Aaron Thomas’ first career was in music—he was a percussionist—but his family background led him to the restaurant business.
Éclair Bistro has been in historic downtown McKinney for a year and is thriving because of its made-from-scratch entrees and personalized service, said Aaron, the owner and executive chef.
“I guess you could say I’ve got a strong food heritage,” he said. “We’re not a corporate place. It’s about community and family.”
Aaron oversees many aspects of the bistro, from recipes to the menu, entree presentation, food preparation and service. His father handles the front of the restaurant and customer seating; his wife, Tarita, runs the upstairs lounge; and his mother, Lynn, is the designated shopper.
“She loves to shop, and we shop for ourselves,” Aaron said. “Just a few of our ingredients are shipped in. I give her a list of what we need, and she goes out and finds the local products.”
Creativity from his days as a musician has helped Aaron craft dishes and a menu that keep customers coming back, he said.
“We cook how we like and what we like,” he said. “When you’re playing music, you look at the notes and realize what instruments you need. When I’m considering a dish to add to the menu, I experiment at home, but I know what ingredients work best.”
That was the case for one of the favorites on the menu. Aaron said he “smoked out his house” while finding the proper preparation for the bistro’s Smoked Atlantic Salmon. Although the menu is seasonal and Aaron tinkers with its composition, the apple wood-smoked dish is so popular that it has become a staple.
Aaron’s grandmother was from New Orleans, but the family’s Greek and Italian heritage permeates the menu. He describes the menu as “contemporary American with strong French undertones,” but strives to keep it from being pretentious.
“We get a lot of reaction from people: ‘Wow, this is better than anything I’ve had,’” Aaron said. “Sometimes people will say they haven’t had food like this since they were in France.”
A main reason for that is the hand-crafted attention to detail, Aaron said. For Valentine’s Day, halibut was on the menu. The fillets were hand-cut from a 400-pound halibut, he said.
Éclair Bistro offers fine dining downstairs and drinks and jazz upstairs.[/caption]
Éclair Next Level is located above the main restaurant and Aaron describes it as a sophisticated lounge with live jazz every Friday night. Though sometimes parking can be an issue, Éclair Bistro accommodates its customers with its own parking lot across the street.
Éclair Bistro was originally located in Cedar Hill before Aaron decided to move closer to his family.
“When we considered moving locations, McKinney seemed like the perfect place,” Thomas said. “Being located so close to the old town square, we’re in a place where we offer a unique dining experience.”
216 E. Virginia St.
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Wed.-Sat., closed Sun.-Tue.