Past flickering lanterns and an outdoor patio, heavy wooden rafters and a crackling fireplace give Churchill’s British Restaurant & Pub a downright Dickensian feel. From behind the wooden bar, bartenders sling an impressive collection of drinks, including 13 specialty cocktails, nine beers on tap, and 20 kinds of scotch. Complementing the suds and sips are classic British pub offerings such as bangers and mash and shepherd’s pie, alongside American eats, including meatloaf and chicken tenders that have declared their independence from the rest of the bird. Underneath hanging beer steins and a massive Union Jack, guests can lounge on leather sofas or pleasantly worn wooden chairs as soccer matches flicker on TV screens. When there’s not a match on, pub-goers can play darts or pool in the game room, listen to live rock and bagpipe music, or play trivia on Wednesday nights.
Bob Landon has been making wine for decades, but he didn't always have French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks at his disposal. His first forays into small-batch winemaking took place in his basement, but like Batman's love of justice, his hobby was soon elevated to a profession. Today, he and the Landon Winery staff cultivate Texas–grown viognier and tempranillo grapes into a rotating selection of house varietals.
At either location, oenophiles can deepen their knowledge of wines or simply explore the facilities. The McKinney location features an old well that dates back more than 150 years, and the 15,000 square foot Greenville location boasts more than 100 oak barrels filled with grapey blends and one batch of orange juice just pretending. Landon Winery also hosts events and classes that allow visitors to pair wines with food, sample sips, and make their own custom wines.
On the Gather McKinney website, mother-daughter pair Jennifer Klassen and Crystal Bryant claim to "know no strangers." That's because everyone who steps into Gather McKinney—the pair's event venue—becomes part of the celebration. The space has hosted weddings, receptions, and showers, all with the help of a trained staff that plans as many or as few details as the client needs. They can handle everything from the ceremony to the seating arrangements, or simply find the right flowers to suit a color scheme. Outside of matrimony, Gather McKinney uses almost any excuse to throw a party, including corporate networking meetings, bar mitzvahs, and festivities for traditional and obscure holidays alike.
Though the space's decor can be customized, Gather most often features a mix of rustic and Victorian aesthetics. Inside, an exposed brick wall meets an embossed tin ceiling, which glitters with Swarovski crystal chandeliers. Plants sprout from Roman-style urns or sport Christmas lights. Even the smallest touches demand hands-on attention, such as the twine wrapped around the silverware sets.
The silverware is far more than a decoration, however. Guests make good use of their forks for each meal, when Mexican, Italian, or down-home dinner entrees grace the tables. Gather also serves homemade lunch every Thursday through Saturday, where the sandwich selection includes a pastrami reuben and the Monte Crispo—turkey breast and gouda cheese between jalapeño cornbread, dipped in egg batter and flash-fried. On Sundays, there's a BYOB brunch buffet with a scrambled-egg bar and pecan french-toast casserole.
Coffee Squared's Cuvee-trained baristas steam and beautify specialty drinks with skill as they multitask to craft pastries and sandwiches. Rich coffee ($1.75–$2.25) widens the drooping eyelids of patrons as steam billows up from piping-hot cups of organic Mighty Leaf tea ($2.05–$2.45) plucked from sustainable farms. Iced white mochas ($3.95–$4.25) send energizing chills down spines as masterfully brewed espresso and sweet cocoa tango down throat chutes. Guests can feel free to sink into sumptuous leather club chairs to work remotely or look up their elvish pseudonym on Coffee Squared's free WiFi network while gobbling up sandwiches and pastries ($1.75–$5) from a rotating menu. The list of hunger quenchers showcases such treats as cranberry blondies and kolacky—fruit poised in buttery dough rounds. Red brick peeks out from behind strategically destroyed drywall in the cozy cafe, creating an artistic canvas on which contemporary paintings hang and at which guests can look while daydreaming or free associating about masonry, freemasonry, the Founding Fathers, and mothers that have a tendency to get lost.
On any given day, Sarah Halterman can be found making handbags, corsets, baseball jerseys, or guitars—out of cake. Once an elementary schoolteacher, she founded Sweet Art Bakery in 2007 as an outlet for her love of custom baking. Today, she leads a team of five design assistants who help her turn 10 cake flavors such as dark chocolate, red velvet, strawberry, and spice into works of art suited to her customers' specifications and interests. She breathes life into her treats with 10 types of filling and icing, which include raspberry preserves, peanut-butter mousse, and chocolate buttercream. When not crafting custom cakes or their miniature cupcake cousins, Sarah fashions butter-citrus sugar cookies into the shapes of hats, owls, and snowmen, rolls cake balls and profiteroles, and dips strawberries in chocolate. She also leads monthly cake-decorating classes which, though geared toward beginners, also teach experienced bakers how to execute advanced kitchen moves or protect cakes from impatient guests by disguising them as scary predators.