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McKinney Squared

McKinney’s historic square area has more than 100 shops, boutiques, galleries, plus about a dozen restaurants and pie, too!
Written by Celestina Blok. Photographs by Matthew Johnson.

MckinneyPieHot-pink roses bloom brilliantly in cement planters on all four corners of the historic downtown square in McKinney, where I’m waiting with friends on a sunny sidewalk for a crosswalk light to change.

Essentials

McKinney

McKinney is on US 75 about 30 miles north of Dallas. For more details on McKinney, including information on lodging, dining, events, and attractions, call 888/649-8499.

Patina Green Home & Market is at 116 N. Tennessee St. Call 972/548-9141.

Homepieces is at 203 E. Virginia St.Call 972/542-6191.

Gray Living is at 113 Kentucky St. Call 972/542-0033.

The Groovy Coop is at 109 S. Tennessee St. Call 469/617-3820.

Landon Winery is at 101 N. Kentucky St. Call 972/542-3030.

Grand Hotel and Ballroom/Rick’s Chophouse are at 114 W. Louisiana St. (The main entrance to Rick’s is at 107 N.Kentucky.) Call 214/726-9250.

McKinney Performing Arts Center is at 111 N. Tennessee St. Call 972/547-2650.

Rye Craft Food & Drink is at 111 W. Virginia Pkwy. Call 214/491-1715.

Emporium Pies is at 107 S. Tennessee St. (with another location in Dallas). Call 214/491-1577.

Local Yocal is at 213 N. Tennessee St. Call 469/952-3838.

We’ve made the 50-minute drive from Fort Worth for a day’s worth of fun exploring the shops, restaurants, and patio scene on the newly revitalized square. I’ve recently discovered the many charms and tasty offerings of this vibrant Collin County town, and each time I visit I find new reasons to return.

We’ve arrived just before lunchtime, and I’m eager to take my friends to Patina Green Home & Market, a popular restaurant and home-goods store that opened in 2012. “The majority of the storefronts were empty when we opened,” co-owner Kaci Lyford tells me. “We got an amazing location right on the square. It was at the very beginning of McKinney’s revival.”

Named for Collin McKinney, a pioneer and land surveyor who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836, McKinney has undergone significant revitalization over the past decade, particularly in and around the downtown square. Now there are more than 100 shops, boutiques, furniture stores, and galleries within walking distance of each other, along with about a dozen restaurants. With a population of nearly 162,000, the rapidly growing city boasts a rich history with both old and modern architecture and varied neighborhoods historic and new.

Kaci owns Patina Green with her husband Robert, a chef who works with local farmers, many in Collin County, to source ingredients for his vegetable-focused (though hardly vegetarian) cuisine. We tuck into a sampling of his flavorful, hot-pressed sandwiches, including one made with spaghetti squash and goat cheese and another with roasted cauliflower and peppery arugula, along with velvety tomato bisque and fluffy smoked-cheddar biscuits. We admire Kaci’s collection of antiques, too, such as a vintage birdcage at the front of the store and the weathered shutters propped atop a worn, wooden work bench.

Fueled and ready to shop the square, my friends and I stroll around the corner to Homepieces, a narrow antiques store cluttered with antique conversation pieces like ornate French mirrors, iron window guards, weathered harvest tables, and chandeliers made from deer antlers.

A short stroll away, Gray Living, a two-story luxury furnishings store located in the heart of the square, beckons us inside for more shopping. Owner Randal Weeks’ design line, Aidan Gray, offers home décor, lighting, chandeliers, and furnishings made to look like European antiques, such as wooden side tables hand-carved with decorative details and button-tufted upholstered chairs. There are at least a dozen sophisticated “living areas” presented throughout the store, each bedecked with plush seating, distressed side tables, whimsical lamps, and decorative pillows and throws. Upstairs, past a display of shimmery mercury glass planters, we find a wall illuminated with sconces of many sizes and styles—some modern with stainless-steel hardware and white fabric shades, and others with antiqued finishes. On a heavy wooden table nearby, rows of scented soy candles sit atop thin cross-sections of tree trunks, each candle covered with a clear glass dome. I lift one by the knob to smell a scent called tomato vine; it’s clean and herbal with a hint of spice.

Before moving on, I purchase a memento for my own home, a saucer-size circle of enamel printed to resemble a giant typewriter key with the capital letter “B” for Blok, framed in distressed metal. Perhaps I’ll hang it in my hallway, or place it on the fireplace mantle.

Just off the square at The Groovy Coop, we find quirky, retro gifts like vintage miniskirt-clad paper dolls from the 1960s, vintage-inspired ice-cream scoops with mint-colored handles, wallets printed with the Wonder Woman logo, and vintage ceramic monkey figurines. There’s also an extensive collection of vinyl records. My friend flips through a section and makes a meaningful find.

“I’ve been looking for this forever,” she says, holding up a Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys LP in its original black-and-white jacket. “My grandmother used to play this for us and we’d dance in the living room.”

Mckinney musiciansBy now my friends and I are ready for refreshments, so we stop at Landon Winery, a tasting room located in an early 20th-Century building with prime patio seating on the corner of the square. All 28 wines served here are produced at Landon Winery’s newer location in Greenville, about 30 miles away. Grapes are sourced from vineyards in the Texas High Plains south of Lubbock, as well as California. We share a bottle of straw-colored pinot grigio, which is crisp and tart with hints of melon, and we learn from our server that vintner and founder Bob Landon first started making wine in his basement more than 30 years ago before opening Landon Winery on the square in 2005.

The winery is next to the Grand Hotel and Ballroom, which occupies a four-story, circa 1886 building that originally housed the Heard Opera House and Heard Mercantile Store. My husband and I had stayed here a few weeks prior when we visited McKinney for one of Patina Green’s multi-course market dinners, which take place just once or twice a month and often sell out.

Popular for wedding receptions, the majestic hotel has 44 guest rooms, elaborate chandeliers, pressed-tin ceilings, and French doors. On the ground floor is Rick’s Chophouse, a romantically lit steakhouse with leather booths, long banquet tables, wrought-iron chandeliers, and an extensive menu of steaks, including grass-fed filets, salt-crusted prime rib, and New York strips. On the trip with my husband, we walked through the busy restaurant to access the restaurant’s swanky lounge. There, we found more leather seating, a live jazz trio, a well-stocked bar, and a celebratory crowd. After a nightcap, we returned to our room and fell into a restful slumber beneath the heavy down comforters of our four-poster bed.

But this trip is a girlfriend getaway. As we explore, the square fills with people—girlfriend groups like us, families with small children, and couples young and old. We watch folks pop in and out of nearby stores, including a candy-and-popcorn shop, a toy store, and a clothing boutique, and we join others walking up the steps to the McKinney Performing Arts Center, our next destination.

Located in the former Collin County Courthouse, the facility is the centerpiece of the square with its colonial columns and towering clock. When it was built in 1875, it stood 75 feet high, but a 1927 remodel replaced the mansard roof with a more modern design and reduced the building’s height to 56 feet. Inside, we take in a local art exhibit in the spacious lobby area and peek inside the 427-seat theater—formerly the courtroom—where concerts, comedy acts, and off-Broadway shows regularly take place.

Hunger strikes, so we turn the rest of our visit into a quick culinary tour and hit some of McKinney’s tastiest locales. At Rye Craft Food & Drink, which opened in November inside the former law office of Texas Governor James W. Throckmorton, we sip brandy-spiked mimosas and share a trio of delicious sliders. Each miniature sandwich—ham slathered with sweet preserves, crispy chicken drizzled with local honey butter, and applewood-smoked bacon stacked with sliced tomatoes and a layer of goat cheese—is served on a buttermilk-cheddar biscuit.

It’s time for dessert, so we walk a half-block off the square to Emporium Pies, where I detect the aroma of honey and peanut butter. “That’s the Nutty Honey,” the young man behind the counter tells me; it’s made with layers of honey-peanut glaze, peanut butter-cream, and crushed honey-roasted peanuts, all in a crumbly Graham-cracker crust. Pies here are made in-house and change with the seasons, we’re told, and feature different crusts like shortbread, crushed pretzel, Graham cracker, and classic. While one friend opts for a glass of cold milk, I order something called “Lance’s secret recipe iced tea,” a spicy house-made tea that’s aromatic and refreshing. Both pair well with the Nutty Honey pie, and my friends and I enjoy every sweet-and-salty bite.

McKinneyLocalYocalOur last stop is Local Yocal, a farm-to-market butcher shop and grocer just off the square that supplies meats to many of McKinney’s restaurants. Opened in 2010, Local Yocal offers a smorgasbord of high-quality, locally produced products from farmers and purveyors who take painstaking pride in their craft. Along with grass-fed and Wagyu beef, pastured-raised pork, grass-fed lamb, and other locally raised meats, the store offers house-made sausages, farm eggs, milk, cheeses, butter, yogurt, salsa, honey, olive oil, and coffee.

On our way back to US 75, we drive past Craftsman-style houses in shades of royal blue, yellow, and turquoise and plot our next visit to McKinney. We’ll schedule facials at Pavitra Organic Day Spa, which uses organic and eco-friendly products. Perhaps we’ll visit the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary, where 289 acres of exhibits and gardens include a native Texan butterfly house. A canoe tour around the Heard wetlands might be on the agenda, as well as a visit to Chestnut Square Historic Village, a collection of six historic homes, a replica one-room schoolhouse, chapel, and store just south of downtown. As Chestnut Square is home to a weekly farmer’s market, there would be more culinary delights in our future, as well as another historic McKinney square to explore.

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