Eat This

The $45 Chef's Tasting at McKinney's Patina Green Is a Deliciously Well-Kept Secret

Downtown McKinney hasn’t been known as a place for culinary excellence, but that’s about to change. With the arrival of restaurants such as Sugarbacon and the Dallas dining scene’s constant northern sprawl, soon we will all start hauling up Central Expressway for an interesting dinner.

But why wait? Patina Green is already there. 

Patina Green has long been known as a great place to pick up lunch, even getting some recognition from the Food Network for its sandwiches, but it is for the most part a small market. The food counter is tucked directly into a well-curated room full of reclaimed home goods and decorative oddities. On Friday and Saturday nights, though, chef Robert Lyford serves one of the city’s most inventive tasting menus for the paltry price of $45.

The tasting doesn't have a menu, and it changes from week to week, depending on what the farmers have to offer. On one recent visit, local pears, baby radishes, kale and pea tendrils were all beautifully on display. There is no fussy wine list or overly attentive service — just plastic cups filled with water, Mason jars that receive a heavy pour of inexpensive wine and a few rotating local beers. And that is exactly where the charm lies.

Each dish is served in a cardboard basket, much like those you’d find holding brisket at Pecan Lodge or an order of street tacos. The food that lies within, though, is impressive: blistered sishito peppers served with roasted local radishes and brightly flavored edible flowers; a frisée salad tossed in beef fat vinaigrette adorning a perfectly cooked over-easy duck egg; fresh peaches poached in a sophisticated-but-boozy moonshine syrup. These are dishes you would find in much, much fancier joints for much more money, so the gas you’ll need to hoof it to downtown McKinney is a bargain.

Perhaps most important, this is the exact sort of restaurant that is perfect for introducing farm-to-table, arguably “weird” food to people who are skeptical about the movement. No pretentious servers will make you feel guilty for not knowing what an obscure ingredient will taste like, and they’re eager to accommodate dietary concerns and restrictions. If you call ahead and ask about the menu, the staff will give you a few hints, but they won’t spoil the surprise entirely. And you’ll definitely be surprised.

When you’ve finished with your meal, you can browse the market’s offerings and likely find a few of the components that you enjoyed on the menu to take home. In addition to a small assortment of local, organic produce, you’ll also find plenty of the restaurant’s house-made jarred goods, like a dark and rich aged sugar cane syrup, tomatillo vinaigrette and even fresh kimchi. Grab dessert from the case of locally crafted chocolates, and your indulgence-on-the-cheap is complete.

Even with wine pairings, a five or six course (plus amuse) dinner will only run you about $65, and you can barely get out of a joint like Chili’s for that much cash. The decor in the restaurant — which is all for sale for incredibly reasonable prices, by the way — is a sort of expertly curated version of your super-trendy grandmother’s house. Don’t be surprised if you end up walking out the door with a weird old door or a terrarium with an animal skull inside. It’s not your fault everything in there is so damn charming.

This probably isn't going to be a well-kept secret for long. This weekend Patina Green hosted the 2015 Dallas Observer Best Chef, Small Brewpub's Misti Norris, for a guest chef dinner. When folks with that kind of foodie cred start hanging around, a seat will soon be hard to find in this tiny shop that really isn't even a "restaurant." Well, at least not in the traditional, fine dining, white tablecloth, bow-tied servers sort of way. 

Patina Green’s tasting menu is available on Friday and Saturday nights only, and reservations aren’t required, but they're certainly recommended. The back of the “restaurant” doesn't have a whole lot of seating, but even if you have to wait a bit, you’ll find plenty to do to occupy your time. If the wait is a little longer than you expected because you didn’t call ahead, take the opportunity to explore the growing gem that is downtown McKinney. You might just find the perfect spot to enjoy a nightcap before hauling it back to Dallas. 

Patina Green, 116 N. Tennessee St., No. 102, McKinney, 972-548-9141
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Amy McCarthy