Is The Square Becoming the “Little Italy of North Texas”?

It used to be that each year in February, the McKinney downtown square would see something akin to “musical merchants”.  Leases would expire about the same time for many of the merchants and several would inevitably move from one space to another. They were still on the square but they could be a bit of a moving target and some shoppers were left scratching their head, looking quizzically at a store, and asking, “Didn’t you used to be over there?”

That doesn’t seem to happen as much anymore but a case could be made the it’s just the area involved in the swapping has gotten larger. Much larger.  At the moment, McKinney’s downtown is seeing a lot of new blood coming in and some pretty big infrastructure changes.

The most noticeable change is the construction on Virginia Street. The block-long stretch of Virginia Street that runs from McDonald Street to Chestnut Street has been completely closed off while water mains are being replaced.  The detour to come into the square from McDonald now is to turn west onto Louisiana and get to Virginia via Chestnut Street.

Update (8/25): After completion, Virginia should be entirely west bound starting from Highway 5 and Louisiana Street will be entirely eastbound. For more information, see the city’s current newsletter.


The businesses along the construction route are still open and there is still parking available on the street along the south side of Virginia.  There is also a good public parking lot available if you turn north at the intersection of Virginia and Tennessee and drive two blocks north.  The lot is just north of City Hall and across from the library.


If you’ve been keeping up with news through Town Square Buzz, you might have heard Matt Bado dub the downtown as becoming a new “Little Italy of North Texas”.  Whether or not we win the title of  “Little Italy” after everything is said and done, we have got to be in the running for some kind of restaurant district designation. While we’ve lost Ruggeri’s and Sidestreet Cafe will not, in fact, be opening in Aparicio’s old spot on Virginia,  current rumors are that we are getting a New York style pizzeria, an Amato’s, a Bien Salsa, a Mellow Mushroom, a Bayou Jack’s Cajun Grill, and an Emporium Pies.  If you haven’t yet, be sure to watch Matt Bado and Megan Hickman  in the August 9th  Town Square Buzz “Square Off”.  Ive embedded it below for your convenience and the downtown news starts at 1 minute 50.  They have quite a bit of insight about what is coming in.

The rumor is that will be a Brother’s Pizza coming into the space that was previously Peachy Keen Yogurt on Virginia Street.  Peeking in the window, there are stacks of what looks like sheet rock but it looks like they are well past framing out the space.  Light fixtures are hung and it already has a nice ambiance, albeit “under construction”.

Just a couple doors down the road, in the space that was formerly Aparicio’s and was going to be Sidestreet Cafe, the door sports a new logo for Amato’s On The Square.


Two blocks down and across from The McKinney Wine Merchant, Ruggeri’s has closed and a new Mexican restaurant, Bien Salsa, is coming in there.  According to Megan Hickman in the Town Square Buzz Square Off video, this Bien Salsa has connections to La Duni and we should expect a Latin menu, not Tex-Mex.   According to Andy, the Wine Merchant, they are expected to open very quickly – mid September.  We’ll have to keep our eyes open.

On Louisiana Street, construction continues on the Boyd Viegel Building and it has already had at least two of its spots staked out. The facade is beginning to look like it could be finished at any time and its going to be a very pretty building on a busy street. So far, there are signs for Mellow Mushroom and Bayou Jack’s Cajun Grill.


Another new arrival has got everyone’s attention just around the corner on Tennessee Street, where Laura Moore Fine Art Studios surprised everyone a short time ago by moving to Lakewood. That space has already been taken by Emporium Pies which will be moving here from the Bishop Arts District in Dallas sometime in this fall.


The influx of new restaurants is no indication that the current restaurants have been slacking in any way. In fact,  The Pantry restaurant has – starting at various times over the summer – started serving breakfast, burgers, and Blue Bell.


Jesse, owner of Louisiana Street Grill has perfected his bread recipe this spring.  It is honestly the best I have ever had anywhere.


And you’ve got to try his new bacon wrapped stuffed jalapenos. (Five come with the plate but we ate two before I thought to get a picture.)


There are so many good restaurants downtown, it’s already difficult to routinely get by all of them.

Franconia is now available in bottles. Franconia, “the bier from here”, is a locally brewed German beer available in several flavors that I can neither pronounce nor spell.  Andy, the Wine Merchant, has had such an enthusiastic response to the availability of the bottles that he is going to have a sign made that he can hang in his window to let people know if he’s got some in stock or not.  Before this month, Franconia was only available in kegs but I’ve seen it on tap some pretty good distances from here.


In other (non-restaurant related) news …

There is a new place on Virginia Street that says “Letterpress Paper Goods” over the door. Katherine Robertson visited them in July and posted a great photo blog post.   The name of the business is actually Missing Q Press.


According to this video, Missing Q Press is a flagship store that create handcrafted paper goods:

Jenny Lynn’s spot on Louisiana has been filled by a new tenant, 540 Mercantile.  It may still say Jenny Lynn’s over the door but the Mercantile is open and ready for business.


Downtown 209 Salon has moved out to Stonebridge and their old space is, miraculously, still available.


Dawn’s Hair Salon has become Evolve.


Cadence Cyclery has expanded (for some time now) and their Saturday bike riding group is still pounding the pavement.


And the old filling station is finally getting a much needed face lift. Rumors abound about what will be coming in here. It sure will be fun to watch.


And the best part is that this isn’t even everything going on downtown.  The weather’s finally getting nicer, so it’s a great time to come spend an evening on the square if you haven’t been down in awhile.  Cadillac Pizza Pub is hosting a social run every Wednesday night at 7 PM with a different 2-mile route through the historic district each time. All paces are welcome. Maps of the routes are available at the pub when you arrive (and sometimes they post them on their Facebook page).

Until next time,

Happy Shopping!

6 Responses to “Is The Square Becoming the “Little Italy of North Texas”?”

  1. Cindy Pratt

    Don’t forget about us close to the square {corner of Virginia & Graves} and in business for over 20 years – Salon 205! Owned and operated by a McKinney native with wonderful friendly and talented stylists!

    • Beth

      Love your salon … I pass by there practically every day. I’ve added a link under “Downtown Beauty”.

  2. McKinney Mommas (@McKinneyMommas)

    Wow, well that’s a great roundup of the happenings in Downtown. I actually just purchased a Living Social deal for Evolve Hair Salon, so we’ll see how it goes! So excited about the new restaurants coming to the square. YUM!

  3. Jimmy-L

    Excited for Bayou Jack’s. The Fort Worth 7th Street location has some of the best Fish and Chips I’ve ever had!!


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