Dining Alone? No Problem!
Reading this article, the tagline of which is “Dining alone isn’t as awkward as it used to be” is interesting, but I still think we’re not quite there yet.
“It was weird to look over and see some single person eating next to you ten years ago,” says Amanda Cohen, chef and owner of Dirt Candy in New York City. “Now it’s pretty normal.”
“I remember in college reading this great M.F.K. Fisher essay,” says writer Matt Gross, the former Frugal Traveler columnist for The New York Times. “She was traveling in France and she stopped in to a little place to get a quick lunch by herself. The property owner saw how much she enjoyed the first course and kept bringing her more and more delicious dishes. She had this utterly incredible solo dining experience, and this encounter with a restaurant and restaurateur who simply wanted to feed her well. Ever since I read that, I’ve always hoped to go somewhere by myself and have a pure dining experience like that.”
For all that some restaurants are doing to better incorporate parties of one into their venues, there’s a lot of work yet to be done. I enjoy dining alone because sometimes I just want to go out, or treat myself to not having to cook a meal, or try someplace new. There are a few restaurants around DC where I’m known at the bar by name, but also known as a problem-free customer. I’ll often have my phone, or my Kindle and drink and eat and keep to myself — for the most part — or have idle conversation with the staff and the odd stranger.
However, there are still places I go to where I’d like the “full table experience” and am deferred from it. “Just one?” or “By yourself?” are some of the worst phrases I can hear. I also find it interesting that the above article referred to an OpenTable study about dining alone from last year when I’ve been after them for ages to offer more of their specials to solo diners, not just parties of two or more.
I don’t mind eating at the bar, but at the same time I don’t want it assumed that I would be happy so to do. Bar areas get crowded, people are often jostling for the bartender’s attention and the fact that you have a laid out place setting doesn’t deter them one bit. I’ve had meals with oblivious people’s hair in my face, arms resting on the back of my chair and been reached over many a time so they can retrieve their drinks. And god forbid it’s a place that utilizes the bar area in double duty as a “TV area”. It’s not always a fun time.
Still, I suppose this is one thing I can praise the rise of the introverts for. It’s no longer seen as too weird to go out to eat (or drink) alone. It lets me find and try new places without having to worry about anyone else’s schedule. And it’s practically a superpower to know which restaurants and bars don’t have TVs.