Nestled on the shoreline of Lake Wylie and neighboring the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, the McLean House, previously known as Seven Oaks, occupies a uniquely beautiful setting, one that befits its status as a historical building.
Diving into the wave of development that has swept through the Lake Wylie region, the McLean House underwent renovations in 2014 that equipped the building to offer a restaurant on the bottom floor of the house.
The restaurant, named Seven Oaks Cafe, opened spring of 2018 under the watchful gaze of owner Chad Hutcheson, who is also the proprietor of a popular downtown Belmont restaurant called The String Bean. Hutcheson has designed a quaint, laid-back, indoor-outdoor space where he can host low-country boils and dish out lighter Southern fare for lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunch.
Are you originally from the Charlotte area?
My wife, Katy, and I are from a small town in Georgia, where we were high school sweethearts. I moved to Charlotte in 2000 after attending graduate school at Appalachian State and then moved to Belmont in 2005.
Why did you choose the McLean House as the site of your new restaurant, and how does the building’s history and location affect the restaurant’s atmosphere?
My friend Steven Hinshaw, who was also the McLean developer, first introduced the idea. His eagerness to preserve the history of the house and my restaurant experience has provided a great partnership.
When making changes to the building, which is a typical 1850’s farmhouse with tall ceilings and a large front porch, Steven and I tried to embrace the Southern charm of the house while adding modern, eclectic touches. This mix of old and new is exemplified by our bar, which was custom-built using wood removed from the Belmont Chronicle Mill.
You’ve taken advantage of the sprawling property surrounding the McLean House by planting a garden, from which you pick many of the ingredients in your recipes. Why did you decide to grow your own herbs and vegetables?
Growing up on a farm, I never knew anything other than getting vegetables and herbs from what we grew!
Although we don’t source everything at Seven Oaks from our garden, we use as much as we can in our entrees, because, as any chef or customer will tell you, fresh is better.
Tell us about the food served at Seven Oaks. What are some of your favorite dishes?
Initially, our concept was to be more of a true café and focus on simple, quick dishes for breakfast and lunch. Customer feedback has pushed us to focus more on lunch and a recently launched dinner menu.
All of our dishes have a Southern flare and are made with simple, high-quality ingredients. We source locally as often as possible and make most components of our entrees from scratch. One of my favorite sandwiches is our pesto and portobello hoagie for lunch, but for dinner, you have to try the braised short rib rigatoni!
In what ways do you hope to see Seven Oaks evolve over time?
Since opening, we have responded to many evolving challenges. We’ve altered our offerings to accommodate customer preferences. We’ve adjusted our menu to better match the capabilities of our kitchen. And we’ve been experimenting with different events, including a low country boil that takes over our lawn every Friday with live music and family games. We look forward to hosting more events this fall and to expanding our menu with more seasonal options.