On the main square of historic downtown McKinney is a little unexpected hidden gem, a narrow, intimate space that brings a breath of urban air to the otherwise sleepy suburb. That treasure is Café Malaga with its simple warm orange walls, dim lighting, cozy European café feel, and the best wine list in McKinney.
Café Malaga’s menu is comprised mostly of tapas in single or double servings. Despite its suburban location, there is little on the menu that screams “safe” or “toned down.” Simple items fare the best: roasted red pepper and onion mojete is a juicy dish of mild sweetness grounded by fresh basil served with baguette slices to mop up the sauce,
portabello mushrooms are sautéed in a sherry cream sauce to create an addictive savory sweet sensation (ask for some baguette slices to soak up this sauce, too!),
bacon wrapped dates play on the classic salty-sweet combination with the crispy bacon adding textural depth to the pulpous dates, and fresh Texas goat cheese stuffed, thin-skinned piquillo peppers get extra zing from lime zest and seem to be the highlight of any Café Malaga visit.
More elaborate dishes are still good, but not as memorable. The subtle differences between the cheeses are lost in the messy, gooey five-cheese spinach and artichoke fondue. Served with deep fried pita triangles reminiscent of county fair funnel cake, this fondue dish is simply rich upon rich without a break.
Wood grilled hanger steak and the oven fried potatoes that accompany it seem perpetually overcooked, steak is slightly tough and potato skins have an unpleasant burnt smokiness to them. However, the strong paprika-blue cheese vinaigrette poured over the bite-sized steak pieces and potatoes help cover some of the dish’s shortcomings.
Service is sufficient but indifferent, a bit lacking for a true romantic ambiance but feels authentically European at the same time. So if you are craving a night away from the kids and Hamburger Helper, then call the babysitter and book a grownup evening at Café Malaga. Hint: there is live music every second Saturday of the month.
Rating: 4 / 5
111 W. Virginia St.
McKinney, TX 75069