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Dining Alone

OCAnn Aug 18, 2006 08:32 PM

I've seen requests for restaurant recommendations for dining alone; does it make a difference where you eat when you're alone?

For the many years I was single (travelling for business or pleasure), eating alone never stopped me from going where I wanted. Sure, sushi restaurants are single-friendly...but I've never encountered a place that was anti-single-diner. I guess I don't understand why this makes a difference....

  1. j
    Jefferson Aug 24, 2006 01:53 AM

    I'm a "one top" many nights, traveling or "home." And unless it's an earth-shattering taste sensation, I read while I'm eating, which I'm sure contributes to overconsumption. Except when I laugh out loud at something funny, no one seems to care.

    I do think that not all restaurants are suited to that kind of dining. For example, very dark or very loud places are difficult to read in, and I'm not always in the mood for a "scene." I had one night in Victoria (British Columbia) and, after a little mapping, I identified 5 promising candidates on Chowhound. But many of the most interesting sounded like places that would be difficult for a single 40-something out-of-towner, so I tried a subdued little Bistro. While my table (the only open table) was by the door, service was excellent.

    So as long as I can afford to have other people cook for me, and their offerings are tasty, I'll be back.

    1. prunefeet Aug 23, 2006 06:52 PM

      I eat out alone a lot, at lunch time mostly, and I really like it. When I go somewhere to eat something nice, I feel like I am treating myself to something special. I really enjoy a relaxing meal with a book. I don't think it's rude, and honestly, so many people read when they dine alone, it's become accepted and common. I once read that koreans consider it very rude to read at the table. However, where I eat korean food, the koreans are now reading at the table too. Once you get used to is, eating solo is a very pleasant thing. And I am absolutely not lonely or miserable, merely independent. Oh, I read somewhere that M. Batali and his staff refer to solo diners as "losers", that is their term for a single diner. What a bunch of schmucks.

      3 Replies
      1. re: prunefeet
        TexasToast Aug 23, 2006 06:57 PM

        Which is why you'll see me running as fast as I can AWAY from Batali's place . . . with clogs on!


        1. re: prunefeet
          PseudoNerd Aug 24, 2006 07:27 PM

          Koreans definitely consider reading at the table to be very, very, very rude. But are you a woman or a man? It's considered completely unacceptable for women to do so, whether they're eating solo or not. Men, on the other hand, are excused when they do such things. You'd be astounded at the liberties men are allowed to take. Ugh.

          I generally don't read when I'm at a Korean restaurant-- I might, however, try to sneak in a couple of pages while waiting for my food or text-message quietly (with the ringer off). That said, I try to read whenever I eat/drink alone and I'm not particularly interested in people watching.

          The thing about reading while eating is that it's sometimes difficult to do. I'm rather particular about the condition of my books, and it's hard to keep food/drinks from getting on it, to make sure the binding's ok, to make sure the cover's not bent, etc.. But that's just me.

          I was, for example, trying to read while having a bowl of soup yesterday. The book is just one of the number of things on my "suggested" reading list for my program, and I'm trying to get through them before school starts. It was just...kinda hard, you know? I was trying to balance the book on the bottom end of its spine , but I noticed that the cover was wearing (it's a paperback). I put it down to get something else, and there was a water spot from my having turned it upside down on the pages. *sigh* I eventually gave up and people watched, which turned out to be a good thing, as I noticed a friend and his SO walk in.

          1. re: PseudoNerd
            Aromatherapy Aug 24, 2006 08:57 PM

            Magazines! Light, portable, and I'm gonna toss it anyway so who cares about pho splashes.

        2. f
          FrankJBN Aug 23, 2006 05:41 PM


          You post "I don't think anyone here is condemning those who read & eat."

          What do you think PBSF meant then, when he or she posted to you " I think it is rude for a solo diner to read a book ..."

          Unless you think accusing someone of being rude is an accolade rather than a condemnation.

          I talk to people all day long, I enjoy dining alone. I like to dine alone, read while I am dining and hear music that I like at the same time. I like to dine in a room where the other diners realize they are in a room with me and still other diners and therefore speak softly enough that I cannot hear them from across the room or even from 8 feet away. It distracts me from my reading.

          However, I don't mind intruding on stranger's conversations, because when I say "I couldn't help but overhear" it is the truth. The only way i could have been out of their conversation would have been to leave the room (or for them to have been speaking at an appropriate volume to begin with).

          4 Replies
          1. re: FrankJBN
            OCAnn Aug 23, 2006 11:48 PM

            I certainly don't think accusing someone's rude behaviour is an accolade. I said what I did to assuage and mitigate some of the posts that were upsetting (mine included) to those who read while dining solo.

            (EDIT: Maybe you can focus on your food and a book at the same time, but for me, dining on a nice meal involves many of my senses...I like to think about what I'm eating, concentrate on the flavours I'm tasting, examine how the smell of the herbs enhance the meal. To me, reading detracts from the full experience. I was raised to believe that reading at the dinner table was rude--alone or not. If you want to read, go right on ahead, but I believe it takes away from the full dining pleasure.)

            1. re: OCAnn
              geg5150 Aug 24, 2006 12:20 AM

              Obviously, rude is in the eye of the beholder. But, I perceive "rude" as something that is insulting, infringes on another's enjoyment, etc. Reading at the table with others, would be rude as it would be insulting to those I'm dining with. If we're not dining together, how then am I being rude? And to whom am I being rude?

              I knew it would be brought up that reading detracts from the dining experience. How does reading differ from dinner conversation? If we're talking about politics or office gossip or the latest in fashion or movies, I'm not fully focused on the meal either.

              I have to say, I'm not offended at all, and I'm surprised by how much action this post has gotten. It's a really intersting topic with so many strong feelings.


              1. re: geg5150
                OCAnn Aug 24, 2006 12:54 AM

                Hmmm...I never said that reading at the table was rude (I checked); someone else did. However, I added that I was raised to believe it--and only apply it to myself, not to others.

                "If we're not dining together, how then am I being rude? And to whom am I being rude?"

                Karl S said, "It's rude to read at the dinner table when you have dining companions, to be sure. But without dining companions, the rule vanishes. The rule is to ensure you are present to your dining companions. Not to other parties at the restaurant!"

                To which I thanked him for the clarification.

                To me, reading (along w/tv) detracts from the meal; I cannot explain why or how, but it does.

                1. re: geg5150
                  prunefeet Aug 24, 2006 05:35 PM

                  I agree on all points. Personally, I find that I do most of my reading before the food arrives. Once it arrives, depending on how good or interesting it is, I do more eating than reading.

            2. Covert Ops Aug 23, 2006 05:10 PM

              I guess I'm the opposite -- being a married woman, if I dine alone I DON'T want to have conversation with anyone, especially fellow diners at the bar (even with innocent intentions, it still weirds me out a bit).

              1. f
                feelinpeckish Aug 23, 2006 03:04 PM

                In the not too distant past, my wife had to travel by virtue of her job and unless co-workers/seminar attenders were dining together, she preferred to have room service. It was just too uncomfortable and in a sense vulnerable to dine alone in even a very good restaurant. Then too she was always working even back in her room.

                1. t
                  Tugboat Aug 21, 2006 04:35 PM

                  When I dine alone, unless I have to eat in the dining room (small ethnic place, etc) I prefer to eat at the bar if they have one.

                  You get better attention and no one looks at you askant.

                  1. Dommy Aug 21, 2006 04:14 PM

                    It's weird, when traveling, I had no problem eatting a lone. But when at home, I perfer restaurant take out (I'm the take out QUEEN!). Then instead of wasting time in the restaurant, I can be at home eating delish grub and watching the Tee Vee...


                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Dommy
                      Pei Aug 21, 2006 04:37 PM

                      I think when I'm travelling I'm in a "let's see what this town is about" frame of mind. So eating alone, even without a book, is kind of exciting. New sites, new faces, new vibe, right? At home, the places I'm likely to eat alone are probably the same places I can eat all the time, so I might as well take it home. This is different when I'm in a "Let's discover a new neighborhood/new restaurant all by myself and not let anyone else come along" mood.

                      1. re: Pei
                        TexasToast Aug 22, 2006 10:53 AM

                        I did that in Austin once and ended up making a "party of 11" one of 12, and got a great private dining area, and tried lots of food with my new found dinner companions.


                      2. re: Dommy
                        cheryl_h Aug 21, 2006 05:54 PM

                        At home I'd rather get take out than eat alone in a restaurant too. Not because I care whether I'm alone or not, I'm just more comfortable in my own home, wearing jeans and with a cat nearby. But I'd prefer to eat my own cooking so I never get take out.

                        1. re: cheryl_h
                          TexasToast Aug 22, 2006 10:54 AM

                          At home, I have favorite restaurants where I can pop in any time, with no reservations and they know what I like and my drink arrives without asking, and it's nice . . . except when I'm in the mood to drink something different!


                          1. re: TexasToast
                            cheryl_h Aug 22, 2006 01:32 PM

                            That's almost like being home except you don't have to clean up. Nice.

                            1. re: cheryl_h
                              TexasToast Aug 22, 2006 05:00 PM

                              yeah, but it costs more!


                      3. f
                        FrankJBN Aug 21, 2006 03:19 PM

                        "I think it is rude for a solo diner to read a book at the French Laundry or other "top notch" restaurant"

                        Rude to who?

                        Would you think it less rude if this stranger just sat and listened to your dinner conversation? Exactly what other occupations for the active mind do you deem inappropriate while dining?

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: FrankJBN
                          Karl S Aug 21, 2006 03:21 PM

                          Yes, it sounds more like it's simply rude to be a single diner.

                          1. re: FrankJBN
                            OCAnn Aug 21, 2006 04:30 PM

                            I don't think anyone here is condemning those who read & eat. Maybe some of us were raised with it's "rude to read at the dinner table."

                            1. re: OCAnn
                              Karl S Aug 21, 2006 04:37 PM

                              It's rude to read at the dinner table when you have dining companions, to be sure. But without dining companions, the rule vanishes. The rule is to ensure you are present to your dining companions. Not to other parties at the restaurant!

                              1. re: Karl S
                                OCAnn Aug 21, 2006 04:49 PM

                                Ahhh...thank you for that clarification; my parents never qualified it.

                          2. Xericx Aug 20, 2006 06:13 AM

                            I eat alone all the time...I really don't cook at home so I eat 80% of my meals out......i just don't really care about feeling weird. Usually I get one of the free newspapers or LA times. I guess I'm just used to it....

                            1. Davwud Aug 19, 2006 11:52 PM

                              I have eaten alone on a number of occasions and basically, don't concern myself. I may skip a nice romantic place if alone and not dating anyone at the time. It can be a little irritating to see people in love/dating when you can't find Mrs. Right. Of course, this has changed with marriage but there are plenty of other places. I can distinctly recall a lunch I had on a patio on a nice spring day. I had a nice simple lunch, read the sports section, people watched a bit and just enjoyed the weather. It was fantastic. A companion would have messed that all up.


                              1. l
                                Linda VH Aug 19, 2006 08:20 PM

                                I dine alone quite a bit. I always take a book with me. Sorry guess I'm rude but I've taken books with me at top notch restaurants and was treated extremely well. The only thing I do find is that people keep talking to me while I'm trying to read lol!!!

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Linda VH
                                  TexasToast Aug 19, 2006 11:15 PM

                                  This is where a blackberry comes in handy:)


                                2. l
                                  linlinchan Aug 19, 2006 04:52 AM

                                  I hate eating alone. It is something that I have had to do a lot though.

                                  A lot of times, I try to go to restaurants with counters, especially sushi bars, where often the chefs will speak with you if you strike up a conversation.

                                  1. limster Aug 19, 2006 01:14 AM

                                    The only common meal that is difficult to eat alone are the full on Chinese banquets, which typically require tables of 8 to 10.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: limster
                                      chaddict Aug 19, 2006 01:26 AM

                                      You haven't met my neighbor, P. Hollow leg, I tell you!

                                      1. re: chaddict
                                        Pei Aug 19, 2006 04:11 AM

                                        I HAVE met P. Two hollow legs, at least (but her legs are small, so that doesn't really explain it).

                                        I'm one of those who loves to dine alone and have never noticed negative treatment. Maybe it does take practice, or maybe it just requires not caring that you're "weird."

                                        The only limitation to eating alone is not being able to order everything I want. I wish all restaurants had half portions (and I don't mean charging me $7 for half of a $10 dish).

                                    2. i
                                      ieatvegan Aug 18, 2006 11:50 PM

                                      i am single and am interested in reading people's suggestions (especially on the west side). i usually get my food to go because i don't like to sit at a table alone while everyone around me is with a partner. i agree bars are more comfortable.

                                      10 Replies
                                      1. re: ieatvegan
                                        OCAnn Aug 19, 2006 12:11 AM

                                        Maybe it takes practice?

                                        What bugs me, however, is when I see other solo dinners bring reading material to dinner (it screams "lonely"). I've found sommeliers & serves to be more friendly and accomodating when I'm dining alone.

                                        Venturing out solo, to me, is much more fun / relaxing / invigorating than ordering room service or dining in the hotel's restaurant.

                                        1. re: OCAnn
                                          geg5150 Aug 19, 2006 12:14 AM

                                          I don't mind dining alone at all. I do it alot. But, I'm one of those who always has a book. It scream "entertainment" to me, not "lonely") On nights when the restaurant is busy and the bartender/server can't stand around and chat with me, it's a great way for me to entertain myself.

                                          1. re: OCAnn
                                            aelph Aug 19, 2006 04:17 PM

                                            Bringing reading material when dining out screams "lonely?" Are you kidding me? And why would you or anyone else care? When dining alone I always have something to peruse; maybe it's because I'm one of the few people who still read books. I don't need the forced conviviality of bar seating. I'd *much* rather enjoy my book and a meal; I just don't get the need to make friends...esp. when, apparently, it's merely to keep up appearances that one isn't some omg poor, lonely, friendless, "foodie." You mean people are actually disparaging me as I'm knee-deep in whatever novel and slurping my pho? Jeepers.

                                            1. re: OCAnn
                                              PBSF Aug 19, 2006 06:01 PM

                                              I think it really depends on the type of restaurant. I think it is rude for a solo diner to read a book at the French Laundry or other "top notch" restaurants but perfectly exceptable at an informal diner or a casual lunch. It is matter of going to a place to 'dine' or to 'eat'.

                                              1. re: PBSF
                                                susancinsf Aug 20, 2006 06:11 PM

                                                Personally, I'd much rather take a seat near the open kitchen, if there is such, or at the bar, and people watch and watch the cooking, than read, but I don't see why it is rude or 'lonely', even at a top-notch place. One can read and still pay more attention to the food than your average group of four diners talking together (well, unless of course they are true hounds who talk mostly about the food :-)).

                                                Indeed, at dinner at Lacroix in Philadelphia (one of that City's top restaurants) the server offered to bring me a magazine 'or something else to read' as soon as I sat down (I declined and took advantage of my prime window seat to check out the square below when I wasn't surrepticiously watching what other diners ordered...)

                                                In case it isn't obvious from this post, I like to eat alone. Indeed, when I am dining alone, I am more likely to go to an upscale place. First of all, hubby, who is often my dining companion, doesn't really enjoy upscale dining, so I find I can get into the experience more when he isn't with me...and as a corallation : going alone puts less pressure on the family budget than if I had dragged him along! :-)

                                                1. re: PBSF
                                                  Jefferson Aug 24, 2006 01:41 AM

                                                  I can't imagine reading at the French Laundry. More like, texting my friends after every bite. About the food they're missing, of course. ;-)

                                                2. re: OCAnn
                                                  OCAnn Aug 20, 2006 04:24 PM

                                                  Sorry; I didn't mean to offend solo diners (which I was once for many years as I stated in my OP). But if you read carefully, I said DINNER--not b'fast or lunch. And I didn't make myself clear; I meant, as PBSF said, "top notch" restaurants.

                                                  1. re: OCAnn
                                                    JocelynCS Aug 20, 2006 07:20 PM

                                                    I have to disagree; I don't think it's unacceptable in any restaurant (except for one that requires diner participation, that is) for a solo diner to bring a book or something to write in to dinner. So long as they put their material down long enough to discuss ordering etc with the waiter, I hardly think there's anything wrong with it, or that it sends a "lonely" vibe.

                                                    As a writer and avid bookworm, I often dine out for the purpose of being able to enjoy my pastime with minimal interruption (as opposed to having to get up and cook). I've noticed that waitstaff seem rather appreciative, as I'm an undemanding diner, and if I've put my book down to look around, it's an easy, mild cue that I need service.

                                                    1. re: JocelynCS
                                                      LT from LF Aug 22, 2006 06:56 PM

                                                      I'm with you. I don't see anything wrong with reading while eating. If I were at a sushi bar, or doing a tasting menu, I wouldn't be reading, but under almost any other circumstances I would be. I don't give a rodent's rosy behind if some misguided wight thinks I'm "lonely"--in fact, the bane of my existence when I was a twentysomething single traveler was the constant attempt to be "joined" by guys who thought I must be lonely sitting all by myself. Arrggh.

                                                  2. re: OCAnn
                                                    ieatvegan Aug 28, 2006 05:11 PM

                                                    i was looking for suggestions of names of restaurants in LA - not how to behave. i will now make it a "practice" to read at DINNER all by my lonesome in "top notch" spots all over the world! i'm sure they'll take my hard earned $$$ for fine veggie food and wine.

                                                3. geg5150 Aug 18, 2006 11:32 PM

                                                  I too am a frequent business traveler and single diner. There aren't particularly places that I avoid, but there certainly places that are more condusive to single dining. I prefer to sit at the bar. I'm more likely to get some social interaction at the bar either with the bartender or other patrons. If there's not a bar, there have been places that I've passed up.

                                                  I find that the service can lag if you're a single diner, but at the bar, it's generally good and faster. I can progress at my pace, alerting the bartender to when I need something.

                                                  1. PeterL Aug 18, 2006 11:01 PM

                                                    Single diners get seated at the smallest table, and often the one next to the door to the kitchen, or worse, the restrooms.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: PeterL
                                                      Allstonian Aug 19, 2006 03:25 AM

                                                      I know that this is supposed to be an issue, but I've eaten alone a LOT and I've never had this happen to me.

                                                      1. re: PeterL
                                                        melly Aug 19, 2006 06:53 PM

                                                        I have found this to be true for me..most of the time anyway. I love it when they say..."is it just one?" My all time favorite, "are you dining all alone tonight?"

                                                        1. re: melly
                                                          TexasToast Aug 19, 2006 11:12 PM

                                                          Well, it's all in how assertive you are. You don't HAVE to take the crappy table. I've turned down the communal table and the bar and the wonky talbe with the stained chairs. And all of a sudden, voila, a nicer table is offered!


                                                          1. re: TexasToast
                                                            melly Aug 20, 2006 06:07 AM

                                                            So true.

                                                      2. ciaogal Aug 18, 2006 10:15 PM

                                                        I too travel quite a bit for business....I find myself dining alone frequently. I relish this time to try things my partner would not. I usually dine @ the bar or @ a communal table. I find @ the bar the bartender can order a half portion of an entree and/or appetizer. I love the adventure!

                                                        1. jfood Aug 18, 2006 10:07 PM

                                                          I probably eat 60-70 solo meals on the road. I have made reservations for one and have rarely been turned down. I also sometimes walk around the neighborhood and decide what place looks interesting.

                                                          I have noticed the service is most times less than when I am with others, but there have been numerous posts about that subject, maybe given being alone your a little more focused on the service since no one there to chat with. Also a 20-30 minute delay between app and entree is welcome when with others, when solo, it seems much longer. Who knows.

                                                          To answer the OP question, I do not avoid ANY restaurant when eating alone.

                                                          I was chatting with my wife on an unusual situation about what people expect from a single diner and am preparing to post that question to hear other opinions.

                                                          1. ipsedixit Aug 18, 2006 09:37 PM

                                                            I travel quite a bit and often want/have to dine alone.

                                                            Some restaurants won't even take a reservation for 1. In the past I've resorted to making the reservation for 2 and then pretending I got stood up. But I gave that up cuz it was so silly ... if a restaurant doesn't want my solo dining $$ then I don't need to play games with them.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: ipsedixit
                                                              TexasToast Aug 19, 2006 11:09 PM

                                                              Been there, done that too! Usually though, if it's a nice hotel, I just have them make the reservation for me. After all, that's what the Concierge is for!


                                                            2. c
                                                              cheryl_h Aug 18, 2006 09:02 PM

                                                              I travel a fair amount and eat alone at least some of the time. There are times I need the peace and quiet to unwind. I think the wait staff may be less attentive because the tab will be lower (I don't drink alcohol), but I don't see a big difference in the service.

                                                              I think the main advantage in eating with at least one other person if you're on the road is that it helps in finding the restaurant. Many times I've settled for a place that's easy to find to save myself driving around in circles.

                                                              1. PBSF Aug 18, 2006 08:44 PM

                                                                I dine alone frequently, especially when I am traveling. I think it depends on the individual and where the restaurant is. Some people are not comfortable at a table by themselves, therefore, prefer counter seating. Or they might feel more comfortable in a bustling restaurant so that they can blend in and don't feel so self conscious. Through my travel experience, I've noticed that I am much more comfortable dining alone in Western Europe than in Asia. This pertains to mostly sit down dinner restaurants, where in Asia, nobody eats alone. They glance at you as if you have no friends or family. In many cases, I get better service when I am dining alone.

                                                                1. chaddict Aug 18, 2006 08:38 PM

                                                                  Nor I. I have eaten from low to high, across many countries and never felt I needed to choose restaurants based on "single friendliness." Maybe some restaurants treat single diners not as well because of the lower tab and people are asking for recs because of this? I don't know, never had it happen to me.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: chaddict
                                                                    TexasToast Aug 19, 2006 11:07 PM

                                                                    That surprises me Chaddict. I usually come across it at least once on every trip. A single diner usually gets the crappy table. Especially if you're visiting as "who cares what s/he'll say?" Ahh! The power of CH! I do think it had to do with the single diner = small tip mentality.


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