A stroll around the picturesque downtown square in McKinney, Texas, conjures feelings of nostalgia and provides its visitors with a feast for the senses. The inviting colors and patterns of its historic architecture, the pleasing sounds of music, laughter and conversation, and the tantalizing aromas from the variety of restaurants located within the quaint backdrop set the perfect ambiance for a memorable night out with that special someone or with a group of family and friends.
An area once populated by antique stores and tea rooms that closed for the day long before sundown is now one of North Texas’ culinary hot spots. McKinney’s historic commercial district began its transformation roughly a decade ago when the municipality invested $2.2 million into a revitalization plan. This civic investment paired with the vision of business owners who embrace the authenticity of the city’s core has resulted in a winning formula of boutiques, specialty shops, and one-of-a-kind restaurants that provide the square with its vibrant atmosphere.
Diners can satisfy a wide range of cravings at more than a dozen eateries. Those interested in an evening of fine dining will enjoy the much-lauded five-star Rick’s Chophouse, French-inspired cuisine at Éclair Bistro, farm-to-table fare at Harvest Seasonal Kitchen, and upscale regional Mexican dishes at Bien Salsa. Those seeking a more casual experience will find comfort foods at Spoons Café; breakfast and specialty coffee at Snug on the Square; gourmet sandwiches at Patina Green Home and Market; and for dessert, over-the-top creations at Emporium Pies. For a pub atmosphere, diners need look no further than The Pub for a classic American setting, or The Celt and its decidedly Irish vibe.
Square Burger produces a wildly popular and varied menu of burgers from locally raised products hand-delivered to their door by Local Yocal – a butcher shop and goods market located around the corner from the burger eatery. As an added experience for foodies, butcher shop owner Matt Hamilton teaches visitors the proper way to buy and prepare various cuts of meat during a Steak 101 class offered at his shop on the weekends.
Just a block south of the square, foodies will delight in McKinney’s Chestnut Square Historic Village and their weekly farmers’ markets offering locally-grown produce, dairy and baked goods, as well as art pieces, home goods, and a general store with vintage-style wares and cookbooks.
Adding to the square’s evening vibrancy is the live entertainment at many of its restaurants and its two wineries. Cadillac Pizza Pub’s open mic nights provide exposure for budding talent; while acoustic singer-songwriter nights allow customers to enjoy dinner while listening to local musicians, many of whose songs are being recorded by Nashville artists. On the weekends, bands rock the restaurants while concerts, plays, and comics entertain audiences at the McKinney Performing Arts Center in the center of the square. This once quiet square is now the community gathering place for signature family-focused events like Oktoberfest, Home for the Holidays, Arts in Bloom, and Bike the Bricks.
Johnny Carros of downtown McKinney’s newest eatery, Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen, is enthused about opening his New American restaurant, offering a fresh and uncomplicated menu with Texas undertones in a converted downtown garage that housed a service station for 80 years.
“Downtown McKinney is truly a destination,” Carros says. “It’s unlike anything else in the area – almost like a Hollywood set – and it’s the most friendly, welcoming community I’ve ever been a part of. I can’t imagine Sugarbacon being born anywhere else.”