Unlike other town centers, where everything looks like it was erected in late 2010, McKinney's town square holds a lot of character. Some of the small boutiques are worth taking a peek into just to check out the old buildings that house them. An antique dealer now sits in the former bank, where the guts of the vault are open to walk through and the heavy metal door stands open on its hinges.
The antique store is one of many on the square, but is probably the third tenant to occupy the space over the course of only four years. The retail shops here rotate in and out like this, too. But the restaurants are unusually stable. They've been here for years, quietly establishing reputations and catering to locals.
If you're wanting lunch, or just in the mood for a great sandwich, head to Spoons (100 East Louisiana) first. They do comfort food classics from scratch and serve breakfast all day, and they recently added a full bar to their menu for the dinner crowd. Their hours are weird, and they aren't open full days on Wednesday, so check the website before you head out. But definitely try the pumpkin soup, which is served year-round here. You won't regret it.
Just down the street and around the corner in a simply appointed shop is the new location of Emporium Pies (107 South Tennessee). It's very good pie, as you know, and they serve Oak Cliff Coffee to wash it down -- a hard-to-find commodity way up in McKinney. You can walk in for slice or walk out with an entire pie. Your choice.
At the top of Chestnut Square is the fittingly titled Square Burger (115 North Kentucky), named for its location, not the shape of its burgers. Floor-to-ceiling windows allow passersby to glimpse the 30 beers on tap, which is why my dad stopped cold when we walked past recently, and declared he was going to go have a drink. An order of medium rare here yields a burger that's actually medium rare, a strangely infrequent phenomenon across DFW.
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If you prefer something more casual, or you're just craving pizza, head over to Cadillac Pizza Pub (112 South Kentucky) instead. A lot of the ingredients here, including the veggies, are locally sourced, and they make the day's sauce and dough by hand every morning. They may not have 30 beers on tap, but they've still got plenty of alcohol to wash down that Farmer's Pie.
That's all right in front of you. McKinney harbors some secrets, though, including Gregory's Bistro (111 West Virginia). Named after the owner and chef, this tiny little French restaurant is tucked away on a side street right off the square and serves the bright Chilean sea bass and a creamy lobster risotto. Don't sleep on (or through) dessert, either: I have dreams about their bread pudding involving that homemade whipped cream and caramel sauce. Gregory's is BYOB though, so visit one of the wineries on the square beforehand.
And after: I recommend ending the night at Landon Winery (101 North Kentucky). They have a wine tasting, 5 for $5, and they pour with a heavy hand. If you're a fan of reds, try the Miratage.
You may need a couple laps around the square before driving yourself home though, which on a nice night is a worthy endeavor anyway. Make your D.D. hit up Baker's Drive In (1001 South McDonald) on the way home. Or just go back to Cadillac and get another pizza. You deserve it.