To characterize Cafe Malaga as a tapas restaurant doesn’t do it justice. Yes, the menu has tapas standards such as bacon-wrapped dates and patatas bravas. But there’s so much more going on at this extraordinary McKinney spot. Occupying a venerable old home with adjoining wooded patio, Cafe Malaga realizes the location’s good-natured charm. That’s due to the quiet hospitality of owner Annie Stokes, a native of England who could handily play the role of saloon-keeper in an old Western. Some tapas restaurants make you feel like you must bow to the tapas, but Cafe Malaga makes it feel like the tapas format is there to serve your needs. Menu items come in varying sizes—small and large for salads and soups and single or double servings for tapas and appetizers—to accommodate solo diners and tables looking to share. Those bacon-wrapped dates were so good that they obliterated memory of all other versions. The bacon was crisp on the edges, a little chewy in the middle; the date inside melted, instantly, into sweet jam. Sautéed spinach sounds ordinary, but it still had body. Golden raisins and toasted pine nuts made it luscious, while a generous hit of garlic added a fierce kick. Artichoke fritters were incredible, with a crunchy crust and a moist center of cooked fritter dough, studded with chunks of artichoke heart and the most lemony flavor. Patatas bravas, fried potatoes with sauce, were cut into narrow wedges, fried, then tossed in a thick glaze so fiery hot that it evoked tears and sniffles—dear sweet agony. If all that’s not enough, they just started doing breakfast on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

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