Spend any time in and around the downtown McKinney area and you might find it hard not to wonder if this may be the area's secret foodie destination. The square oozes with authentic charm, and the restaurant choices are plentiful. We've sung the praises of spots like Sugarbacon and Butcher Board, eaten more pie from Emporium Pies than we care to admit, and lauded Local Yocal Market as one of the area's best butcher shops.
Quietly and with little fanfare, Local Yocal has jumped into the restaurant game, just a few blocks east of their market. Local Yocal BBQ and Grill promises the same responsibly raised, locally sourced prime and wagyu beef in a more accessible, ready-to-eat format. Despite little publicity, Local Yocal BBQ and Grill has already become popular with the locals with a blend of barbecue and comfort food that dovetails nicely with the farm-to-market theme of the original market.
For a restaurant with "BBQ" right in the name, the new restaurant doesn't look or feel like most barbecue joints. First of all, a host or hostess will seat you at a real table with real menus, real utensils and cloth napkins, like they do at almost no other barbecue spot in Texas (18th & Vine is the only exception we can think of). Local Yocal BBQ and Grill sports a modestly sized dining room, with perhaps two dozen tables, and a large banquette separates the main dining room from the bar area. There's also a large bar area, which we found nicely outfitted with a well-curated selection of local brews, bourbons and spirits.
While smoky fare and barbecue influences are all over the menu, you should plan your visit for the lunch hour for the best experience. Barbecue meats are Angus brisket (with wagyu occasionally available), St. Louis-style pork ribs, turkey breast and two kinds of house-made sausage. A standard plate includes potato salad, coleslaw and a thick slice of Texas toast; it's up to the diner if they want all brisket ($15), a single meat ($13) or two-meat version ($15). Wanting to try as much as we could, we went with a two-meat stocked with the Angus brisket and jalapeño-cheddar sausage, only because a three-meat plate wasn't an option.
By and large, the barbecue game at Local Yocal is spot-on. The two brisket slices on our tray were neatly trimmed, with just enough fat cap left to give base to an impressive black bark. Each bite of brisket was textbook tender and smoky, although we wished for a bit more fat and a touch more salt in the rub. We've no complaints with the jalapeño-cheddar sausage, with healthy chunks of both ingredients wrapped in a snappy casing. The slaw and potato salad sides break no new ground but offered a cool balance to the tray, with portions so large that we couldn't finish them.
It's also possible that we couldn't finish our sides because so many other items on the menu intrigued us, and we may have over-ordered. We started our lunch with the smoked pimento cheese dip ($10), and so should you. The smokiness imparted to the pimento cheese is delightful, and spears of fresh red bell pepper dotted the dish. Slices of sourdough are the perfect vehicle for quickly getting cheese-filled bites into your mouth.
Local Yocal's menu offers a variety of sandwiches, salads and entrees outside the normal barbecue realm, but we were drawn to the smoked wagyu chicken-fried steak ($18). Our instincts were spot on, and the comfort-food classic may be the best item on the menu. The combination of wagyu sirloin, buttermilk brine and slow cooking in the smoker conspires to turn out a slab of CFS that is cut-with-a-fork tender, topped with a peppered white gravy and accompanied with garlic mashed potatoes and green beans. And since we were in extreme comfort-food mode on this visit, two of us shared the YOLO mac and cheese ($10), which arrives on the table in its own cast-iron skillet, its creamy, cheesy, oversized elbows and chunks of bacon topped with toasted bread crumbs. Our post-lunch nap couldn't come soon enough.
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For dinner service, the barbecue plates are replaced with steaks straight from the butcher's case, although barbecue can still be found during dinner hours on the sandwich menu, and the sublime chicken-fried steak is still available as well. Service on our visit was prompt, friendly and attentive.
Local Yocal owner Matt Hamilton has been winning patrons over for 10 years with the Local Yocal Market and plans to move the butcher shop into the same building as the restaurant, which would be just about as close to farm-to-table as you can get. In fact, the only downside we found to Local Yocal BBQ and Grill is that it's just not local enough to us. But we certainly think it's worth the trip.
Local Yocal BBQ and Grill, 350 E. Louisiana St., McKinney.