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Sunday Afternoon in McKinney, TX

Reading Time: 4 minutes read

“Ain’t no need to take more than you can carry, son. All that fancy pride won’t feed you, out there.”

McKinney is a little town in North Texas. In the fine tradition of Texas towns, its historic district is centered around the courthouse square. It gets a little crowded on weekend afternoons, though Texas crowded is a different thing from, say, New York crowded. This here is a collaborative description of a Sunday afternoon in McKinney.

By Ami Hale, Ben Wilson and Meagan Wilson

The Celt
By Ben Wilson

Photo by Benjamin Wilson

Walking into The Celt, I take the dark, steep wooden staircase on my left, past the signs, towards the strains of music floating down. I take a brief glance at the stage, see a young woman and young man, one singing, one playing an instrument. It sounds good; a good mix of covers, from Nine Inch Nails to Johnny Cash, and plenty of things in between. They’re young, and the music is fresh. They’re either talented, well-trained, or both, and it fits; she has a good voice in the Alto to Soprano range, and it takes me back to the Kennedy theater, watching the Irish dancers.
Editor’s note: the young musicians are known, collectively, as Harber Row.

The bar is a not-too-large affair up here, with what’s known as an “Irish Coffin” tap arrangement, dark hardwoods and a footrail.

Inside The Celt Irish Pub in McKinney TX.
Photo by Benjamin Wilson

We present our IDs, sign the form indicating membership in a ‘private club’ – a strange thing that people in Texas often have to do to get around this fiction of the state being ‘dry’, despite Texans loving food, beer and whiskey – and order. The beer is cold, from Tupps and several other close-by breweries, and the food is an authentic-tasting bangers and mash.

Photo by Benjamin Wilson

I also drink a Dragon’s Milk – New Holland Brewing, and a pretty damn good Imperial Stout. It’s not in the Weyerbacher – North Coast range yet, but give it time, friends. That’ll be a good one, most likely. The barrel aged version that I tipple is especially good, without some of the sour notes you often pick up from bourbon barrels. Must have a good group of barrel blenders.

And we finish our beers, pay the lass, and walk out into the peaceful, happy sunshine, down the street to get some pie. Yeah, McKinney is pretty awesome.

Sweet as Pie
By Meagan Wilson

Emporium Pies is the sort of small-town shop you could live near and never visit, unless someone told you about it. Lucky for you, someone is.

Dr. Love at Emporium Pies.
Photo by Meagan Wilson

With names like Blue Steel, The Drunken Nut, and Dr. Love, these are not your grandmother’s pies. Yes, yes, your grandma probably made great pies, crusts full of Crisco and love, and no one else will ever bake like her. Bu that’s quite beside the point.

The folks at Emporium Pies are friendly and cheerful, just as you’d expect from a North Texas berg. They’ve got good coffee, too. The cup of drip I ordered was a perfect pairing with my slice of Dr. Love. All of the pies are made with butter crust, and some sort of black magic that makes them way better than anything you can get in even the better class of supermarket bakery.


Blue Steel is a really, really really really good-looking blueberry pie. It tastes delicious, too. There’s not a hint of artificiality or shallowness in this pie.

The Drunken Nut is a pecan pie to end pecan pies. In its spare time, it probably hunts down lesser pecan pies and displays their crusts as trophies on its wall. Or it just sits innocently on the plate, waiting to be eaten. You’re free to draw your own conclusions.

Dr. Love is a red velvet chess pie with cheesecake swirls that will make you believe in six impossible things before breakfast (or at least wish you could eat pie for breakfast). It’s like a super smooth fudgy brownie. The cheesecake swirls keep the pie from getting too heavy, though it is dense.
If you find yourself in McKinney and looking for a snack, Emporium Pies is the place to go.

I mean, who doesn’t like beer?
By Ami Hale

If you just rolled your eyes, you probably haven’t drank great beer. Also, you made it through the pie—what’s a few more lines? Where was I? Oh,  yeah. Who doesn’t like beer? But when you’re stuffed on bangers an’ mash, then you went and had the genius plan to top those sausages off with bourbon pecan pie…well, but, when can I say “no” to a fresh Imperial Saison at 9.4%? “No, please, don’t pour me that deliciously dry draught of the gods!”

Imperial Saison at Tupps Brewery.
Photo by Ami Hale

Seriously, it was so crisp in the nose and buttery at the bottom of my plastic pint, I thought This could be a chardonnay. NOT because I am pale of complexion and was drinking in the Texas Spring sunshine—I rarely ever hallucinate whilst drinking good beer. I was certainly not imagining the beer bottle tree or the tiny people playing in the puddle bayou in the middle of the concrete beer garden. But that is neither here nor there.

The bottle trees are real, yall.
Photo by Ami Hale

We sat for a while on the paint-spattered two-by-four lawn chairs, and listened to a couple good ol’ boys from Allen tell stories about fishin’ for hal-ee-buts, and to the drudgery of a wedding planner who received little-to-no input from her waifish and uninterested-in-beer bride (between you and me, her wedding didn’t sound like much fun).

The melodic sounds of human half-pints playing their School of Rock versions of Teen Spirit and What’s Up (the latter being my personal favorite), the sun and the beer and company all inspired a feeling like we’d had a pretty good day. I mean, where the fuck were you on Sunday? Not at Tupps Brewery—I would’ve noticed. Of course, then I realized it was only 3 p.m. and there was still a whole lot of day left. So, I went home and drank out of a glass glass.

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Pacific Northwest native, travel and craft beverage writer. Exploring the intersections where beer (and coffee and spirits), food, travel and culture meet.

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