Food

Do or Don’t: Dining Solo

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.)

  1. Theresa says...

    I love dining alone! I loved it when I was single and even more so now that I’m married with a toddler. It’s so nice to just eat and be with my own thoughts!

  2. Marcela says...

    Having lived all of my adult life in foreign countries as an international development professional I don’t even give a second thought when doing all sorts of things alone. Apart from loving spending time alone, I see it as an act of resistance. When you are a single young woman going out for dinner, drinks or even a cab ride “by yourself” is when you realize how the different cultures perceive women and how it affects us on a daily basis and we don’t even stop to think about it. I will never forget how it felt to feel undermined by a waiter in a restaurant in Quatar because why should I order my own food, or feeling like I have to lie about having a husband to a Peruvian taxi driver so he stops hitting on me, being at a bar in Bangkok and having European sex tourists approach me. For someone who grew up with amazing parents hearing there is nothing a woman can’t do I have deprived myself from doing many things in the past for being one. It may sound crazy, but I feel like when girls see me, a Latin American young woman living in Thailand, enjoying my own company in a restaurant my parents’ message reaches them as well.

    • Yazi says...

      Well said!

  3. Fiona says...

    I travel a lot for work and usually look to be there a day ahead of when I’m needed so I can be ready to go, prepared and well rested. I usually end up having dinner by myself somewhere close to the hotel, a big old glass of wine or cocktail, appetizers and desert (sometimes instead of the main). I love getting myself all buzzed up, well fed, have a quiet bath with a book or podcast and a relatively early night before having to be all grown up and alert the following day. Especially after a long travel day. I need to try it more often at home!

  4. I’ve always loved dining alone! During my single days I would go to a diner on Sunday mornings for breakfast & read the paper. I made friends with all the cute little old men. I’ll never forget those days! People who have “lived” have the best stories. My friends would always say I couldn’t do that (they prob thought I was weird, but I thought they were the weird ones! You gotta be able to hang out with yourself!) Once I got married solo meals didn’t happen as much but now that I’m a mom–solo meals are pure gold! Sit at the bar, phone in purse and slow sips of wine. Last time I did this I ended up chatting up a woman who was also taking a mom day off! Airport solo meals are bomb too! Perfect for great conversations & people watching.

    Xo Lendy
    http://www.twoplusluna.com

  5. Ashley E says...

    It is a luxury I seldom can afford with three kids under four years old… the swirl of the wine glass(es), ordering and cutting up only MY food and easedropping… anyone with small children can appreciate a dinner quiet enough to hear someone else’s conversation. I go home contented with fresh eyes for my sweet family.

  6. Meg says...

    I love taking myself on a spur-of-the-moment date. I don’t have to worry about what apps other people want– I can just do my own thing and enjoy the silence. One thing I’ve experienced more than once unfortunately is being shunted by waitstaff.

    Since Monday was a federal holiday I was meandering around D.C. and went into one of my favorite spots around 3pm. Place was a complete ghost town which didn’t bother me, quiet was what I was after. I asked for a table for one and the host directed me toward the bar. I politely asked for a spot on the patio and he responded that it would likely be several minutes before a table could be cleared off. I walked past the patio on my way in, tables were clean, and all expect two of them were empty. It wasn’t exactly subtle that the host felt that I wasn’t worth the waiter’s time, but I wasn’t going to let it kill my mood. Long story short: Got the table, ordered my food and drinks, had a wonderful time, and tipped the waiter 25%.

  7. Emily says...

    ‘ No one cares about you as much as you care about you.’

    Remember that when you’re wearing a swimsuit and eating alone and it will set you free.

    • Kris says...

      THANK YOU. The notion that everyone in the room is looking at you is, usually, false. What a wonderful freedom! Once you acknowledge that, you can relax and enjoy life just a bit more.

  8. jilly girl says...

    Ever since reading a magazine article (somewhere like Glamour mag?) when I was 17 or so, I’ve felt perfectly fine eating out alone. That article probably changed my life as I don’t know that I would have thought to eat out alone if I hadn’t read it. It instantly freed me to eat in restaurants like bistros and cool cafe’s I might otherwise have felt shy about being alone in. I usually bring a book or just sit alone with my thoughts and savor the meal if it’s a really nice place. A glass of wine and time to myself, right away it felt super empowering and grown-up and totally relaxing. Special me-time eating something delicious and great for people watching too!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, that is so cool, jilly!

  9. ALL THE TIME! As a single lady, if I only went out to eat when my friends wanted to, I’d miss out on so many delicious opportunities.

  10. Liz says...

    Once upon a time, I lived on Henry Street. I dearly miss Iris Cafe. It’s definitely a place to be enjoyed regularly, regardless of your party size!

  11. Jane B. says...

    My husband travels a lot for business, so I eat out by myself often. I live in a small-ish town, so I am a bit self conscious about dining alone. The trick I’ve learned is to eat at the “nice” places where they do full service at the bar. The bartenders are often chatty and very welcoming — some of them now know me by name. If I run into anyone I know, it feels less “lonely+sad” that I’m out by myself, if I’m sitting at the bar. I go a little on the early side, but not too early or it does, indeed, call attention to the “only one-for-dinner.” I rarely take anything to read. And I rarely have more than one drink. But I always strike up a conversation with those folks around me.

    • jilly girl says...

      If you go earlier in the evening try taking up a whole table for yourself – I recommend a window seat – you really are allowed! Just leave a decent tip, nothing extravagant but a solid %20 at least.

  12. I have only ever done it while traveling, mostly in France. I didn’t like it then because getting constantly hit on as a woman alone in France is annoying, and I’m not sure I’d do it now. I love being alone, love eating alone–but in a place that’s mine where I don’t have to worry about people looking at me. I think I will continue to dine solo in the comfort of my living room :)

  13. I don’t think i’ve ever actually gone out to eat alone (unless you count studying at Panera). I generally like to just get carryout and eat at home if I know I’m going to have a meal alone.

  14. Maria says...

    I may be in the minority, but I don’t enjoy eating out alone. For me, it’s overrated. I don’t think this has anything to do with my confidence level, I just don’t enjoy it.
    A night in by myself–heaven. A night out by myself–no, thank you.

  15. I travel solo often, and so solitary meals are something I’m familiar with. Dinners are definitely the hardest (I do much better at lunch, brunch or breakfast). I think it’s important to motivate yourself to still go out and eat even when you are on your own, but also know your limits.

    One time on vacation in Madison, I sat at a bar and ordered oysters, a cocktail and a main course. But then just like you I fell that I was the only one there on my own, and just could not handle it. So ordered a dessert to go!!

    http://www.mangotomato.com

  16. kelly ehlers says...

    I love sitting at a cafe and having some food and coffee. I have two wee ones so this doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Sometimes I bring a book or sometimes I just like to people watch. :)

    I also used to go to movies alone which alot of my friends were weirded out by.

    • Kim says...

      Yes to going to movies alone. You can see what you want without having to compromise. You can just lose yourself in the movie. People think it’s strange, but I actually prefer it.

    • Tracy says...

      I love going to the movies alone. I think it’s the perfect solo activity since you can’t talk during a movie. I talked myself into trying years ago. Unfortunately, the first time was similar to Stella’s-I became nervous and forgot the name of the movie, then, I left my drink at the counter. Since then, I’ve become a pro.

  17. What a true luxury it is to sit by yourself in a crowd, to enjoy that anonymity. I did it pre-child often, usually at a sushi place, which somehow feels more conducive to solo dining. I’d have a book, a glass of wine, and a side of truffle fries (because the BEST sushi restaurants know fries are the perfect accompaniment to a spicy tuna roll). Being alone makes me feel so confident sometimes!

  18. I love it, although usually more lunch than dinner, and I also admit it’s easier when travelling.
    One of my favourite memories is travelling from Paris to Portland, OR for my first ever solo trip. I’d dreamed of visiting that city for so long! So one the first day, I went to Powell’s (also on my bucket list), spent a while perusing the sections and bought a book by David Sedaris. I couldn’t wait to start so I opened it as soon as I sat down in the burger restaurant I’d picked. The burger was delicious and I still dream about the fries, but the best thing was that the book was so funny I started laughing out loud – and soon after, actual tears were streaming down my face. I kept turning the pages with my greasy fingers and wiping my face with dirty napkins and trying not to laugh too loud – it was the best. I felt so independent and cool and so happy to be in America! I’ve read many books by Sedaris since then (and ate a lot of fries …) but nothing will ever quite compare to that moment :)

    • Julie says...

      This is so charming and I love that bookstore!

  19. I love dining alone. I lived in a small town and didn’t have a driver’s license when I was younger, so I never got to go anywhere by myself. Once I moved to a city, I started taking myself out to eat all the time. My favorite restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia gives solo diners some company–a fish swimming in a small glass bowl. I’ve always found that so charming.

    • I’d love to know what restaurant that is! I’m from Arlington and would love to check it out next time I’m in town :)

    • jilly girl says...

      omg, that IS sooooo charming!

    • Christina B says...

      I would love a goldfish for company! How charming.

    • I HATE fish so this made me shudder – but I’m glad other people enjoy it! Haha

    • Nadia says...

      Which restaurant?! I live in Alexandria and would love to know.

    • Katie says...

      I live in Alexandria, and would love to know this restaurant, too!

    • Darley says...

      What restaurant is this? I live in the DMV area and have never heard of this!

    • ashley says...

      I live in old town, and I would love to know where this is as well! Please find out :)

    • The restaurant is Asian Bistro on King Street! (Such a meh name for a great little place.)

  20. Nina says...

    When I moved here 6 years ago, that was one of the things that surprised me much. I can easily go to a restaurant by myself and grab a table, but here it is “singles at the counter” and even that feels weird to most of my American friends. They always say they can never grab a table at a restaurant, it just makes them feel extremely uncomfortable. In other countries I have been to, it is quite normal to dine out just by yourself. I have been thinking about this a lot, I think individualism in America is a paradox. Why care about what others would say and think if one is that individualistic and independant?

  21. Sarah says...

    I travel a lot for work, and I really don’t love eating alone unless it’s a really bustling place. BUT, I went to the movies alone for the first time last week and it was amazing! I went at 9PM ON A WORK NIGHT, in my pajamas, and I got a box of junior mints and a Diet Coke. Total treat yo self night for me!

  22. WMom says...

    I live in a small town so if I went out for dinner or drinks alone, I am sure I would see someone I know, and they would wonder — where is her husband? does she have any friends? (but I definitely go out for coffee by myself. Why is this more socially acceptable?) Still, I am planning a weekend vacation, and part of me would love to be alone the whole time – might have something to do with being a busy mom of three boys…

  23. Daynna says...

    I have two small children and on Fridays they go spend the day with their grandparents and I have 4-5 free SOLO hours all to myself (yes, I must be redundant!)! I always, always take myself out to lunch and see a movie alone as well. Once in a great while a friend will join and it will be much fun, but I often prefer just my own company. When the rest of your hours are filled up with small beings and a husband who all want a piece of you (and thank goodness they do! Ha), it’s glorious to have alone time enjoying movies and good food.

  24. Katie H. says...

    I actually relish a meal alone. I’m single. I’m 33. I have a great social life, and I’m dating. However, there’s something very energizing and head-clearing for me about dining alone. I call spending quality time alone in public – shopping, eating, strolling, movie-ing – a reset. I’m about to go on a trip to Amsterdam by myself for a big reset and relaxing adventure at my own pace. I can’t wait! Yes, I see myself one day coupled up and supremely happy in a relationship. And even then, I’m sure I’ll still do my solo getaways. They’re cleansing for my brain and my soul.

    • Amsterdam was going to be my first solo European trip last year, but then a friend joined me. I still spent a few days there solo before and after she came and it was completely doable and fun! I took a trip to Bruge for a day, walked around, ate ramen, slept in, etc. Have a great time!

  25. Heather says...

    I don’t do it that often, but I actually love going out to eat alone, or going out for cocktails alone, especially at a nicer spot. It feels like a luxurious treat to myself, and a bit subversive. I feel like a sophisticated mysterious lady, exuding confidence and class when I’m out to eat alone. I’m in a longtime partnership, but that doesn’t mean he needs to be there whenever I want to eat out! Plus, sometimes the cutest cocktail place I’ve been dying to try gets a “meh” reaction from my partner. It was totally liberating when I realized I didn’t have to wait around for him or try and find another person to go check out a hot new spot.

  26. Jillian says...

    I certainly hadn’t done it a lot in my life, but I definitely dig it now when it feels right (it’s a lot more fun when it’s by choice). I love to romanticize the feeling that I’m that mysterious woman that people begin to create a narrative for – maybe she writes books on a dock in the Portuguese breeze every September, maybe she likes to drink scotch neat when everyone’s on beer, maybe she has an accent, maybe she has the perfect witty comment for all the lame enquires…

    • Sasha says...

      This is fun! My daughters and I do this exact thing…create a story about someone intriguing looking.

    • Ruby says...

      Just had to say that this is awesome especially the bit at the end about witty comment to lame enquires!

  27. I wish I could say I was the kind of person who had the confidence to pull off solo eating but I just don’t. Even if I have to travel alone for work you’ll find me curled up in the room with room service or grabbing take-out from somewhere.
    I can handle going to a movie alone (if I have to), but then you’re all hidden in the dark. Sitting alone at a table in a busy restaurant is terrifying to me!

  28. This made me laugh! And I totally agree–I’m way more comfortable dining solo while traveling! I still have never been out to dinner alone though…that feels like the final frontier! When I was a teenager, I used to feel really sad for people eating at restaurants alone, but then someone said, “Maybe they like being alone.” And then I grew up, and realized that I like being alone, and that I don’t care as much if people think it’s sad I’m eating alone! Haha. I do try to challenge myself not to look at my phone though…even if I’m out dining with a friend and they go to the bathroom. I people watch instead!

  29. Dining solo right this minute! =D

  30. Lisa says...

    When I started traveling for work, I had to learn how to like having dinner by myself. I was lucky – I either stayed in a fancy hotel full of business people who also ate by themselves, or I took a walk to nearest beach walk and spent the evening people watching while having my dinner. I always brought a book, but I didn’t always bring it out of my bag. I did make a promise to myself NOT to stare at my phone though, either book or look at the surroundings, no phone! It worked. It took a few trips before I started actually liking it, and have since then enjoyed going out for dinner alone while traveling on holidays as well. I still think dinner in company is way better, but I do enjoy the lonesome one occasionally!

  31. I used to go out to dine alone all the time in college and as a young 20-something. Married now, and I think I’d have to get re-use to dining alone. But I’m pretty introverted and enjoy “down time.”

  32. Dana says...

    Oh I used to love taking myself out to dinner!! It primarily happened during football season because a) I didn’t have a television and b) I love football, so I would make my way to my favorite bar for dinner and a couple of drinks. These days I have a husband that not only loves football like I do but also owns a television, so we tend to stay in. It’s cheaper, but I miss the secret delight of a solo dinner out :)

  33. Kristy says...

    I think it all comes down to whether it’s perceived as a choice or not. Like even being single in general, I quite enjoy my independence and my heart is quite full with friends and family. Rather it’s the social pressure (unsolicited pity bridget jones style) which propagandizes that anything besides romantic love is a mere consolation prize.

    • Marie says...

      This ! Thank you

  34. Living in Tokyo, I never occurred to me that eating out alone was such a hurdle until I came across articles like How to Eat Alone and Like It. Are there really people who never eat out alone? It is just such a normal thing to do here. I would imagine, living in NY with everyone so busy, it would also be common. But then again, Tokyo doesn’t have the variety of take-out options like you do in the states, which could why people tend to eat alone at home but not at restaurants. Either way, I really think eating solo is a do! :)

  35. Holly says...

    I am dining alone on work travel as I write this comment! I love it. The combined joys of independence, professional success (as measured by the opportunity to represent or meet with clients without an older, or male colleague present), exploring new restaurants and (obviously) rose, make these solo evenings some my faves.

    • Liz says...

      Fantastic!

  36. Paula says...

    I take care of my 3 little ones all day. Going to dinner and movies alone is an absolute treat. No talking, no cutting anyone else’s food, no rushing. It’s exactly what I need to recharge.

    • Lydia says...

      i completely agree! going solo is heaven after a day of taking care of others.

  37. jules says...

    As many posters have noted, biz travel is a great way to learn to fly solo unself-consciously. Because of years of it, I can go to a movie alone, a bar for a glass of wine alone, a play alone as well. I’ve explored Shanghai, Vancouver, LA, NYC all on solo weekends attached to biz trips over the years.

    Years ago a dear friend of mine and i would do “happy hour” – me in Mpls, he in DC. Each go to a bar, order a drink, pick up the cell, have the same conversation we once did face-to-face, pay the tab and go. It was amazing!

  38. Liz says...

    I’m a server and I love solo diners! No group dynamic to navigate, just someone who’s there to enjoy a meal.

  39. Jessica says...

    On all my travels alone, some of my best memories are my meals out (especially my brekkies and flat whites in Australia)! Even eating dinner alone in NYC, I often ended up meeting people. Once another woman dining alone and I opted to share a table so we didn’t have to wait longer (we ended up chatting for a bit and then read our books that we both brought – it was great!) Go for it, ladies!

  40. kristie dahlia home says...

    Eating out alone with a book is one of life’s greatest pleasures to me!

  41. kristina says...

    First time I ate out alone was when my parents first let me stay home alone. They went to our cottage for the weekend. I was like 13 or 14. I went to the restaurant for lunch bringing a book with me and felt all grown up. It has been like little treshold towards adulthood. “See, now I’m having a lunch all by myself and all the big world with all its wonders is waiting for me just behind the corner!”
    So, yes, in the right mood and setting an episode of eating alone could be a thing you’ll remember all your lifetime….

    • Kristiana says...

      Love this :) I did the same thing!

  42. Sasha says...

    I don’t eat out alone, heck, I don’t really even like eating at home alone that much. I don’t like eating out that much to begin with. I grew up with extreme social anxiety and I’ve overcome the stuff that bothered me….parties, speaking in public (I lectured at a university for a while, the first day I was convinced I would actually die), even being the center of attention at my wedding. But I don’t mind missing out on solo dining or movies. Truth be told I’d rather be happy with myself as I am than “work” on it, just because it makes others happy. You do you, I’m happy for you.
    What I do alone, happily? hike and back pack :) well, with three dogs, so technically not even that ;)

  43. Irina says...

    I’d eat alone at a casual restaurant – after all people sit alone in a coffee shops enjoying a bite and a drink all the time and I feel like this wouldn’t be all that different. However, I think I’d be too chicken to eat at a fancier restaurant by myself. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with it but personally I would feel uncomfortable because people go to fancy restaurants not just to satisfy their hunger but to enjoy the full social experience of going out to eat at a nice place, which usually involves dining companions.

  44. Kx says...

    I’m reading tj A dining alone! Mind you it’s only Chipotle…

    • Kx says...

      I’m reading this dining alone, is what I meant to say, apologies!

  45. Katie says...

    I dined out alone while traveling solo in Argentina and it felt kind of thrilling to let myself relax and linger over my meal. It never felt like something I’d do at home (in the US), where restaurants seem to rush you out the door, but I’ve recently found a middle ground by arriving 1-2 hours early for weeknight group dates. I bring a book and tell the host it’s just me for now, but will eventually be more, and if there’s room, they’ve given me the big table, or I’ve sat at the bar for the wait. I read a book, slowly sip a glass of wine, and get some introvert time between work and friends. It’s great!

    • I LOVE this idea. I’ve never thought of doing it, but it’s genius.

  46. I’ve really only done this once – in Paris. I was studying abroad, and having a meal alone was on my bucket list, as was trying escargot. I decided to combine the two into one afternoon. After perusing Shakespeare & Co. with a friend, I wandered off to find a quiet bistro and ordered my escargot. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to eat it, or use the tool they provided. The waiter spoke no English, and I spoke very elementary French. The waiter was so kind and showed me what to do, and I enjoyed every last drop of that escargot & bread, staring out at the streets of Paris through the window. It is one of my favorite memories from that period of my life.

  47. Bec says...

    I often dine alone. Once I was in New York on my way home from Europe (to Australia) at a place called Burger Joint in Midtown. There were no seats so I asked to join these two guys, we spent the next 3 hours drinking overpriced vodka cranberries in the foyer of Le Parker Meridien before one of them drove me back to my hotel. Such a fun, random night!

  48. Denise says...

    There is a family run Vietnamese restaurant across the street from the hospital I work at. Sometimes as a special treat I go there during my lunch break. It is nice to get away from work and enjoy some quiet time. Plus the tea is great too!

  49. Cara says...

    I do it often when I’m traveling for work. There was a small Italian restaurant in Portland, OR that I used to LOVE going to when our office was downtown. It was my little ritual and soon enough, I’d walk downstairs from the hotel and the bartender (always the same girl) would ask if it was going to be my usual (lamb burger with grilled onions and red peppers w/ goat cheese- divine) and a pinot noir. Yes and yes! There’s nothing like reading and enjoying a nice glass of wine and some great food. It is one of the things that relaxes me the most but I am also someone that really enjoys alone time and need it to recharge. On the other hand, I’m perfectly happy ordering Thai food and taking it back to the hotel and eating it in bed watching reality TV on work trips too :)

  50. kim says...

    I love it. What’s the problem? On work trips, I am so happy to not have 3 kids along, and can have a meal in peace. It’s bliss.

    • Sarah D. says...

      I feel the same! Dining alone or with my 3 kids in tow…I choose dining solo! Sometimes, I’m into a really good book, or happen to bring a magazine or catch up on a blog post or two. I covet the solitude knowing that it’s a temporary get away from what awaits me at home.

  51. Alex says...

    Back in the day, when I worked at a restaurant, I always noticed how much the solo diners seemed to enjoy themselves and that’s what made me start doing it. I would work lunch on Sunday, finish around 5, and then have the next 2 days off, so I started treating myself to solo dinner at one of the restaurants near the one I worked at. I always had a great time and it was a wonderful way to decompress and start the weekend!

  52. Jamile says...

    I do it all the time. I love to eat alone, especially if I have a book. Reading and eating are two distinct pleasures that go so well together. I don’t to very fancy places though, generally just causal dining.

  53. Carly says...

    Last Spring I was in Paris with my kids and husband eating at one of the restaurants right by the Eiffel Tower where you can see the structure light up. A lovely young American woman, in a cute little cocktail dress, dined by herself. At least three waiters asked her why she was alone, in a practiced French she replied that she was just enjoying the beautiful evening. She sipped her champagne, ate her meal, and gazed at the Eiffel Tower. She was such an empowered sight, It was hard not to stare at her.

    • Christina says...

      Wonderful!

  54. ar says...

    agree on bringing a book. it’s great to eat alone and have that time all to myself!

  55. Stella, you are just so great!! xo

  56. I struggle with this every day. I work at an open space in my university with other Ph.D. students, but everyone has a different routine, so there are days when I find myself with no one else to eath with. I feel like everyone is watching me at the cafeteria and thinking “look she has no friends”. But I know that no one is actually thinking that, and there are many other people eating alone as well. It is all in my head and yet, I feel it. I have to work on that.

  57. Jillian says...

    My Sunday evening ritual is to go to dinner by myself at my favorite restaurant with a glass (or two) of champagne and a book. As I’ve done this for years at the same place, the place feels like home to me, and I’m so comfortable there (by now) that I never think twice about how I’m eating alone. I often simply people watch, allow myself to get lost in thought, or read for a couple of hours, but ending my weekend with a small celebration (in the form of bubbly) and a relaxing, calming treat starts my Mondays so much more pleasantly.

    • Erin says...

      that sounds divine!

  58. Mara says...

    I love eating solo at restaurants! I typically dine at the bar if the restaurant has one – it’s always a great place to talk to regulars and/or meet someone you might not otherwise come across during your usual daily routine.

  59. Sara says...

    I went to Chicago a day early for a cousin’s wedding, and decided to book a dinner solo the evening before. Many many courses by myself, and even the whole restaurant was empty for the early part of the meal. I loved that halfway through they offered to select a few cookbooks for me to peruse; it was such a nice gesture and a great thought for solo diners.

  60. Amanda says...

    I don’t mind dining solo at all, but I do NOT want people to start random conversations with me. So I tend to read a book, write, or do something as a visual cue that I don’t want to chat. (I like doing those things, anyway — at home I always read when i eat alone.) I’m also one of those people who will put my headphones on as soon as I sit down on a plane, even if I’m secretly not listening to anything. I hate being trapped in conversation when I relish the rare quiet time alone.

    However, these days I almost never dine alone. My partner and I try to budget carefully and so if we’re going to spend money going out to eat, we want it to either be a shared experience (yay dates!) or time spent catching up with or celebrating friends.

    • Em says...

      I’m the same! I hate chatty strangers. I know that comes off as rude but when I’m enjoying alone time, I really want it to be alone!

  61. yael steren says...

    I think it depends on the time of day. I love to dine alone on an afternoon day and read a book at a space that has outdoor seating so I can also people watch! I think at night at a romantic restaurant I’d feel less comfortable! xx yael

    http://www.yaelsteren.com/blog/

  62. LOR says...

    I don’t mind eating alone, but what I love the most is getting out of work and heading to a quiet brewery or bar and ordering a glass or wine or beer. Sometimes I’ll watch the TV if they have one, or I’ll bring a book (one I’ve read a thousand times before and always leave in my car). Or just browse my phone. No one really cares. I love it because it’s just my time and normally when I get out of work (3:30pm) it still isn’t busy and most places are semi quiet.

    • Jenn says...

      I do this too. I get off work at 3:30 and it’s so easy to fill the time between work and daycare pickup with errands and appointments. But, twice a month I make it a point to reserve the time for myself and I often find myself at a bar enjoying a glass of wine or beer and the solitude. I generally bring my book but often it ends up ignored as I just enjoy the peace.

      My husband hates the idea of anyone eating alone so he gets really uncomfortable when I do this and used to always show up so I wouldn’t have to sit there by myself. I enjoy it though so I’ve stopped telling him before I go so that I can just have the time to myself.

  63. Meghan says...

    I only have while traveling solo. I love going to movies alone though! I need to try a restaurant at home.

  64. Lo says...

    Whilst I’ve never gone out for dinner alone, I frequently grab lunch when out by myself. Sometimes, even when I am home alone, I like to head to my local coffee place and sidle into a corner with a fresh coffee, glass of icy tap water and a sandwich. They may not be the best sandwiches I’ve ever had, but there’s something serene about sitting in silence whilst the rest of the establishment buzzes around you.

  65. Laura says...

    This is one of those posts that, like, the post about traveling alone, has me stunned that this is actually a thing–like who reaches adulthood having NOT traveled or eaten in a restaurant alone? Why should solo people be relegated to dining at home (or in a hotel room)? I recently went to Paris without my husband and 3 kids and ate at a small, hip restaurant by myself. There was some initial confusion but I loved all the attention from the waitstaff (including a free wine pairing with one of the dishes), and striking up random conversations with my fellow diners. (This was one of those places where the tables are close.) Also, I love eavesdropping and guessing what’s going on in people’s lives from the little snippets of conversation I hear.

    • Kate says...

      Agreed on all accounts Laura. I love to eavesdrop and people-watch too,

      For those us us that enjoy dining and traveling alone, these posts can seem jarring (they seem to cast judgement on those of us who choose or are relegated to solo dining) — I’m trying to let go of that and realize that if you’ve never tried it before, of course it feels scary and/or awkward. So for those of you who haven’t tried this – I offer my encouragement!! Spend some time with your wonderful self! Warm up with a glass of wine and a book at the bar and when you’re more comfortable (or tipsy :P) put the book down… look around…. compliment someone…. ask the bartender how their shift is going…. try to guess how many dates couples nearby have been on. Being able to be comfortable alone is beautiful thing!

      Cheers to Stella for sharing her experience for better or worse!

  66. I’ll have breakfast or lunch solo (in a restaurant), but if I don’t have a dinner companion, I’ll take it to go. Something just feels wrong about dining alone later in the day.

    I have done it, of course, such as when traveling, but I always make it snappy, usually listen to my headphones, and get outta there in short order.

  67. Stella your brilliant writing cracks me up! While living in Manhattan I always felt totally comfortable going downstairs to the not-great-but-good-enough corner restaurant with my book and ordering by myself at the bar, but for some reason venturing out to a “real” restaurant by myself has always daunted me. Lunch is always easier than dinner too… Encouraged to try this again now that I’m living in Chicago! xo

  68. i used to work in a job where i had mondays and tuesdays off. every tuesday i would go to a chain (and somewhat nice) sushi restaurant with a copy of us weekly by myself. it usually wasn’t busy so they would sit me in a booth near the bar. it was my weekly treat to myself, i found it so relaxing to just sit as long as i wanted and read my magazine.

  69. Patti says...

    Solo dining used to be one of my favorite single girl past times. On my 30th birthday I found myself without plans and kind of liking it. I dressed myself up and went to my favorite restaurant. I sat at the bar and told the bartender that it was my 30th and I would let him order for me. What happened next was glorious! Each course was paired with it’s perfect drink and he even included a palette cleanser in the middle. From that point on I made a solo date with myself once a month at that very same place and enjoyed a similarly awesome experience every time.
    Now I’m married, no longer live in Chicago and honestly – when my husband has an evening work event or is off with his buddies – I still enjoy dinner solo. It’s so very relaxing to kick back, relax and enjoy everything around me.

    • Lauren says...

      I love this story!

  70. Love it. I never really even understand why its a thing…I mean we spend so much of our time alone, right? in high school I worked, went to work alone – walked home alone. babysat alone. went to college – yes i had friends but most of the time we all had different schedules and ate alone…if you saw someone you knew, yay, if not, no biggee. as a single parent I relish, CHERISH, love my alone time! LOVE! today on another group I’m in there was a free day at the zoo and someone asked “is it weird if I go alone?” I responded, who cares? because, really, who cares? and I will read a book, or a phone, or just people watch….

    • Karen says...

      Right, who cares. As a long time single person if I didn’t do things by myself, I wouldn’t be doing them at all. I guess I never realized that eating alone is almost “taboo”. Some of these responses actually amaze me a bit.

  71. Liz says...

    Many years ago, I was on a business trip, alone, in St Louis. I decided to go out for an early dinner and settled on a small Italian restaurant. The restaurant had very few customers at that early hour so there were many tables and booths available. For whatever reason, the waiter seated me right smack in the middle in a table for 4. I felt rather self conscious but made the best of it. As I was eating my meal, a middle-aged couple passed by me on the way out and the woman leaned in and whispered “You are the classiest thing in this place”. I’ve had many meals by myself since then and I always remember that kind gesture.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Love that so much, Liz!

  72. shannon says...

    Oh I like going out to eat alone! It is a comforting proof of my introversion. For YEARS I believed I was extroverted, and I only recently realized that my love of things like being alone, reading rather than going to parties, working out by myself, and solo dining out probably meant I was an introvert at heart. Now I’m embracing it!

    My favorite solo dining experience was going to a crowded upscale diner on Fat Tuesday. I sat at the bar and ordered a giant chocolate lava cake and glass of milk (as I was giving up sweets for Lent). It was special and decadent.

  73. Mary Beth says...

    I love eating alone – but always at the bar, never my own table. Sometimes I’ll bring a crossword to work on. That is always a great conversation starter! Bartenders love to help out.

  74. Emma says...

    This article is hilarious and really resonated with me! This past summer I was lucky enough to do some solo trips around Europe while my husband was working in London (don’t worry I work while he’s in school the rest of the year), and eating dinner alone was honestly harrowing for me.

    I love conversation and I feel so awkward on my own, almost pathetic. People watching on your own is not as fun, and when you’re used to traveling with someone who you can say so much to in small gestures or looks, it just reminded me of who I was missing.

    It’s not just dinner, I felt the same way at galleries and even down the street. I can’t tell you how many times I would think about a witty comment or a new way to express how beautiful something is, and then feel weird for having a conversation with myself in my head, alone at a popular site.

    At home, I take such enjoyment in my solo walks and time to myself, but when I’m discovering a new place, it’s not as beautiful when you don’t have someone (friend, family, friendly stranger, or love interest alike) to share it with.

  75. I have always loved dining alone – especially my during my 10 years in NYC. It all started when I read an article in Seventeen magazine (almost 20 years ago!) that was giving suggestions to help you boost your own self esteem. One of the suggestions was to dine out alone – and to leave a piece of food stuck in your teeth. I think the point was to realize that your world didn’t shatter around you if you were put in a somewhat embarrassing situation. I remember trying it as soon as I could drive myself and feeling exhilarated. Now as a mother of two that works from home in suburbia – going to the grocery store by myself is about as exhilarating as my week gets!

  76. jenn says...

    I had such a fear of dining alone in the cafeteria in college that I lost 15 pounds my freshman year instead of gained. I had night classes every night and had nobody to eat with by the time I was available to go down to eat something…

    now, many many years later I still don’t like dining alone. I will order take-out and eat in my hotel bed when traveling alone for work. if I find myself alone at a bar or restaurant (even if it’s only for a few minutes while I wait for my date to show up, or if he just went to the bathroom), I stare at my phone to avoid awkwardly looking at others, but then I feel like that annoying girl who can’t put her phone down for 1 second….

    maybe I just need to go out and DO it like you did ;)

    • Sasha says...

      Jenn, this is me too. I don’t like to be by myself even for second in this situation. But I’ve learned to accept certain things about myself. I can only “be Sasha”, and this is just me, an introvert, shy, happier with a mate to eat with. I love that others enjoy it though, or that someone like me could retrain themselves.

  77. Katie says...

    I’ve always loved eating out by myself. I used to take the bus to the mall when I was just a kid and treat myself to lunch at the cafeteria. I always had the same thing – roast beef, mashed potatoes, and a big yeasty roll. My family still makes fun of my “old lady lunches” but I loved it. It was a great discovery that I could fulfill my own wishes all by myself. I had the same thrilling discovery when I was in my late teens and realized that I could go camping and buy tickets to monster truck rallies – two things my parents would have NEVER done.

  78. Julia says...

    I do it all the time when travelling alone but never in Hamburg, where I live. I don’t mind having breakfast or lunch on my own but walking into a restaurant at night asking for a table for one (I always choose the bar when there is one) takes so much more courage! I just recently started to order a glass of champagne (or something similar) at the beginning of my Dinner for One. It’s my way of showing the waiters and the other costumers (who probably don’t even care): I’m not ashamed, I’m self-confident and why shouldn’t I celebrate a night out with myself?
    Speaking of: In May I will travel alone to New York and I’m looking forward to trying new restaurants. Any recommendations for places that are well suited for a dinner for one/have a nice bar to sit at on your own? I’d love to hear!

    • Julia says...

      Thank you! Will try.

  79. ohnomyboots says...

    Am I being unfair by finding this question infantile? If hungry and with a friend, we eat. If hungry and alone, I eat. Read a book, look out the window, pay attention to the sensory enjoyments of dining: the food in your mouth, the ambiance, the luxury of being served your meal. I don’t mean to be harsh, but this feels like a concern that should be done with by adulthood.

    • jaclyn says...

      I concur, but I also know that Cup of Jo is a supportive environment for women that may be less adventurous in their dining life than we are. I love nothing more than being alone in a public place. When I am telling a story about said outtings, my female friends are often aghast that I would eat alone or travel alone or shop alone or go to a movie alone. I went to EuroDisney alone and it was FAN.TAST.IC. I even ate at the buffet, which was amazing. DO IT, LADIES!

    • Annie says...

      “. . . pay attention to the sensory enjoyments of dining: the food in your mouth, the ambiance, the luxury of being served . . . .” This is so mindful and zen — I love it.

      While I don’t find the question infantile — plenty of adults struggle with solo outings/feedings :) — I think a strong sense of self and independence certainly helps, and if that comes naturally, that’s a happy thing. If it doesn’t, then this might be regarded as lovely post talking about some of the things that may make us vulnerable and human … err… human adults. :)

    • ohnomyboots says...

      Jaclyn- I see your point and applaud your gentle, supportive spirit. I’m less gentle but wildly pro-women, and so I agree- DO IT LADIES!

    • Savannah says...

      With you. Dine alone, go to movies alone, go to concerts – why wait until you can find someone who will go or agree with you. There’s a world out there to be experienced.

  80. christina says...

    I love eating alone. I think it’s one of life’s great pleasures and makes me feel glamorous for some reason. And if you eat alone at Balthazar’s they give you a free glass of champagne! It’s a Keith McNally rule. And the people watching is great there.

  81. this is one of my favorite things to do! I used to have Fridays off in the summer so I started a Summer Lunch Series on my blog. I went to a different restaurant in Boston each week by myself. But soon it became such a popular following that friends always wanted to tag along :)

  82. I’ve eaten alone so often – especially lunch during the work day – but for some reason am afraid of eating dinner by myself. I spent four solo days in Europe last summer (when my husband and I split off to do some traveling on our own) and couldn’t bring myself to eat dinner out. Having a book helps for sure, and I know honestly NOBODY is judging, but it’s hard to shut up that voice inside your head. BUT, my first day in Paris I was feeling especially lonesome until I decided I was going to try this steak and fries restaurant for dinner, regardless if it was by my lonesome. The woman at the table next to me was also traveling solo for the first time (and also from LA!), so we ended up sitting together and having such a wonderful evening in the city. Afterwards we went to get coffee and macarons and see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. :) I’m very much an introvert, but sometimes I know I need to open myself up to these opportunities because it just might be one of the best times I’ve ever had. :)
    http://www.wonderlandsam.com

  83. Nicky says...

    DO! I regularly eat alone for lunch while working. Dinner is an entirely different story, but I definitely like the idea of eating alone at a bar at those places that always have hard to get reservations.

    There is this book that was recommend to me though called Never Eat Alone, which talks about the power of networking:
    https://www.amazon.com/Never-Eat-Alone-Expanded-Updated/dp/0385346654/ref=pd_sbs_14_img_0?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=EH6GGQC2DDM2R8BMA7PB

  84. Liz says...

    I love eating out by myself. Usually a leisurely breakfast at a table or a booth. A book adds to the feeling of luxury (maybe because I was never allowed to read while eating when I was a kid.)

  85. Laura says...

    It’s funny – I will do (and enjoy doing!) just about anything by myself — movies, cycling, hikes, trips, long car rides, walking on the beach, having a drink at a nice café — but not solo dining. Grabbing a bite on the go or on business trips is one thing, but I just do not enjoy sitting at a table by myself to eat.

  86. Maggie says...

    I also get major anxiety about dining alone, which is weird because I’m such an introvert. My ideal is to get take out and eat alone at home, but that doesn’t work if you are traveling. I’m slowly getting more and more comfortable seeing movies, going to performances, and eating out alone. Life is too short to wait for someone to join you.

  87. BV says...

    There was an episode of sex and the city in 1999 (18!! yrs ago now) called “They shoot single people don’t they” about women feeling like they HAD to be coupled up to live their lives or be viewed as some kind of dangerous/broken object of pity. By the end of the episode Carrie, decides to buck up, and take herself out to a solo drink (sans book or any other kind of armor). I guess I’ve always relished solitude (esp at meal time) so I didn’t realize this was a particularly bold feat.

  88. Such a love-hate with this! I find that I am TOTALLY down for it and truly enjoy it for brunch, breakfast or lunch solo but when dinner hits..I feel like the loser in the corner. And I usually bring my kindle along with me as company.

    I went on my first solo non-work trip last fall and ended up wandering around Dublin for two hours for two nights in a row before getting the guts to walk into a restaurant that seemed the right mix of casual, bustling and relaxing. After a week of going solo like that, I’ve accepted that I genuinely enjoy grabbing a sandwich/salad and a mini-bottle of wine from the corner store a lot more than the fancy dinner solo.

  89. e says...

    I didn’t go out to eat by myself last night, but I did attend a local edition of the Moth solo. I walked up to the seating attendant and said, “Just one.” And then she sat me with an older couple (Al and Linda – somewhat chatty, kind of grim) at a realllly small table.

    The experience would’ve been more enjoyable with friends, but it was interesting to go into knowing I wouldn’t probably recognize anyone and that I would still enjoy the show regardless. Tonight is a mixology class…alone…but what better place to go alone?

  90. I just went to a concert on my own last night for the first time and besides the first few minutes of walking in the venue and having a “WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS!?” momentary panic, it was wonderful! I unabashedly danced awkwardly to my favorite songs and pretended I was Kyra Sedgwick in that scene in Singles where she’s the cool girl at the concert. I almost didn’t go because I didn’t have a buddy to go with, but then I talked myself into it last minute and I’m so glad I did!
    As a single person, I try my best to enjoy my life and do the things I want to do — with friends or a boyfriend or otherwise. Whether that’s a concert or eating alone at a restaurant or crossing places off of my travel bucket list or even buying myself nice set of kitchen knives instead of “waiting for the right time in life.”
    The older I get the more I realize that the old trope is really true: People are too busy worrying about themselves to care what you’re doing. Which is a tiny bit sad, but actually so empowering!
    (Also, the shock and horror on my friends faces when I told them I was going alone made me want to go alone even more.)

  91. C.C. says...

    I love dining alone. I thoroughly enjoy the peace and quiet of a meal by myself with my New Yorker magazine or a book. I never spend time staring at my smart phone when I’m having a meal alone, because it’s not usually a great reading experience (in my late 40’s – vision is not what is used to be)!
    I eat alone in a public place at least twice a week.

  92. Robin says...

    I was so excited to dine alone during a lengthy layover–the pure novelty of it was alluring. I picked a great spot, ordered some wonderful dishes, and I brought out a notebook and did some creative writing as I dined. I was really enjoying the experience. The waiter asked if I was writing a letter to “tell off” an ex-boyfriend. Ugh–can’t a girl dine alone with no questions asked?!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      That waiter! So frustrating.

  93. ES says...

    I greatly enjoy dining alone. I usually love to watch people. It’s wonderful to just really consider what you eat, and savor every bite and sip. It’s a real pleasure that shouldn’t be taken for granted, when so many in the world don’t have enough to eat.

    It can be fun to chat with friendly servers and/or managers if you’re in the mood. (I’m such an introvert that I’m often not.)

    I almost never take out my smartphone – which should be banned from any dining experience, I think, single or a group. No books either; though occasionally I might take out a small notepad and write or draw a little bit. (I adore reading, I just don’t do it in restaurants.)

    • Liz says...

      I am 100% supportive of you banning your own smartphone, but please leave mine to me. (Agree on actual phone conversations which should be taken outside)? Check out this link – it seems like for over 100 years we have been tut-tutting the next media of exchanging communication, and yet here we all still are having conversations and exchanging ideas.
      https://xkcd.com/1227/

  94. TB says...

    I love eating alone, whether traveling or in my own neighborhood. I look at it as taking myself on a date, a time to check-in with myself and my emotions, focusing purely on me. I try not to be on my phone at all…only if I am reading on the kindle app. Aside from focusing on myself, I also try to engage with those around me (without being obnoxious!), and love meeting new people or talking more in-depth with the waiter or bartender than I normally would if I was dining with a friend or a group.

  95. Ava says...

    This is actually one of my biggest fears! I prefer doing other things alone, like going to the movies, going shopping, going to shows,… But I won’t eat alone!

  96. Sarah says...

    Society make you feel so much pressure about being alone. But I just say ef ’em. If you’re ok with it, then that is all that matters. I think it is more odd when someone can’t do anything by themselves.

  97. Trisha says...

    Love eating alone, love going to the movies alone and I love going on walks alone! I also enjoy all these things with others, but it feels good to feel good with just myself. And I try not to get my phone out. A book, ok, but the phone, no. Also, I love this blog.
    Cheers!

  98. Whitney says...

    Dining alone in a restaurant is so unappealing. Solo trip to the coffee shop, yes! Maybe it’s because I’m married with two small kids, but my ideal is dining at home alone. Blast some cheesy pop music, prep a big salad and eat it alone in silence… that sounds nice.

    • Melanie says...

      As a fellow Mom you just described my meal time solo dream. Yes. Giant salad with the works, cheesy tunes, eating in jammies on the couch.

    • t says...

      Also as a fellow mom i would MUCH prefer to dine alone out then to be at home. I want someone to cater to MEEEE.

      Also, this year for my birthday I specifically requested that I go out alone. I wanted the peace and I cannot relate at all to Stella or the readers who fear eating alone. I am not trying to be dismissive but I can’t imagine being that concerned about being judged… for eating alone at a restaurant?

      Certainly not at the top of my list of concerns of how the world views me.

  99. Kate says...

    While I can’t say I always do with “mindfully” (who’s got energy for that? many days, not me!), I love dining solo! You feel like you’re forcing yourself to step off the diving board the first time, but it becomes a distinct indulgence. I started in my early 20s when a roommate/friend/significant other wasn’t around, and now that I have a kid I would almost fabricate an excuse for luxury of a slow meal alone at a restaurant. :)

  100. I actually really love eating alone! Many times I have a book, many times I don’t. But it helps me think and just have a few minutes to myself. I admit I get awkward stares at the office cafeteria during lunch, so maybe I should slow down on this…

    http://www.KacheeTee.com

  101. Joy says...

    Stella, you’re so funny! I want to grab dinner with you! xo

  102. Alison says...

    As a single lady in the city with a love for musical theatre, I often take myself on dinner-and-a-show dates. I always sit at the bar at my favorite sushi spot with a book and a glass of wine in hand and then go enjoy my Broadway show from the cheap seats, without having to feel embarrassed by the vast array of emotions I’ll inevitably go through during any given musical. My introverted side loves it!

    • Rachel says...

      I want to be you.

  103. Jami-Lin says...

    Do!! I think everyone ought to try it! I like the fun of going somewhere alone and being who I want to be right then. As other readers have suggested, putting the smartphone away is definitely a good move. Being out to eat/drink by oneself and glued to one’s phone screams “insecure” to me, and if I’m dining alone in public I want to look and feel capital-C Confident! All that said, funny story…I actually met (and fell instantly in love with) my boyfriend when I went to a neighborhood bar solo to watch the Olympics. And now we’re dreamy happy and expecting a baby! :)

    • Kate says...

      So sweet!

  104. Liz says...

    When I was younger, I would actually refuse to be alone in public. I wouldn’t even grab a coffee solo! One day, I realized how silly (and limiting) this was and would be in the future. So I pushed past my comfort zone and now prefer dining alone. You notice so much more when you aren’t enveloped in your table’s conversation. Senses are heightened and you can really interact with your waiter/bartender on a much more personal level. Not to mention the opportunity for internal dialogue that it allows! I usually leave feeling slightly buzzed, regardless of what I’ve had (or not had) to drink.

  105. Yes I love it! Very calming and easier to strike up a conversation.

  106. Sandhya Subramanian says...

    I wonder if this is an age thing. I would have been far more daunted in my 20s to dine alone, but now, at 44, have done it scores of times — and am now even going overseas alone for a short vacation (without my husband or friends). I have to say, that is an intimidating prospect but I’m hoping it will turn out all right.

    • Elizabeth B says...

      As much as I really do love to travel with my husband and family, the trips I’ve taken abroad by myself are some of my most defining trips. Although sometimes lonely, they are more-often-than-not really enlightening for my introverted self. The anonymity allows me to push out of my comfort zone and really enjoy talking to people and doing things I wouldn’t normally do, including eating some amazing meals by myself. My husband and friends don’t understand it, but I’m excited for the day that I can take another solo trip. Go you!

    • Sandhya says...

      Elizabeth, thank you so much for the support!! I really appreciate the reassurance.

  107. Claire says...

    Eating alone is one of my biggest pleasures (although eating w others also is, so I guess all eating?)

    It all started when I visited my older sister in college when I was in high school and I went to see Brokeback Mountain by myself. I was sheepish about going to do something fun by myself but by the time I came out of the theatre, i was hooked.

    For the last ten years, Ive been going to movies and dinners alone once a month or whenever I really need to force relaxation. As an introvert and book lover, it really is the most rejuvenating way to spend a night. I love the confidence I feel when I realize that I can have fun alone and that I still really like spending time w myself despite also enjoying time I spend w friends, bf, and family.

  108. Yazi says...

    I’ve done it a few times and apart from some rudeness by waiters, it was a fun. It’s nice not to accomodate people and just enjoy yourself.

  109. Karina Vasquez Greenberg says...

    Eating dinner alone is a great personal exercise. Do it without a phone, without a book, and simply enjoy your food. You’ll be surprised by how your meal differs in mood and taste. What thoughts did you have? Living in an always connected world is overwhelming and doing things like intentionally having dinner alone allows us to disconnect and tap into our humanity.

  110. Liz says...

    Eating with someone who’s staring at their phone (ahem, my husband for example) is basically like eating alone. Right?

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hahahaha. Feel you, Liz.

  111. Jessica says...

    Dining alone is when I imagine all the other possible lives I could have had. It’s not a grass is greener thing, more of a honoring all the little parts of me thing. I love it.

    On that topic, this book is so amazing. All about praising and honoring all our various selves.
    https://www.amazon.com/Missing-Out-Praise-Unlived-Life/dp/1250043514

  112. Ines says...

    When I lived in London it was easy dinning alone as so many restaurants had bars to sit at or even tables small enough for one. Back in Mexico, it is not uncommon at cafés and more informal settings but going out to a properly nice restaurant is much more daunting alone since many of them don’t even have tables for two! Eating here is seen as a very social experience and most families are 4+ so it’s different.

  113. Elizabeth says...

    Because my workplace has no breakroom or cafeteria, I eat lunch at my desk, which I don’t like at all. Eating out alone at lunch for me is a wonderful treat. I’ve sometimes had to eat dinner alone when traveling and most of the time I enjoyed it.

    I feel comfortable being alone and lived alone for 10 years before I married (age 37), but I don’t think I would seek out a restaurant that I wanted to try and eat alone for dinner, unless my husband was out of town and the restaurant had a casual feel.

    I think you pick up a vibe sometimes if you enter a restaurant alone and it just doesn’t feel right. This is too bad, because it means you’re letting others set the tone for you, and sometimes you just need to eat! My worst experience entering a restaurant was in France in 1983, when no one would even wait on me and I had to screw up my courage to skulk out of the restaurant. That horror, unfortunately, has always stayed with me.

    • Blandine says...

      How sad to hear that you had this experience! On behalf of the French people, I’d like to apologize to you :-)

  114. Jess says...

    I just graduated college from the U.S. but am not originally from here. We have something called Parents’ Weekend in my university, and my family could never afford to travel to come for it, so I remember my freshman year it broke my heart that all these parents took their kids out to dinner while I ate dining hall food alone. My sophomore year, I rectified that situation and would splurge some of the income I earned through campus jobs by having a really nice meal by myself at a fancy restaurant. I deserved it :)

  115. Anne says...

    I love dining alone!! I love reading, and I love having other people cook me good food, so being able to do both at once is such a joy. Usually I only eat out when there’s a reason – a going-away party or a special date night. It feels like such a luxury to take myself out to dinner for absolutely no reason!

    The last time I ate out alone, I ended up chatting with the woman next to me, who gave me a ton of book recommendations (she’s a librarian) – and she picked up my tab on her way out! Still makes me smile to remember.

  116. Tari says...

    I was out to dinner with a friend and our kids at a bustling, casual restaurant recently, and there was an older woman, maybe 75, with her iPad and her Bose headphones watching her show and eating a full plate of ribs! She was my spirit animal!

    I love eating solo with a couple magazines and a glass of wine ahhhh…

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Hahahaha. Tari, that is the greatest. YES!

  117. I love dining alone! Sometimes I bring a book, always stow the phone in the pocketbook! Sometimes I people watch. Frequently I’ll go and…without telling the family… go order prosecco and a chocolate torte from one of my favorite places (and that will be my actual dinner! :-0). It’s decadent and a lovely solo treat for the gal who feels like she does everything for everyone else.

  118. I dine alone very often but never thought of it as being a thing I enjoy or don’t enjoy. It just is. When I’m hungry but happen to be out alone, I eat alone!

  119. Laine says...

    i love eating alone. As a solo dinner, I can usually get into the hot restaurants without any wait, while I wouldn’t even bother to get in a 2 hour line for them with a group of four or more. I think I appreciate it more and more thoughtful and appreciative of what I’m eating and how it tastes when I’m not too busy chatting.

  120. Brianna says...

    Yes. I’m single, live with my brother who doesn’t eat dinner with me even when we’re in the same house, and have almost no friends. Eating alone is a function of my life, but really, I love it.

    I have a weird quirk about going to the movies alone, though. I can’t seem to bring myself to do that, although nobody wants to go see the new version of Beauty and the Beast with me, so it might be time to pack my Junior Mints (because what is a movie without Junior Mints?) and go.

    • Amy says...

      Doooo it. It’s great. Plus, you can cry as much as you want without worrying about a friend/family member seeing you look like a blubbering mess. (Jayne Eyre, I’m looking at you.)

    • Elissa says...

      Yes! I am the same way! I eat alone always since I live alone and all my friends who are around are married, but I cannot bring myself to go to the movies by myself. I have been thinking more and more about it since I’ve been missing out on really awesome ones lately. We need to break the barrier :D

    • Leah says...

      Going to the movies alone is awesome because unlike eating out, you aren’t supposed to talk to anyone at a movie! So it doesn’t matter if you are alone or not (in my eyes). I see movies alone ALL the time!

    • kiki says...

      yes! movies alone are the BEST. I will take a “long lunch” and go see a noon movie that serves meals at a theater by my office. Husband’s at work, kiddo is at school, and it’s just the BEST afternoon solo date. Doooooo it!

    • Yazi says...

      Do it! I often go because my tastes don’t align with everyone else’s when it comes to film genres. You might be surprised to learn you enjoy the film more because you can give it your full attention. Try an early afternoon show if possible.

    • Laura says...

      I”m the opposite! I have no issue going to the theater alone, but I’m more self-conscious about going myself to a restaurant. I assume it’s because I think people are judging me (I know people don’t actually care haha), whereas in the theater, I’m less visible.

      I’ll go to a cafe alone, but something about a restaurant/bar is scary to me. I’ve actually made note of a restaurant where I always see lone diners, so that I can try it out there sometime haha.

    • Meg says...

      I LOVE going to the movies alone! I love choosing what I want to see and not worrying whether my husband, friend, etc. is enjoying it. When I was in my 20s and single, I would only go to matinees alone and felt weird about the idea of going to an evening showing by myself. But now I wouldn’t let that stop me, although being married and with a young daughter, the opportunity rarely presents itself.

      As for dining out alone, in a real restaurant with table service, I’ve never done it but I totally would. Again, not something I would have been comfortable with when I was younger but I’ve arrived at being happily at peace with my introverted ways. I’ll admit, though, that I’d mostly likely bring something to do — a book or notepad. I’d feel awkward, and probably a little bored, otherwise.

    • Laura says...

      My husband is VERY picky about movies and his judgmentalness often ruins my experience because I find myself seeing the movie through his eyes instead of my own. I have gone to many movies solo and it feels like such a luxury. I don’t have to worry about anyone’s opinion but my own! When I lived in Brooklyn, I’d take myself on little dates to Cobble Cinema then to lunch on Court St. and it was always so much fun.

  121. Lynda says...

    Love eating alone though don’t do it often! Lunch is definitely easier than dinner, when you’re more likely to be surrounded by couples or large groups of friends.

  122. Leah says...

    I studied abroad in France and one completely unexpected thing I noticed while there was that when buying flowers, the vendor asks “for others or for yourself?” I loved standing up a bit straighter and saying “for myself.” I don’t think I’ve ever bought so many flowers in such a short period of time since. Saying “I’m alone” at a restaurant feels similar but I’m still not quite able to stand up very straight when saying it. Somehow it feels more difficult since it’s so public. But, practice makes perfect!

  123. Lauren E. says...

    I am cracking up. Stella, check you out!

    I’ve definitely dined alone before. One night I felt like treating myself to a steak and a martini at a nice steakhouse and it was one of my most treasured New York City experiences. Although I am all about bringing a book – I very rarely seek out conversation with strangers (introvert here :).

  124. Janine says...

    I’ve only eaten out alone once or twice, but I LOVE going to the movies alone. There’s no pressure to look occupied in a book or your phone, so you’re free to just enjoy the film completely. And not worry about sharing movie snacks!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Yes! Totally agree, Janine! xox

  125. Maelle says...

    Well, i’v’ never eaten out alone, but now i think i’ll try it! I do cook some fancy meals at home just for me sometimes and open a bottle of wine to relax – just for me. I’m a primary school teacher and when i come home during the week i crave SILENCE, so the idea of eating out somewhere public, with noise and people around, even on my own, is usually not really appealing. But as i said, i’ll definitely try it now!

  126. Lea says...

    I think “alone” has become such a taboo word even though it shouldn’t. I find that many associate being alone with being lonely even though they are completely different words. I love eating, shopping, walking, going to the movies alone. I don’t feel lonely, I feel strong.

    • Allison says...

      preach!

    • Yazi says...

      Yes!

  127. Lee says...

    I love dining alone. I usually bring a book, but I also people watch and chat with the waiter/bartender. Since getting married, I rarely go out to eat alone–but when I do it is such a treat! I feel like I’m giving myself a little gift.

  128. Karen says...

    Eating alone rules, it rules so hard.
    I prefer it, if I am being honest–like a 3:1 ratio of dining solo with meeting up with friends for a meal.

    I like sitting at the bar, reading a book and enjoy a steak and scotch–man. it is so good.

  129. I eat alone all the time. People make such a fuss about it like its the worst thing in the world. I bring a book and ignore the lot of them

  130. Nicole says...

    Yes! I love to eat a meal alone– normally brunch at the bar on the weekends since my husband is a realtor. I live in Louisville and there are so many options within walking distance of my house. I order a cocktail and try to sample something I would never cook myself. I cherish this meal alone as being married you are constantly with in-laws, your families, and your spouse for meals. It’s just a time to spoil yourself. No books or anything– I soak up my environment. It’s such a lovely way to start a Sunday.

  131. I eat alone while traveling for work all of the time. I used to dread it. I’ve learned to love it! I can order what I want. I’m on my own time schedule. And I can aimlessly look at my social media feeds, read the news or just zone out. All are things I don’t have time for ordinarily. I think too many people are obsessed with the idea of aloneness. If one isn’t comfortable with them self,how can they be surrounded by others. I think the avoidance of alone is a telling sign that someone is afraid to face their self and their own thoughts. Both are needed to be happy and clear the mind.

  132. Julie says...

    I’ve always wanted to try dining alone, but get anxious and nervous anywhere that isn’t the random pizza slice place on the corner. Do you bring a book or something even when sitting at the bar, or is that considered rude? What about at dinner? It’s always struck me as a morning thing to bring reading material.

    • Lauren E. says...

      I think the beauty in dining alone for any meal is that you’re not offending anyone no matter what you do. Bring that book! The wait staff could not care less (unless you linger for hours over said book… that’s probably frowned upon).

    • I have a book with me at all times…. whether a “real” book or on my kindle app. I am not sure who’d be offended that I brought a book… other diners? others at the bar? the employees? It is such a joy for me to have time to be immersed in a book that I eat out alone a lot. (confession: it’s a mixture of reading and people watching and just staring into space – hopefully not at someone who thinks I’m staring at them). Hope you get to try it sometime :)

    • Julie says...

      Thanks, ladies! You’ve inspired me! I may give it a try this weekend :)

  133. Kirsten says...

    I don’t have a problem dining alone if I’m hungry and traveling, but I have to say that when I get the opportunity to eat alone I’m more excited to make myself an elaborate meal in my house, open a bottle of my favorite wine, and play my favorite music with candles lit! Don’t get me wrong–I love being alone and doing things on my own (I actually really dislike doing things like going to movies or shopping with other people), but for me the fun of the restaurant isn’t the food or the drink, but hanging out chatting with friends.

  134. Kate says...

    I love eating alone! And ordering a glass (or carafe) of wine. It’s nice to have something brief to read, but I always challenge myself to leave my phone in my purse. It’s especially wonderful in the summer when I can sit outside and people watch to my heart’s content!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      people watching, yes! the funny thing about actually looking around any room and watching the scene is that you realize how NO ONE cares that you’re sitting there — in a good way! everyone is wrapped up in their own meal and conversation and worrying about themselves. no one is thinking about you, and that’s freeing! now you can just enjoy the meal :)

  135. Tiffany says...

    I practiced dining alone on solo vacations. My first time I scouted out a restaurant with bar seating and chatted (minimally) with the bartender. Feeling more confident about solo dining while away, sometimes with a book or magazine, sometimes not, I’ve taken it home with me. I’ve dined alone at home but usually at restaurants where I already know the staff. It can definitely be nice, but my preference is still to dine with a partner (mostly to try a higher variety of dishes).

    • Tiffany says...

      Also, solo lunching is VERY different than dinner.

  136. Love it. I did it last week on a day out and it was great. But I do always have something to read because staring into nothingness would feel odd and I don’t imagine other diners would enjoy me observing them. And I am happy to eat a snack, have a drink, eat three courses…it is one of life’s private pleasures. I realised last week I’d been doing this for 40 years! That is a lot of lunches.

  137. Katie says...

    I’m a fan of dining alone, though it can sometimes feel a little weird until you find your groove. I used to work in a job that absolutely ate my soul. To treat myself, every Wednesday I’d go to my favorite burrito place and eat the entire, fat burrito…and all the chips and salsa. I’d always pick up the latest copy of weekly free local paper that came out and would spend my dining time catching up on local news and events while chowing down. If it’s a bit of a nicer place, I agree sitting at the bar can be a bit less intimidating. Sometimes I bring a book…sometimes I have my phone out. Other times, I just sit and blissfully zone out. I love it!

  138. Lilly says...

    Well now I’m due for another self-date. I usually pick up a new book at the library, grab a spot at my favourite pizza place, and order a cocktail AND their salted-caramel tart. It’s heaven.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      a salted caramel tart sounds DELICIOUS.

  139. Denise says...

    Definitely YES to dining solo. I do grab a table and I sometimes bring a book, although I rarely read it. Books can be good conversation starters. I think our culture unevenly uplifts coupledom & romantic love & gaggles of friends. It’s important for individuals to do what they like regardless of the perceived pressures. Even if you’re in a wonderful relationship and have oodles of good friends why not take yourself out occasionally? What’s the harm in that? I think dining out solo is a great personal pleasure.

  140. Jenny says...

    I can’t even identify with this being a challenge. Of course I eat out alone! Sometimes because I crave my own company but sometimes because I am hungry and happen to be alone. NBD brah. Sometimes, I go to the movies alone or travel alone or start my life over again alone in a new place.

    • Alexandra Graves says...

      Amen, sister! Being alone isn’t a bad thing, and eating alone isn’t something to be ashamed of… it’s just like anything else. I’d like to see CoJ do a “do or don’t” that’s not so obvious! Do or don’t: leaving a small baby for vacation… Do or don’t: Staying in an un-fulfilling job (because of money or anything else)… Do or don’t: Talk to your trump-loving family about their views. d

    • I just saw your comment and realized how much it mirrors my own. I never realized eating or going to the movies or doing anything alone is a “thing” to be pondered. I think you can really miss out on a lot of fun opportunities if you always have to have someone else by your side.

      :)

    • Laura says...

      It’s not so much that it’s a do or don’t thing, it’s just that certain social situations are more difficult for others. I feel like this post encourages some people to push past their comfort zone. Maybe it’s not an obvious decision for some, and it can take more effort to go for it. “Practice makes perfect,” though!

  141. Elisabeth says...

    Did this for the first time the other day. Went to Johnny Rocket’s sat at the bar and had a burger, fries and shake. And while sitting there another woman sat down a few stools away. Love every minute of it.

  142. Mallory says...

    I did this for the first time last weekend. I was in Anchorage, AK for a night before I headed west to do taxes for the Eskimos. I thought I was meeting friends for dinner, but they had already had dinner! I pretended as though I did not and simply enjoyed a beer with them. Afterwards, as I was walking back to my hotel with plans to find something in the hotel vending machine, I instead decided to treat myself to a real meal and a nice, downtown restaurant. I found a seat at the bar, ordered a drink, and a meal. It was enjoyable. Although, I do regret the fact that I only had a phone with me – although I did catch up on Cup of Jo Friday links!

  143. One of my favorite things ever is a super rare meal alone…but only at home. Part of the fun of going to a restaurant, in my opinion, is to make it a social occasion. I’m around a lot of people all day every day thanks to work and my family, so being around even more people at a restaurant sounds taxing, but at home, alone, it’s so freeing. Ice cream and popcorn for dinner? Who cares? No one’s watching! So I ate an entire wedge of brie and a baguette by myself! No one was around to judge as I shoved decidedly undelicate chunks of bread and cheese in my mouth! Terrible rom-com? But of course, don’t mind if I do! Eating alone at a restaurant is still public, and I want to release my inner monster! Haha.

    • cooper says...

      I’m completely with you :) My husband changed his work hours so he works late a couple of nights a week. At first I didn’t know what to do with myself, but now I light a bunch of candles, eat crackers and fancy cheese for supper, and watch dumb reality TV or ballet documentaries. It’s the best! I just realized I’m describing my typical night pre-marriage, haha. I guess it’s important to prioritize alone time, no matter what your living situation or relationship status is :)

  144. Sometimes, I eat alone. Although I don’t like it, I just take my books along with me to avoid the odd thoughts.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “the odd thoughts” = haha, i hear you! :)

  145. Amy says...

    I can’t imagine not eating alone. Everyone has to eat, and not everyone is in the mood to cook. I grab drinks alone, full meals, snacks, you name it. Heck, I’ve gone out dancing by myself. I think it’s great because I’m on my own time schedule and there is no one to answer to except myself. I love that independence.

  146. I love going out to eat alone! But I also like to do a lot of things alone – it’s so nice to go at your own pace and not have to explain your choices to anyone or work around anyone else. I like not having to miss out on experiences because I’m too afraid to do them alone.

    Alison – http://www.starspree.net

  147. Simone says...

    I love eating out alone! Every now and then I sneak away and leave my husband with our two little boys and enjoy a meal where I don’t have to lift a finger. No begging a toddler to eat, getting splattered with baby food, or cleaning up after.

    I always go for a seat at the bar instead of a table – sometimes a table all to myself can feel a bit empty.

  148. Annie says...

    Dining alone is like kindergarten — only scary the first day! I used to live near a few of my favorite restaurants, and whenever my boyfriend was out of town, I’d take my self out on a date. A seat at the bar with that week’s New Yorker and French onion soup. Voila. Heaven.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      “only scary the first day” — i love that. :)

    • Hahaha, I love this comment, Annie!

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Love this so much, Annie!

      Stella

    • Yazi says...

      Love your simile!

    • Katherine says...

      So true, Annie! The first time I ate out alone I was so nervous! But now it seems like such a treat. And also–shout-out to eating at the bar when you’re eating alone. That really makes it feel so comfortable, and often you’ll end up next to other people having a drink or a meal alone.