Table for One

Sometimes I have to wonder about my friends. (Please don’t think me harsh; I’m sure they sometimes wonder about me, too.)

“J” recently sent me an email in which she complained about gaining weight while on a 2-week business trip because, she wrote,  “I ended up eating fast food almost every meal.”

To which I replied, “What, did they finally take away your expense account?”

“No, of course not. I just didn’t have anyone to eat with and the hotel didn’t have room service. That’s why I had to get drive-through and eat in my room.”

That one threw me. “I don’t understand. Weren’t there any real restaurants in your area?”

“Sure, but I wasn’t about to go in alone and eat by myself.”

Ah, then I understood. Her fear of eating a meal alone in a restaurant overpowered her good nutritional sense.

“J” isn’t my only friend who refuses to dine out solo.  Off the top of my head, I can think of three more friends (all female) who avoid eating in restaurants by themselves. None of them are the “shrinking violet” type; they just have some sort of block about eating alone. In public, that is.

This, thank goodness, has never been a problem for me. Granted, some of my choices in restaurants haven’t always been stellar, but now that we’ve got that little problem resolved, I enjoy a nice meal out. I tend to enjoy many of them especially because I’m by myself.  This amazes my friends, who have all asked me at one time or another how I’m able to do it and not feel “weird.”  (I know they’re thinking “weirdER”, but they’re too polite to say so. They are my friends, after all.)

I’ve shared my dining solo habits with all of them, and I thought it might be helpful to share them here, just in case anyone reading has similar issues.

1) This one’s a gimme, but I always take something along to read or do. A book, a magazine, a newspaper, a notebook–something I can pretend to be absorbed in while I surreptitiously observe everyone else. And if I just happen to pick up on a conversation here or there, all the better. It’s cheap entertainment.

2) Not the reader/writer/nosy type? Ask for a table on the patio or one with a view.  I’m especially fond of patio dining, since it’s usually quieter and has more of a casual feel. Plus, in the summer it’s warmer. Some of the restaurants around here believe in sub-zero dining.

3) Another seating option might be to sit in the bar. (I’m not a fan of sitting AT the bar, for some reason, but I don’t mind a small table in the bar.)  In the bar, you have the additional distraction of television, perhaps more than one. Quantity doesn’t really matter; they’ll all be tuned to either sports or news channels.  (Warning: In some areas, bar televisions may be broadcasting Fox News, which you can actually use to your advantage as Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly are known appetite suppressants.)

4) Make friends with the wait staff.  Locally, I have my regular haunts and while they don’t always call me by name, I usually get a cheery greeting and conversation as time allows.  As an added benefit, these folks know my story and are always helpful when healthy substitutions need to be made.  For this, they are tipped very well. :)

5) Keep your mind open to possibilities that may be presented by your situation. I’ve met some interesting people over the years, even shared a meal with a few who didn’t want to eat alone.  My favorite was a man who had to be in his 80s, who I met in a beach bar/diner place on the Alabama Gulf Coast.  His wife and her sister had gone shopping and left him alone for lunch.  We were at adjacent patio tables and made small talk for a bit, before he eventually moved to my table when it started getting crowded. I enjoyed the visit, especially when his wife and sister showed up and he introduced me as his “new girlfriend.”  His wife didn’t miss a beat, just asked him if he’d broken up with the girlfriend from the day before. And then she sat down and showed me all the stuff she’d bought at the factory outlet mall.  Ya gotta love old people.

It’s just that easy. And enjoyable.

But if you just can’t get past it and eat in the restaurant, call and ask if they provide take-out. You’ll probably have to go in and get it, but you don’t have to eat it there. The downside is you just might miss meeting some interesting people or having a moment of insight during your solitude or the pleasure of being served good food in a nice environment.

Do you have the heebie-jeebies about eating alone in a restaurant? Or do you have any other solo dining out tips I’m missing?

22 thoughts on “Table for One

  1. It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten out at all. But I used to eat by myself all the time. I would either take a book or notebook or newspaper or magazine, or I’d just sit there and openly people-watch! Sigh. I do miss those days. I’m never without my son, now, and haven’t eaten out in probably a month. Good thoughts. Vee at

  2. I have a hard time eating at a restaurant by myself. Not really sure why. Your post makes it sound rather okay to do it now. :-)

  3. I will eat alone in a restaurant, but I find that I tend to eat pretty fast. I don’t necessarily like to read while I am eating other than Sunday mornings (I am weird that way).

  4. Interesting topic to post on!

    I don’t mind eating alone. While I wait, I will usually have something with me to read. I don’t read while I’m eating, however.

    This post reminds me of a great episode of “Frasier” and all the funny things that happened to him when he went out to a nice restaurant on his own :)

  5. I have no prob going out or eating alone. I always bring reading material but I also like a view too just to realx to.. like you! I think we can always make up an excuse if we want to but one can still eat healthy even if you are not going out like you said Cammy.. ya just have to want to do it…

  6. I don’t mind a table for one. I do take along a book. (I keep a paperback copy of one of my favorite novels in my trunk. I can dip into it at just about any part and enjoy it thoroughly.) I also like people watching and eavesdropping. I too have to watch my speed-eating when I eat out alone.

  7. I don’t do it anymore, but when used to travel for business, I enjoyed going out to eat alone. I’m all for the concept of ordering what I want, and having someone else cook it and bring it to me, plus someone else doing the clean up. On business trips, the company paid for all of that. DELICIOUS!!!

    The only tip I have is to leave one, unless the service is really awful.

  8. May I add two suggestions:

    1. Just do it.
    2. Practice makes it easier.

    I like your idea of finding a place with patio eating… a place, perhaps, for meditative eating… slow, deliberate and attentive eating… something I rarely do, unfortunately.

  9. I love, love, love going to a restaurant on my own. I do prefer to go to a semi casual place rather than formal though. I mean … would you read a magazine in a formal restaurant? I don’t think so!

    I enjoy not having to interact with others, it’s a little oasis. I never overeat in a restaurant so it’s all good.

    Of course I enjoy going with my husband or friends too but time on my own pretending to be Lady Muck is great.

  10. I do not mind going out to eat by myself. I will read, but I prefer to watch people and listen to what is going on in their lives. Great fun!

  11. Hmmm….being a stay-at-home to three kids I have never actually gone ANYWHERE alone. Okay, maybe I have. But never to a restaurant. It does seem like it would feel a little strange to me. However, come August when all my kids are in school all day I just may have to enjoy myself a solo meal at a restaurant that does not sell chicken nuggets. Thanks for the tips!

  12. I always eat out alone! I leave my hubby with the kids, declare insanity, and head out with a fun magazine and some me time. Stay away from fast food!

  13. OMG – Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly as appetite suppressants – priceless!! I used to hate eating alone in a restaurant – I was convinced that everyone would assume I was a lonely fat lady who didn’t have any friends or family. Now that I’ve been traveling for work, I love researching nearby restaurants with views, or interesting food and I take a book. I look at it as an opportunity for a new experience. And please, it involves eating – win! :) If I go in empty-handed, I’m more likely to scarf and then leave, having no one to talk to. I also find that if you have to sit at the bar, there is usually a local who is happy to hear your story. Great tips!

  14. I love going places alone. Always have. Movies, meals, shopping even vacations! I completley agree with your tips and your experiences.

    For those who think everyone is looking at them, think of the last time you went out to dinner. Do you remember the other people at the tables around you? No one is paying attention! Just go and enjoy yourself!

  15. Wish I’d known you were on the Alabama Gulf Coast! I would have been happy to dine with you. :)

    I’m uncomfortable eating by myself. I tend to eat very fast when I’m alone. Then again, I tend to eat fast when I’m with company, too, so maybe that isn’t a good excuse. 😉

  16. Hubby travels and eats out alone all the time. Me not so much. I don’t enjoy being by myself in a restaurant. I will eat at a casual place by myself if I have to. I prefer to order something to go and eat at home or in my hotel room.

    I have gone to a movie by myself and that isn’t too bad. I guess I enjoy being with others for those kind of outings.

  17. On the first day of my freshman year of college, I got back from marching band practice after my dorm cafeteria had closed, so I headed to the campus snack bar to grab dinner. I thought I’d look like a dork sitting by myself, so I spied a guy sitting alone in the corner and asked if I could join him. He obligingly pushed some stuff out of the way and made room for me.

    As of this October, we’ll have been married for 14 years.

    The irony is … now, I love eating by myself, especially with a good book or podcast.

  18. I actually MISS going out to eat on my own, as I could sit and read and linger. My husband is not a lingerer! Eating out on my own has never been a problem for me – and yes, I too have met some interesting people that way.

  19. I never feel weird and have no problem eating alone as long as I have reading material. I always have one or two books going and just got a Kindle so I’m very rarely without material to keep me occupied. People watching is my second favorite thing to do while dining alone. I find that people are more willing to strike up a conversation if you’re by yourself. This can be fun or creepy depending on who it is but I’ve generally had good experiences when dining solo.


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