Lost in the tsunami of new restaurant openings in Charlotte is the joy found in rediscovering the city’s venerable dining stalwarts.

Many of Charlotte’s best dining institutions may not get the trendy Instagram postings or social media love of the new kids on the block but are no less worthy of our praise and patronage. Case in point: Uptown’s McNinch House.

One of Charlotte’s most venerated fine dining establishments for nearly 30 years, McNinch House tempts couples, romantics and the culinary curious to the restaurant housed in a Fourth Ward home listed National Historic Register.

Owner Ellen Davis delivers a romantic and relaxed affair, in which the renovated 1890s Queen Anne home is as much a star as the progression of beautifully crafted plates. With acres between the tables, an extensive wine list and reservations (required) on the half-hour, diners enjoy plenty of space and the full attention of the knowledgeable staff.

“There’s such an influx of new people coming to our city,” said Davis. “We want to introduce newcomers and welcome old friends to the special hospitality and fine dining experience here.”

Owner Ellen Davis

Up and coming executive chef Matthew Shepard is coming into his own after just under a year helming the kitchen at McNinch. Sheppard, a Johnson & Wales grad, creates seasonal menus he characterizes as the offspring of French and Southern cuisine.

“We offer five- and seven-course tasting menus allowing us to focus specifically on each diner,” said Shepard (a special chef’s tasting table is also available). “We seat 40, the table is yours for the entire evening. It really makes a difference in how were able to treat each guest.”

Executive chef Matthew Shepard

A recent tasting featured several McNinch signature dishes: A lush Lobster Carbonara, Lump Crab Cake with Louisiana Style Remoulade, and Rosemary and Dijon Crusted New Zealand Rack of Lamb.

Wagyu Beef Tartar
Pan Seared Duck with Turnips, Baby Carrots, Toasted Pepitas, Orange Segments, Trumpet Mushrooms, Leeks and Orange Demi-Glace.

Wines are curated by longtime sommelier and wine steward Anthony Wesley, a graduate of New York’s Windows on the World Wine School. He demystifies wine selection and helps find the perfect complement to enhance the dining experience.

McNinch is committed to supporting local growers and providers. The menu is filled with produce, dairy and proteins from Mount Holly’s Green Pastures Urban Farm, Lincolnton’s Hoffman Heritage and Heirloom, Bosky Acres out of Waxhaw, Blue Bird Farm in Morganton, Tega Hills Farm from Tega Cay and many others.

“Many people think of us as a special occasion only restaurant,” said Shepard. “We have regulars come in once a month however.”

Dining here is not something you do before going out for the evening, dining here IS your evening — and what an evening it is.

Photos: Courtesy of McNinch House; Michael J. Solender.

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