A neighborhood restaurant in McKinney. Photo by Kevin Marple.

Food & Drink

What To Eat in the Texas Suburbs, Really

Some people took offense to an article in The Atlantic that named Taco Bell among the best food options in the Dallas suburbs. We have better suggestions.

Some people are having a blast tearing into an article published online Tuesday by The Atlantic, “What to Eat in the Texas Suburbs.” With good reason. It’s a little condescending—“other [things I ate] were maybe a standard deviation more Texas than the average fast-food meal, yet might be accessible in your impersonal, master-planned suburban home”—and a lot bad, loaded with ignorant recommendations that paint Dallas and its suburbs as a godforsaken wasteland devoid of taste, culture, and diversity. Of the author’s six picks for restaurants to visit in the Dallas suburbs, five are national chains, and only one could be considered of local origin. (I will go to bat for the Dairy Queen endorsement, if only because something about it does seem quintessentially “Texas road trip.”)

Even allowing for the notion that these are exclusively “fast food” picks (the alternate, Google-able headline on the story is “The Best Fast Food Near Dallas”), it’s still missing one obvious and extremely Texan choice, Whataburger, as well as other fast North Texas options that readers of The Atlantic who find themselves “in North-Central Texas” may enjoy trying. You can eat Taco Bell anywhere, but you’re not going to find many honey butter chicken biscuits outside of Texas.

This bad list is not indicative of the death of journalism. I think we can cool it on that. It’s a breezy little online piece of the sort that keeps the content wheel turning while you work on other things that require more time and serious investment. The day after the dismissible “What to Eat in the Texas Suburbs,” the author had her byline on this great long story on the life-expectancy gap between African-Americans and white people in Baltimore. So we’re not going to pile on the author, a McKinney native, for maybe resenting her unglamorous hometown, or for allowing people to think that there’s nothing to eat in the Texas suburbs but Chick-Fil-A. But North Texans are prickly about being misunderstood, particularly when it comes to food, and this does seem like a chance to note some actual good places to eat in the suburbs. (And to promote some of our food guides from the last couple years.)

The Dallas suburbs are, for one thing, absolutely full of international cuisine. Indian, Korean, Japanese. In Richardson, Afrah serves maybe the best Lebanese and Mediterranean food in town. SpicyZest, a Sri Lankan restaurant in Farmers Branch I visited on recommendation of the Dallas Observer a month or two ago, is transcendent.

If you’re road-tripping and want to try the best kolaches in Texas, well, here’s where to find them. And if we’re limiting ourselves to fast food, why not guide readers to Texas-based fast food chains that aren’t Dickey’s? There’s the aforementioned Whataburger, but what about Torchy’s, or Shipley Do-Nuts?

But for a genuine guide to the best restaurants in Dallas’ suburbs, I’ll defer to the professionals here, who put together this guide to “The Best Neighborhood Restaurants” in April 2017.

Here’s just the section on McKinney:

If you’re not lucky enough to live here, make it a day trip. This city to the north knows food, from the Saturday Farmers Market at Chestnut Square to Steak 101 classes at the Local Yocal butcher shop. Stop at San Miguel Grill for Tex-Mex, Jim’s Pizza for a slice of pie, or Sicily’s Pizza Pasta Restaurant for Italian comfort food. The Pantry Restaurant is where little old ladies go for lunch, while Bakers Drive In is where high schoolers go for hamburgers and sweet tea. At Harvest, you’ll find farm-to-table at its best. At Spoons Cafe, you’ll find the strawberry cake of naughty dreams. Bill Smith’s Café has been around since 1956, cooking up chicken fried steak and home-style classics for three generations.