I’ve been living in McKinney, Texas for five years now, and I’ve driven past this fabulous vintage neon sign too many times to count. This last Saturday, with my daughter, her fiancé, and my teenage son in tow, I finally stopped to take this photo and try out the food. I never should have waited so long!
Step Back in Time
The old cafe sign that welcomed us from the parking lot was just the beginning of this amazing experience. When we stepped through the door of Bill Smith’s Cafe, which, by the way, is the oldest restaurant in town, we were immediately transported back to the 1950s:
Customers, sitting on classic diner bar stools, lined the cafe’s front counter, sipping steaming coffee.
Pies, fresh from the oven, cooled behind the counter.
The smells of fresh coffee and bacon grease clung to the air.
Waitresses hurried about, placing orders and picking up steaming plates of food under old “Order Here” and “Pick Up Here” signs that hung over their waitress station.
Vintage advertising signs covered the cafe walls: Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Grapette soft drink, Ford trucks, cigarettes, and so many more.
An antique brass cash register waited for customers at the front counter, where they need cash to pay their bill.
The cafe is seat yourself, and on this Saturday morning, the brunch crowd packed all three of the dining rooms. We were lucky enough to find a booth in the front room, where we could see the waitresses and kitchen in action (and the pies…oh yes, the pies!). I couldn’t stop looking around at all the Americana that literally filled the entire café…this surely would be a picker’s idea of heaven!
The breakfast menu is full of home-cooked favorites… made-to-order eggs, crispy bacon, sausage, grits, French toast, waffles, and the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever eaten (and that was just our order!).
Plus, it wouldn’t be a Texas cafe without chicken fried steak on the menu…even for breakfast!
The serving sizes were huge, yet there wasn’t a lick of food left when our waitress cleared our plates. None of us were willing to let a morsel of that home-cooked goodness go to waste! (I admit, I had to go home and put on my stretchy pants after all that food!)
It All Started in a Cotton Field
In 1956, when McKinney, Texas boasted a population of a little over 10,000 people, Bill Smith opened the doors of his new eatery. Aptly named, Bill Smith’s Cafe resided in a brand new building outside of town, right in the middle of a cotton patch, surrounded by vast fields with the never-ending Texas sky overhead.
Many locals thought it would never succeed so far from town, but the cafe was an instant – and long-lived – success! Today, locals keep coming back for more; personally, I stopped for the vintage neon sign, stayed for the pancakes, and will be going back soon for the chicken fried steak!