People lined up for one last plate of pancakes and eggs. They took photos of the iconic sign. They hugged friends and servers. On Sunday, July 31, Bill Smith’s Cafe closed its doors for good.

My family and I ordered one last plate of chicken fried steak and pancakes when we went right before it closed on Sunday. It was delicious.

Founded in 1956, Bill Smith’s Cafe was the oldest continuously owned family restaurant in Collin County, and a plaque from the county hung outside its door, commemorating that fact. “Bill Smith’s Cafe was originally designed as a one-room café featuring a grill, the center of all activity, in full view of the customers.” The cafe later expanded to four rooms to seat more patrons, and the days before it close, each one was packed.

Bill Smith’s was a time capsule — a taste of the McKinney that was. The small town has grown into an expanding city. The march of progress is exciting, sure, but also bittersweet.

Over the coming weeks, the restaurant will be torn down. But what’s next? “We don’t know,” said our waitress, who had only been working a few weekends when the news was announced. According to her, a private buyer made the purchase, and the details of the sale won’t be made until mid-September.

When Bill and Jeanette Smith originally opened the cafe, it was in the middle of a cotton patch. The establishment got a following thanks to its T-bone steaks and lunch specials. Bill Smith, Jr. later took over his parents’ business and ran the cafe. Now 83, Smith is attending to medical issues, but WFAA reports that his health didn’t prompt his decision. “I’ve opened up every morning for nearly 50 years,” Smith said. “I don’t want to tear up right now.”

Open no more. Photo: Brian Ashcraft | Local Profile

Brian Ashcraft

A native of North Texas, Brian Ashcraft previously lived in Japan for over two decades. He has authored six books, including the award-winning Japanese Whisky and The Japanese Sake Bible. Prior to joining...