Stroll through Downtown McKinney and you’ll come across Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen just off the beaten track, right next to its sibling Butcher Board, a new sandwich shop from the same owner.
Stepping into Sugarbacon, I immediately sensed that I was somewhere cool. Everything—the low, warm lighting from the repurposed industrial lamps overhead; the sanded but unvarnished wood tables; the exposed brick walls, the flashy decor—is downright artsy. Everything feels repurposed in a new and innovative way. Creativity is in the air.
“It’s not typical McKinney. It’s more upscale,” Barbara said. “It feels more like something you’d find in Dallas.” Each booth, under its own lamp, feels cozy and quiet for perusing the menu in peace. At first glance, it’s bold. The offerings fit on one page and they’re anything but simple. Everything is uniquely Sugarbacon.
The bar is presented in the main room with a wall of spirits behind it. Sugarbacon has a generous happy hour, and the offerings are pretty tempting. The Watermelon Crush, for example, is a rum drink garnished with a slice of watermelon floating amid ice cubes and flavored with fresh lemon and cucumber. It isn’t overly sweet but pleasant and hyper-refreshing, mostly due to the generous use of cucumber. It dominates for a very fresh taste. The Maple Whiskey Smash has the same welcome hint of citrus. Rejuvenating and crisp, due to the mint, it’ll take you back to summertime. It seems as if cucumber, mint and lemon were harvested from the garden out back, plucked or peeled, and mixed right into the drinks.
Beginning with the signature appetizer, Sugarbacon ($11), it’s a question of the chicken or the egg. What came first, the restaurant or the dish? In this case, Sugarbacon the restaurant was born before the bespoke appetizer which, according to owner Johnny Carros, took three weeks of trial and error to develop. Sick of eating bacon, Johnny was ready to throw in the towel. The chef asked for one more shot. The result is a unique and iconic appetizer, the bestseller on the menu.
“It’s an art,” Johnny explained. “It takes a couple of days to produce it, start to finish.” It doesn’t look like much. It’s toasted, buttered bread topped with a thick pickle and a neat cube of pork belly–essentially, bacon–the size of a LEGO square, lightly basted in homemade BBQ sauce. On first bite, it’s perfect. The dill pickle highlights the vinegar laced in the sauce, and the slightly toasted bread has a satisfying crunch when paired with mouthwatering pork belly, as tender as sin. It’s finished with the barest hint of salt from the butter, contrasting the sweet sauce for a balanced bite.
The chef’s seasonal pairings for Burrata ($15) changes with the seasons. Burrata itself is a soft cheese, similar to mozzarella, with a creamy, almost liquid center. For fall, it meets its match with grilled Granny Smith apples, apple butter, raisin jam and deliciously smoky grilled sourdough bread, dotted with currants. The Granny Smith is a great choice because it’s naturally a little tart, so the addition of apple butter rounds it out rather than drowning the burrata in sweetness. The flavor of this unique cheese is kept distinct, but elevated with its pairings. It is particularly well done.
Scallops as a main dish can be a little risky, since they can easily fall flat. In these cases, scallops are sometimes benched and offered only as additions or sides. Sugarbacon’s Caramelized Sea Scallops ($27) resemble three little hills standing tall in a bed of sweet creamed corn, decadent but light. With a light golden char on top, the scallops are clean and unencumbered. You can practically still taste the sea on them. They aren’t a let down at all; they’re delicately seasoned and presented so that you’re left wanting more. These scallops shine.
Shrimp and grits ($17) are the epitome of modern Southern cooking and can be found in any restaurant with even a hint of southern pride. It’s a staple and an exceptionally cheery dish, comfort food at its grittiest. Sugarbacon’s grits are indulgent with a strong cheesy flavor and a little jalapeño, though I would have liked a little more. The shrimp are slathered in a mixture of caramelized onions and fresno jam that resembles chili, which livened the shrimp up, rather than weighing them down.
The Smoked Berkshire Pork Chop ($26) comes sitting in natural jus and green chile hominy. Ancho-apple salad adds spice and color on top. Pork chops can be one of the hardest meats to cook and are often overcooked because of old fears about its safety.
“There are only two other places I’ve ever been that cook pork chop this well,” Barbara said. “Artin’s and Perry’s.” There’s a hickory tang from the grill that resembles the smokiness of a good BBQ sauce. The taste is interesting and pure, tender and uncomplicated, spiced up with the crisp ancho-apple salad. It’s got charm, heart and is so well done, it’s just wonderful.
For dessert came a banana pudding worth Instagramming. Butterscotch Banana Pudding ($7) features layers of butterscotch pudding, bananas foster, whipped mascarpone and shortbread, scooped generously into a mason jar. It’s definitely something to savor out on the porch. The mascarpone crown is very thick and creamy, not overly sweet. So once you dive through to the bananas foster at the bottom, the intense sweetness is welcome. It’s all deliciously chilled. “It’s like a fluffy, sweet cloud with caramel on top. How bad can it be?” Barbara said, which sums it up best.
The name Sugarbacon comes from the union of two words that make you smile and think. It’s unexpected; quirky and surprising yet upscale, relaxed while retaining the subtle touch of elegance. Sugarbacon elevates Southern food to the level of fine dining and even makes it slightly healthier. Not much healthier, but where would the fun be in that? Stop by as soon as you can.
Sugarbacon Proper Kitchen
- Mon.–Thurs.: 11 a.m.–9:30 p.m.
- Fri. & Sat.: 11 a.m.–10 p.m.
- Sunday Brunch: 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Where: 216 W. Virginia, Ste. #100, McKinney, TX 75069
More: 469.952.5150 | sugarbacon.com
Originally published in Plano Profile‘s November 2016 issue.