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Dining on your own


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Every once in a while I'm really not in the mood to cook, or to eat the crap from the takeout, I usually think about grabbing a quick bite at an inexpensive restaurant before deciding against it, because is there anything less lonely then that?

Do you go to restaurants on your own, or do you always take people with you?

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them."

-Winston Churchill

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Absolutely I dine alone. However, when I'm going to do this, I tend to go to restaurants that feature communal tables, so I'm not really alone - I'm meeting new people! However, when I'm really dining solo at a restaurant that seats me at my own little table, it's still never lonely. I relish the moments of "me" time and I can take as long as I bloody well please over my meal without anybody pressuring me to eat up and move on.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Absolutely I dine alone. However, when I'm going to do this, I tend to go to restaurants that feature communal tables, so I'm not really alone - I'm meeting new people! However, when I'm really dining solo at a restaurant that seats me at my own little table, it's still never lonely. I relish the moments of "me" time and I can take as long as I bloody well please over my meal without anybody pressuring me to eat up and move on.

I have only once seen a communal table like that, though that indeed sounds like fun. The strange thing is, I'm really just fine eating or doing anything on my own, I am a pretty solitary person by nature, but something about going to a restaurant alone, the thought alone depresses me.

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them."

-Winston Churchill

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i definitely do. and i really enjoy it. especially when i'm traveling, or have been engaged in lots of networking or social events involving large groups of people, i like to relax my "talking muscles" by dining solo. if there's a seat viewing the kitchen, that's my choice--either a counter, or just a good view. i sip my wine and watch someone else cook for me. the ballet of the kitchen never fails to keep my interest, and i find it very relaxing to just be me for a meal.

"Laughter is brightest where food is best."

www.chezcherie.com

Author of The I Love Trader Joe's Cookbook ,The I Love Trader Joe's Party Cookbook and The I Love Trader Joe's Around the World Cookbook

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Absolutely I dine alone. However, when I'm going to do this, I tend to go to restaurants that feature communal tables, so I'm not really alone - I'm meeting new people! However, when I'm really dining solo at a restaurant that seats me at my own little table, it's still never lonely. I relish the moments of "me" time and I can take as long as I bloody well please over my meal without anybody pressuring me to eat up and move on.

I have only once seen a communal table like that, though that indeed sounds like fun. The strange thing is, I'm really just fine eating or doing anything on my own, I am a pretty solitary person by nature, but something about going to a restaurant alone, the thought alone depresses me.

At the restaurants I favour for solo dining, communal tables are the norm. They're generally little family-run affairs with three nice big tables (seating for about 20-25) out on the sidewalk, and a charcoal grill out front. It's immensely fun, especially when (like me) you're the only foreigner at the table. You find out all sorts of interesting things eating this way - people here are very open and friendly, and will often go out of their way to include solo diners. I particularly like to do this if I'm alone on vacation in a new town.

I've also had the restaurants that seat me at my own little table (which invariably has two chairs, and which are invariably very busy places) ask me politely whether I'll share with another solo diner. That's also always interesting - I've made great friends this way.

Elizabeth Campbell, baking 10,000 feet up at 1° South latitude.

My eG Food Blog (2011)My eG Foodblog (2012)

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Eating alone isn't a problem. I have got strange looks from waitstaff when I start laughing if they ask if I'm waiting for someone to join me or if they start clearing the extra stuff from the table. Not because there's anything wrong with what they're doing, it's because that scene from The Lonely Guy always pops into my head. I don't like communal tables though, I feel obligated to talk to people even when I really would rather not. Sitting alone seems better socially than saying "could you please shut your hole, I'm trying to eat".

It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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For a couple of decades I had several business trips a year, and often dined on my own. If the restaurant wasn't busy, I'd pull out a book and relax. If there are people waiting for tables, and the restaurant doesn't suggest sharing a table, then IMO the polite thing is to eat promptly and leave the table for someone else (or eat at the counter if that's an option). If there's a line to get in, sometimes it's possible to join forces with another solitary diner and get a table for two-- usually easier for the restaurant than two singles, and will usually get you seated quicker.

Dick in Northbrook, IL

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I am rather surprised by the amount of people saying they love dining on their own and no one who shares my unease, am I really that unique in this?

"My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them."

-Winston Churchill

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I am rather surprised by the amount of people saying they love dining on their own and no one who shares my unease, am I really that unique in this?

I have to eat alone often when I travel for work, or I'm on one of my "leave me alone everybody, I'm jetting off by myself" holidays. I prefer eating with company, don't mind eating alone, but my comfort level with it depends on the restaurant. If it's a very fancy or trendy place, I'd be lying if I didn't admit to feeling a little uneasy, as you say, but then push through it by pondering how if my biggest problem in life at that second is feeling a little shy about eating a delicious meal alone in a beautiful restaurant, then I'm doing pretty well in life. :raz:

Anyway, I think it's one of the things that defines one as an adult - both the ability and quiet confidence to function as a self-contained unit and enjoy one's own company even in a boisterous crowd, AND the wherewithal (in an attitudanal sense) to push past our ideas of what's easy and difficult, and do whatever we damn well want anyway. :biggrin:

Edited by rarerollingobject (log)
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Advantages to eating on one's own -

- Don't have to wait for slow eaters to finish.

- Often seated at the table closest to the kitchen so there is enough noise and activity to keep one from getting bored.

- Servers leave one alone to enjoy the meal as the gratuity potential is larger with more densely populated tables.

- No obligation to share one's food with disease ridden dining partners.

- Easier to eavesdrop on nearby tables and waitstaff. Often more entertaining than Oprah or the soaps.

- No fighting over the cinnamon roll or muffin in the bread basket (circa 1970).

- Can order dessert without feigning guilt.

- No issue about who pays or splitting the check fairly.

Edited by Holly Moore (log)

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I don't dine alone often, since I just rarely have the opportunity. When I have I've sometimes had mixed feelings -- little pangs of loneliness, but at the same time it allows for my favorite activity in restaurants: eavesdropping. Which is to say that dining alone is much more fun for me at restaurants where the tables are close together and the clientele is likely to be intriguing...

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Thoroughly enjoy dining alone, and having a book in hand is great cover for eavesdropping. We've invited single diners to join us at our table if they looked lonely, and had single diners ask to join us. My only regret when I dine alone and eat something wonderful is that I can't share the experience. I like mixing it up.

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Oh yes -- Judith's post made me remember the virtues of inviting someone dining alone to eat with you. My husband and I were out with a friend at a tea shop in DC, where we were having tea and cookies and planning to play cards. I started up a conversation with man eating solo at a table next to us (I think by waxing rhapsodic over one of the cookies and insisting he go get one)... After chatting a little while, I invited him to play cards with us. Long story short, he's now been dating my friend (who was there with me that night) for 9 months! :-)

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Absolutely! In fact I am currently somewhat relieved that my boyfriend is out of town so I can go out wherever I want and not have to worry if he is going to get freaked out by the money spent or how to drag him someplace he might think is too fancy but would enjoy if he could just get over it :rolleyes:

I'll often sit at the bar, and have had many experiences where there was one last seat at the bar in an otherwise full restaurant and was happy I was solo so I could snag it. I have also done fine dining on my own, and at higher end places it becomes clear that you really want to be there for the food, which is a good impression to make.

I always figure that if the choice is between doing something alone or not doing it, then I'll go ahead and do it alone instead of putting my life on hold waiting for someone who wants to do the same thing at the same time. I'm not going to say that I never get lonely or bored or feel self conscious. I used to usually bring a magazine or book, now I just play with my iphone between courses.

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I recently was in Rome and ate three lunches and three evening meals by myself until my friends arrived. As one always discovers, some places are more friendly to single diners and others shove them off to a corner. It is not much different between Europe and here.

In Chicago there is a nice place in the Loop called 312 Chicago and they have a dining bar in front of their kitchen where guests can have their meals. This is a perfect perch for a solo diner...and sometimes that extra or errant preparation finds its way to my seat as a bonus. Often in other places that have open kitchens, I will try to ask for a table with a kitchen view.

"A cloud o' dust! Could be most anything. Even a whirling dervish.

That, gentlemen, is the whirlingest dervish of them all." - The Professionals by Richard Brooks

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I do go alone to restaurants, always with a book, or in recent years, my Kindle with me because I like to read when I am not paying attention to my food.

I usually go to places where I am known and as these are places that friends frequent, I am often joined by them if I am not too far along in my meal, often we meet up by chance on arrival or while waiting for a table.

At a couple of restaurants, where I go to have an early dinner (no, there is no "early-bird special"), I am sometimes joined by one of the owners who needs to have dinner prior to their busy time. These are ethnic restaurants, one Thai/Korean, one middle eastern, and I have greatly enjoyed the discussion (and have learned a lot of interesting tidbits).

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Although I have never done it myself, I wonder if the people here who dine alone frequently receive any kind of special treatment. Achatz talked about Thomas Keller giving single diners "celebrity treatment" (i.e. extra, new courses) because he felt that one who dines alone was there for the food, and not the fanfare of being at THAT restaurant.

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I never have. But since I am alone, I perhaps have a bit more time to talk things over with the waitstaff than if I am trying to hold up my end of a different conversation, so perhaps I benefit more from their knowledge than when in a group. Not 'special treatment', tho.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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I don't have much oppportunity to dine alone anymore, since I quit my jet-setting job. When I dined alone on business trips, it really gave me a chance to not talk, not network, and be as antisocial as I wanted; gave my brain some time to recharge. And I'd always bring a good book. Solo dining never made me feel weird and awkward. Solitude can be very mentally refreshing.

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I love dining alone, but I don't get the opportunity too often, not to say that my husband isn't a delightful dining partner, but I agree with Beebs that solitude can be very mentally refreshing. I spend a lot of time alone as a child (only child) and that's the one thing that I miss now that I have a biggish family of my own. I also can't stand the rigamarole of splitting the check, and eating by myself solves that pretty neatly.

The one drawback is I can't justify ordering two desserts to try both and I can't try out my dining companions dessert if they're non-existent. Oh well, you can't win them all :rolleyes: ...

If you ate pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry? ~Author Unknown

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I first started dining alone back when I was pretty young. I was in my early 20's; the world was in its mid-60's. In those days, it was considered really odd for a woman to dine alone. The general opinion was that there could be no good reason for it. Either she was scandalously brazen or pathetically lonely or, most likely, trying to cure the latter by being the former. But I was born with a wandering heart and an adventuresome spirit and wasn't about to grant someone else the power over me to decide whether or not I should eat at any particular restaurant just because I was alone, often having just blown into town solo earlier that day in my shiny red Austin Healey 3000 Mark III.

Regarding the conundrum of not being able to order two desserts, or two anything, or three for that matter, or more, if I want to try several things, I order whatever I want to try, and then ask them to bring me the to-go boxes with the meal, not after. Then I portion out what I think is a reasonable amount for one meal, including half (and usually less) of each dessert or appetizer or whatever, and put all of the remainder into the boxes to take home. Usually, they’ll put the boxes into a bag and hold them for me in the kitchen until it’s time to leave. If not, I just put it in an adjacent seat or on the floor so that I don’t have to look at it throughout the meal. All that food is out of sight and no longer tempting. Also, it’s untouched by fork or saliva, so it’s still attractive and sanitary, and still fit for human consumption in the event I have anyone waiting at home that might wish it. Or for me to eat over the next few days.

Long, long ago, I, too, would take a book or magazine along. But I found that I never even looked at them, much less read them. I was too busy enjoying my meal, chatting up the waitstaff, or other diners when they initiated it (which they often did), or wondering what others were eating, or following along with the fascinating interplay of the restaurant.

And I don’t and won’t sit at the bar. For many reasons. First, I’m not particularly comfortable perched up there like a parrot. Also, usually that would mean I have my back to the other diners. Not only do I not like that view, I’m well aware that my backside on a bar stool is not the most attractive view of me. And I can’t watch the unfolding stage act of the restaurant, either. So I prefer a booth or small table along a side wall. And I see to it that I’m not stuck in some spot that I don’t like just because I’m a woman alone. If they try that, I just point to something I like better and say, “I prefer that one, if you don’t mind” and immediately head in that direction as though they’ve answered in the affirmative.

Also, I tip very well. I know that the reputation of women dining alone is that we are wretched tippers, and I try hard to counteract that.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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