips: Madhouse on Saturday & Sunday Mornings. Expect a Wait.
FEAST: Sausage Egg & Cheese Biscuit / Chocolate Chip Cookies / Bacon & Cheddar Quiche
FROTH: Drip Coffee / Cold Brew Coffee / Affogato (Summer) / Cappuccino / Bagged Coffee
FEAST: 4/5 – FROTH 4.5/5 – COFFEE SHOP: 5/5