The Historic McNinch House Restaurant
Our Queen City harbors a host of historic homes. Some of theme remain only in the shadows of old foundations; others still stand as the regal residences of Charlotte’s elite. A few have been updated and outfitted to house (literally) local businesses and eateries, including the memorable McNinch House.
More than 100 years ago, in 1891, one Vinton Liddell purchased the property at the address of 511 North Church Street in Charlotte’s historic Fourth Ward. The McNinches who would soon come to reside in the home built by Liddel were the cream of Charlotte’s aristocracy for generations. The first of four Sam McNinches served as Charlotte’s mayor from 1905 to 1907 and hosted President William Howard Taft at the house in 1909. His descendants opened businesses and helped Charlotte become the boom town it is today.
And at the center of their lives stood the McNinch House, an authentic Queen Anne style home decked in shingles and wrapped in stooped porches. Architectural experts in the ‘70s argued the home was possibly the finest representative of the classic style in the state.
Following the death of McNinch’s daughter Mattie in 1977, the house fell into the hands of Ellen Davis, who painstakingly restored it to the height of its historic charm and opened the McNinch House Restaurant in its lower floor 22 years ago.
Renowned as one of Charlotte’s finest restaurants, today the kitchen is the territory of Chef Matthew Shepard. “Apparently I was born with a spatula in my hand,” he says with a laugh. Like so many Charlottean chefs, the Southern cook got his start in grandma’s kitchen, then progressed into his own art. “I felt like a scientist. I still do,” he says of those early days.
At The McNinch House, that science is translated into seasonal, traditional fare. The dishes are delightfully Southern and purely timeless, presented as multi-course experiences that veer into showmanship.
As much as he loves food, even Matthew recognizes that what truly distinguishes the McNinch House is, in fact, the house. “I think that the most special thing about the McNinch House would be the ambiance,” he notes. “The house is almost 125 years old. It still holds its charm. When you step inside the front door you can’t hear the sound of the city—it’s like a getaway inside the city.”