Megan McGinnis hails from a long line of local foodies. The humble produce stand her grandparents started in the 1940s grew into multiple gourmet markets, including McGinnis Sisters Special Food Stores, a Pittsburgh institution run by her three aunts from 1980 to 2018.
McGinnis worked in the Brentwood location as a specialty food buyer with a focus on cheese, earning her the nickname The Cheese Queen.
This spring, after operating as an event planner and caterer, she’ll open her own brick-and-mortar charcuterie store at 156 Brownsville Road in Mt. Oliver, a Hilltop neighborhood that’s seeing a boom in new businesses.
The Cheese Queen will be a place where you can browse or pick up your order, with everything from boxes and boards filled with fine cheeses, meats, veggies, fruits and sweets to enormous spreads known as grazing tables. Other menu items will include cheese wheels and brie cakes, brunch boards and gift baskets. McGinnis will also sell charcuterie accoutrements, such as boards, knives and cheese paper, along with jams, jellies, mustards and honey.
She’ll offer classes for kids and curd nerds alike and continue to host pop-up events around town. If you’d rather pair your cheese with beer instead of wine, Mondays Brewing Company in McMurray offers tasting boxes curated by The Cheese Queen.
“I just have a love for cheese and I’m extremely interested in the whole cheese-making process,” she says. “I love giving people an education behind it. I let them pair different items and try cheeses they’ve never had before. I want to take people on a cheesy adventure.”
The storefront is located next to The Deck, a public outdoor area the borough uses for concerts, yoga and other events. McGinnis helped revitalize the space and is excited to utilize it to help people expand their palates beyond cheddar.
McGinnis inherited a love of gourmet grub from her grandmothers, Mary Kavesky and Rosella McGinnis. Both women loved to prepare big family meals and would take the future cheese queen on shopping trips to gather ingredients.
In addition to delicious appetizers, entrees and desserts, the matriarchs would set out artfully arranged “relish trays” loaded with various cheeses, vegetables, dips and Braunschweiger, a soft, spreadable German pork liver sausage.
From the Strip District to Saxonburg, McGinnis regularly visits local specialty shops to stock up on foodstuffs for her business, which started as a hobby to feed family and friends.
Like her grandmothers and aunts, she has a knack for creating eye-catching charcuterie spreads. Her go-to snack is cambozola, a brie-style blue cheese, accompanied by honey and pears.
“It’s a different way of entertaining,” she says. “Instead of having the cooked, sit-down meal, you gather around the table and mingle. Even weddings are changing from formal diners to grazing tables. It’s very low-key, but it still brings people together.”