Do or Don't: Dining Solo

Do you ever go out to eat by yourself? As we conclude our month of restaurants, let’s chat about this love-it-or-hate-it dining experience. I tried it last weekend…

The other day, when I got home to my apartment after an afternoon of hanging out with friends, I realized I wasn’t ready to end my night. (Stella, check you out!) So, I turned around and strolled to a twinkly café by the water for an early dinner. I was psyching myself up, thinking nice things like, “Go nuts — order an appetizer,” and “Yes, you deserve a cocktail!” But, as I entered the empty restaurant behind a pair of mushy lovers, I fell apart.

“I’m alone,” I squeaked to the server after he repeatedly asked, “Three?” to the couple ahead. I grabbed a seat at the bar, dropping my phone in the process, drawing the attention of the unoccupied staff. Then I dropped my menu. When you are on the shorter side, crawling up and down a bar stool turns out to be quite the spectacle. Minutes later, I confused the bartender by asking for a Negroni and soda instead of a Campari and soda. (Stella, check you out!)

Funnily enough, solo meals while traveling are often my dearest memories. I’ve done it dozens of times. You can order at your own pace, people watch or avert your attention to a book, order seconds and scoot all of the tomatoes to the side of your plate without having to explain yourself. This was the first time I second-guessed a date with myself. Maybe it was because I wasn’t on vacation (so I felt less anonymous). Maybe there was too much candlelight. Maybe the empty restaurant made me feel spotlighted. Maybe it was Alicia Keys’s “If I Ain’t Got You” thundering through the place.

As soon as I started to lose faith in my beloved pastime, the restaurant began to fill up. The servers kicked off their practiced dance around the bistro tables, kitchen staff fired up their grills while bantering about whether to call the soup “puréed vegetable” or “vegetable purée,” and lively conversations of patrons made Alicia Keys’s heartbreak anthem feel like a distant memory. I realized the only person judging me was myself. So, I kicked back and ordered another Negroni and soda — with pride.

Do or Don't: Dining Solo

What about you? Do you enjoy dining alone? Do you sit at the bar or grab a table? Do you bring a book? (Our friend Kate recommends not bringing one, so you can be open to random conversation.)

P.S. More fun dos and don’ts! Plus, drinking alone, and restaurant table manners.

(Photos by Alfred Eisenstaedt.)