I made reservations at the McNinch house for Kyle’s birthday. We walk by the charming house all the time and always talked about having dinner there someday. I knew this would be the perfect surprise for his birthday! The house looks like it was taken right out of a fairytale book and placed in the middle of the city. Its pink and plum with white details. I’m obsessed with the front porch. Everything about the house is magical.
The McNinch house is located in the Fourth Ward neighborhood (my favorite part of Charlotte.) The front yard is so inviting with its warm lighting and shaded trees along the sidewalks. It’s surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city, but once you walk through the gates, it’s as if the city doesn’t exist. It’s cozy, charming and historical.
The McNinch house gets its name from the original owner, Mayor Sam McNinch, a Charlotte Mayer. Sam McNinch served as the Mayor of Charlotte in 1905 until 1907. The restaurant and home is now owned by Ellen Davis (super business women), who is also the chef (with the help from executive chef Juan Garcia & sous chef Matthew Shepard), and has been treating guests like royalty for the past twenty-two years.
If you want to feel like a princess for one night, this place will make it all seem so real. It’s one of the most romantic restaurants in Charlotte. The dinner is worth every penny and something you must experience at least once in your life. It’s not like anything I’ve ever seen or would have imagined it to be like. If you’re thinking that it’s “too fancy” or “I don’t belong”, well that’s probably true. I definitely didn’t belong in a place like this (Sometime eat salad with my fingers), but they’ll make you feel like you’re the most important person to ever walked through their doors to dine. Even though it’s extremely elegant and fancy, you never once get the “hoity-toity” attitude. You’re simply graced with southern hospitality at its finest.
We weren’t in the mood for alcohol, so we skipped out on the wine, but I must mention that they are known for their selection and knowledge of fine-quality wine. If you are a wine connoisseur, this is your place. Wes, the wine steward, is a pretty big deal. He’s been working in the industry for twenty-one years and has trained at the New York’s Windows on the World Win School. I believe he’s worked at the McNinch house for thirteen years. He was so pleasant and loved to joke around. He gave us a little history lesson on the house.
All of the ceilings and woodwork in the house were so eye-catching. I couldn’t stop starring at all the detail. It was handcrafted by the same man who designed a lot of the woodwork at the Biltmore. I love the touches of purple throughout the house, indicating its royalty and elegance. The detail did not go unnoticed.
I loved the dinnerware they used. It has inspired me to set up some shelving in my office and seek new dinnerware for my recipe photos. I really felt like I was sitting at a table across from a King (oh wait I was.) The tablecloths were perfectly ironed, the forks were at temperatures that suited the meals, and fresh flowers were freshly displayed in vases. Some people may think that the classical music in the background is too cliche, but I appreciated it. I loved the mood it set and the pieces playing were beautiful and calming. To be perfectly honest, I’m listening to classical music now so I can try to relive this experience all over again while I write.
The only complaint I have is that everything on the menu sounded so decadent, that it was hard to choose. They reassured us that the one thing they don’t do there is rush, so we could take our time looking at the menu. And if you don’t know what something is, just ask because the staff is so informative and know everything about their menu. They don’t educate themselves for nothing. They are more than delighted to assist you in anyway. You’re royal, remember?
After ordering, we cheers to the perfect birthday dinner (and maybe the last dinner since skydiving was on the morning agenda.) Keeping that from Kyle was hard!
This will definitely be recreated in my kitchen. I will put the “Taralynn spin” on it, but it was truly an inspiring dish. It was a glassed filled with honey infused baked brie, watercress, sliced figs, peas and topped with a parmesan crisp. The flavors in this little appetizer were powerful and sent my tastebuds into their own little world. They know how to add beautiful detail and you can definitely recognize the artist in the kitchen through each plate.
We both selected the crab cake for one of our opening courses.
The crab cake was served over an avocado puree with a ruby red grapefruit, mango, cucumber & shaved radish.
I think most crab cakes taste the same at restaurants, but this one was unique. The breading had a southern take on it and all of the flavors were light and fulfilling. I loved the crunch texture with the light and fluffy crabmeat. I wish I could recreate something like this, but it was simply irresistible and something I may have to leave to the chef.
They brought out little baby cheddar biscuits that were so warm and the perfect match to a crab cake. I loved that they brought out bite sized and moderate portions. I didn’t feel like everything was so heavy and hard to force down. The portions kept you wanting more and that is exactly what a good restaurant should do.
I couldn’t get over the ice cold fork they brought out for my salad. Little fancy touches like this is what makes the experience more memorable. (be right back, putting forks in the freezer.)
I loved that our dinner was long and enjoyable. There was no waiting in-between courses. Once we were done with one course (on our time) they’d grab the plates from table and serve the next course within seconds. The dinner was at our pace and never rushed, or too slow. I call that a good course flow.
Course Three (mine)
I chose the tomato & peach salad. It had North Carolina peaches, heirloom tomatoes, Burrata cheese, black benne wafers & a peach vinaigrette. The combination of fresh homegrown produce with the Burrata cheese was so unique and simply genius. Burrata cheese is an Italian cheese made up of mozzarella and cream. The best way to describe a black benne wafer would be almost like a sweet cookie and seed cracker combined. I love the idea of adding a sweet crunch to the salad instead of savory croutons. It really brought out the sweet flavor of the Carolina peaches. This gives me so many great ideas for future salads in my kitchen. See the little black specks on top of the dish? I bet you can’t guess what that is (I couldn’t)…it’s lava ash salt.
Course Three (Kyles)
I asked which one I should go with, the two melon Gazpacho or the tomato & peach salad and she said her favorite is the salad, so Kyle ordered the Gazpacho so I could try it. I knew something was up when he didn’t order the she crab soup. I love the little things that he does. Gazpacho is such a fun thing to try. It originates from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. It’s so refreshing and the type of soup you can eat during the hot months because it’s made from raw vegetables and served cold. I’m surprised Luna’s Kitchen doesn’t have it on their summer menu (or maybe they do.)
This two melon Gazpacho was made with chilled honeydew melon, cantaloupe, watermelon, Creme Fraiche, honey, lime and extra virgin olive oil. It almost tasted like a dessert. It was so refreshing and screamed “summer.” The Creme Fraiche is kind of like sour cream but more sweet and buttery.
The perfect amount of house made intermezzo strawberry sorbet with a mint leaf on top. Most people think that sorbet is mainly for dessert (and it usually is) but it’s a great palate cleaner and prepares you for the next course. I learned this while dining in France a couple years ago. The cold sorbet is a nice contrast for the next meal being served. Sorbet should never be too sweet, and theirs was just right. This is why they call it “Intermezzo” because it’s served between the acts (courses.)
I love salmon, but sometimes restaurants don’t cook it well, so I get nervous to order it. Nothing worse than ordering overly salted and dry salmon (and it happens way too often.) I had no fear of the “salmon fails” at the McNinch house and they proved me to be right. The pan-seared salmon was served over a celery root puree with warm North Carolina plums, wild rice, sautéed fennel, watercress salad and carrots.
I never would have thought warm plums would be delicious, and paired with salmon? The culinary talent kept shining through all the meals. They really think out of the box. The salmon was so good. Light and flakey, crisp on the edges, flavored well without overly salted seasonings, and it melted in your mouth. I’m a huge fan of fennel (tastes like black licorice) and theirs was the best I’ve ever had. I loved how light (but still filling) our meals were.
Course Five: Kyles
I find that restaurants keep the Filet Mignon on the smaller and overcooked side, not this place. The Filet Mignon was larger than the average. It was served with a parsnip puree, carrots, Bordelaise, North Carolina plums and farmer’s market broccoli. The chef knew how to cook a steak (Not surprised) and it came out medium rare to a tee. It was flavored so well and all of the sauces were magical. Bordelaise sauce is a popular French steak sauce. It’s usually made up of dry red wine, bone marrow, butter, shallots and demi-glace (Demi-glaze sauce is just a base sauce for other sauces.)
They brought out the best homemade southern style mini buttermilk biscuits to clean the plates with. They know what’s up.
Course Six: Kyles
I love my dessert more an anything, an especially paired with coffee, but because I’m trying to give up the late night/afternoon coffee I said, “no thanks” and it was hard! Coffee is my palate cleaner. Even without coffee, the dessert was what I’d imagine food in heaven tasting like. You couldn’t recreate this dessert at home, only in the kitchen at the McNinch house. The ice cream was milky and not overly sweet; you could even taste the fresh vanilla in each bite. The seasonal spices from the oat streusel and warm cinnamon North Carolina peaches danced with the ice cream as it entered your mouth. The bottom of the dessert was made up of phyllo dough and it almost tasted like baklava.
Course Six: Mine
I chose the apricot mousse, almond chantilly cream, blueberry jam, peanut brittle, boiled peanut ice cream, blackberries and farmers market grapes. I would normally go for a chocolate dessert, but this one screamed my name. I was sold at blackberry.
The dessert was so airy and fluffy like a cloud. I loved he light scoop of ice cream with the blueberry jam and peanut brittle crunches. It was fresh and light, just the way dessert should be!
There wasn’t a drop left on our plates.
Oh, why yes I do accept this rose!
They give the ladies a rose at the end of the meal; I think that is such a classy and lovely touch.
The bathroom is an experience alone.
Can we just talk about this Chandelier for a second? It makes the bathroom look so elegant and a place I’d want to hang out in. I really loved the feminine feel. It makes me want an older home to fix up like this. (A girl can dream)
This The Complete Live and Learn and Pass It On book was so cute and I’ve already ordered on on Amazon. I think it makes a great coffee table book.
“I’ve learned that when I get close to people who are full of anger, their anger spills over onto me. But when I get close to people who are full of love, their love soils over onto me.”
I wanted to keep reading it, but I didn’t want to spend all night in the bathroom, so I purchased it!
I loved the hand towel idea. They had a big basket full of folded handtowels and a little laundry basket next to it. I want to do something like this. I love getting inspiration from other people and places.
One more time with the Chandelier.
I didn’t want to leave and I know I’ll be back (hopefully during Christmas.) This has been added to my list of “Charlotte Must-Do’s” and I highly recommend splurging for one night. You deserve it.
You get to feel what it’s like to be Kate Middleton and Prince William for three hours of your life. Although, I wonder if Kate Middleton ever throws her sweats on and plops on the couch in front of the T.V. with chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese? I think I’d miss that.
The home of World-class Fine Dining in Charlotte, the McNinch House recently won its 16th consecutive Four Diamond designation from AAA, is listed as one of the top “extraordinary” restaurants in America by Zagat’s Dining Guide, and has consistently been voted by critics and customers alike as Charlotte’s Most Romantic Restaurant. Our wine list has won numerous awards including Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence and Wine Enthusiast’s Award of Distinction.
We had the perfect dinner and I wouldn’t have wanted to experience it with anyone else <3
It was so fun to finally walk through the gates this time instead of walking straight on by. The “wondering what it would be like” is finally over.
Questions for my lovely readers!
- Have you ever had an experience where you felt like royalty?
- Do you love old historic homes or modern homes?
- What is one dinnertime manner you were taught as a kid?