Solo Dining . . . tips?
Hey -- I've never gone in for solo dining, but in an attempt to "get out more" was thinking of giving it a go. Looking to hear from people who dine alone and enjoy it. It seems that the right mindset is needed. I'm afraid I'd feel self-conscious if there's no one to talk to, etc. Tips anyone? Suggestions for particularly conducive, convivial places to try? I'm female, late 30s. Thanks!
I'm a married w/kids woman in her late 30's and love dining out alone. I have had overwhelmingly positive experiences (usually sitting at the bar, but that's what I prefer even when dining with others, though all of these have had single diners at tables) I do tend to stay away from Friday & Saturday nights after 7pm as restaurants are more crowded and "datey" feeling to me. Spots I've enjoyed good food solo:
Esca (though the bar is small)
Pearls Oyster Bar
Jean Georges- Nougatine at the bar
Landmarc @ TWC
Cafe Grey- lunch in the main dining room
the lounge at Compass
Cesca (go early)
Thanks to all for the input. Though I live in Brooklyn, I'm in Manahattan most days, so am mainly looking for spots there. Although it does seem like a good idea to try a neighborhood place first, where the vibe may be a bit more casual. No one mentioned Gramercy Tavern. I've eaten at the bar there with friends, and it seems like it could possibly be comfortable solo. Maybe going early is the key.
Agree with a lot of the recommendations here. I tend to like to sit at a bar when dining alone - happy to make conversation with the bartender or others but equally happy to read a book or the paper. Would add in to the mix:
Blue Ribbon Sushi (sitting at the counter there on a busy night is entertainment in itself)
Try going to Lucien (First Ave betw 1st/2nd St)...don't go at prime time on weekends (unless you are prepared for a serious crowd -- although that is sometimes fun too)...but i love dining at the bar there (or at a table during offhours)...nice people and they appreciate the solo diner...
I went alone to Gotham B&G a few halloweens back, and they gave me a great table overlooking the crowd. I watched the local fauna all night, wasn't rushed, didn't need a book. (Reading always makes it feel bad eating out — like I'm hiding behind the book. In fact, eating alone becomes more about the food.) The wait staff seemed very relaxed with me there.
I just came back from a solo trip to NY and enjoyed myself as usual! I went to NY with many people, boyfriend/parents/friends, but going alone is totally different.
This time I tried a couple of new places. I went to Bar Boulud where the bar is different than other places. Usually, you have a bar where the waiter is behind but at Bar Boulud it is sort of a high table where you have someone eating in front of you. I was surprised when I saw it but found it to be fun. I found myself seating near a couple and we exchanged pleasantries. You don't have to be self-conscious in NY because you have lots of people there on business that have to eat alone because they have no one. There are other people like me that just love doing it. I always end up bringing a magazine and never reading because I end up talking with people.
Another place I just loved is Centra vinoteca on the corner of Bleecker and 7th avenue. The chef and owner has worked with Mario Batali and his places are also fun for single diners. I ate at Casa Mono and Otto a couple of times and always loved it.
Don't be afraid to be afraid.....look for places where there is a bar and you will see that more and more places have set up special places to eat at the bar. You often see couples and friends dining at the bar. L'atelier de Joel Robuchon has a nice set-up also for single diners at the bar. You don't have to end up in crummy places!
I've been eating out alone for years. My suggestion is that in order to become comfortable with the whole thing, start in your own neighborhood. Anyplace that's in walking distance where you can easily become a "regular". Then branch out to other places - often with a friend for the first time (to get the lay of the land). When you go back alone, then you can say how much you enjoyed it and just had to treat yourself. Personally, I'm not a fan of eating at the bar and schmoozing with the bartenders - it can make you look like you're looking to hook up and if you're not . . . .
Take something to read. Do NOT accept a bad table by the kitchen door. If they insist that's all they have for you - take the message: they don't want singles business. That hasn't happened to me in years, but I bet it still can. I once asked the chief honcho whether he'd like to recommend another restaurant nearby which would like my business! I got a better table, but never went back. Tip well - especially if you want to become a regular. One reason restaurants didn't/don't like singles is because they lose on food sold to empty seats at that table as well as the tips. No less than 20% on the total - unless the food/service is abysmal in which case you wouldn't be going back anyway. Eat a little early, or late. Busy restaurants really don't want to give up a table in prime time. After you're a regular and they know you, they might be willing to seat you alone at peak hours. Rule of thumb: residential neighborhood restaurants and business district restaurants are the most accustomed to solo diners.
re: Jane A.
I disagree that sitting at the bar makes it look like your looking for a hook up. It is a great way to enjoy a restaurant and have some nice conversation if wanted and I think the bar tenders know and appreciate that.
I do agree about bringing a book, magazine or paper though, if just as a crutch.
I am also a late thirties solo diner and I have gotten more and more comfortable with it. Some places I like (many of which I have reviewed):
- Blue Hill
- Cru (bar room)
- Mumufuku Siam Bar
- wine bars can be good as they tend to be more casual. I like 8th Street Wine Cellar.
But really I find that restaurants are used to solo dinners and I often see others alone. It can feel intimidating, but it is not a big deal for them.
I love dining alone sometimes for a change of pace, and I'm always thankful to live in a city where it's a real option. Most places I enjoy have bar seating, which makes it comfortable to sit alone and strike up the occasional conversation with fellow diners or the restaurant staff.
My favorite solo spot is Casa Mono (17th and Irving) at the bar. I love the wine and the menu is so creative - with the smaller plates it's easy to try several options.
I've enjoyed the omokase at Morimoto (at the bar)
I've dined at Craft and Craftbar (both at the bar) - I prefer Craftbar for solo dining.
I just snagged a solo reservation at Momofuku Ko this morning so we'll see how that goes next week...
I have to agree with Casa mono. It's a great spot for solo dining. I also have enjoyed Gramercy tavern and Jimmy's no 43.
ElyseNY you have to report on your Ko solo experience. Not even 10 minutes ago a reservation for 1 popped up tonight at 6:30!! I ended up declining because my SO wants to go so badly and he has to work all night so I would feel really bad, but man was it tempting -I'm regretting the decline now actually :(
AHH! I would've seen you Roze, if you have taken the Ko ressy...especially the fact I "accidentally" had taken the reservation for 4.
Anyways about the solo dining tips, I agree with Jane A's response below. Whenever I do eat alone at restaurants (and lug a big camera, so it's hard to be inconspicuous) you just work your way to be comfortable eating alone. Start with a local restaurant or cafe and work your way up (as in a larger setting). Eating at the bar is sometimes a good idea or if you end up having a table by yourself, try to go when you know that restaurant will be frazzled with other diners.
In terms with "getting out more," I can't help you there. Just have fun, relax, and enjoy your meals and possible conversations with the other diners and/or servers.
Oh no! Now I'm more upset than ever. That would have been a fun meet up. And I don't think we could ask for a better spot!
Oh well, I have to second what chockitty said..it's really about relaxing and enjoying yourself. I would suggest taking a book with you just in case you begin to feel nervous- that always helps me.
Also I had a pretty nice solo dining eperience at Aquagrill last week. It's quite a lively place so all the bustle helpe keep me entertained. Balthazar might be another good spot.
i sometimes dine alone...pearl is one of my favorite restaurants and the last time i ate there i was alone...but if you're new to dining solo and working up to it, i wouldn't recommend pearl. it's usually quite packed and busy. if you're alone, you'll likely be seated at the bar, squeezed in b/w others, most likely couples (not necessarily romantic, i just mean two people together).
and given how busy and packed it is, it's not the kind of place where the bartender can have an extended or leisurely hello/chat. (i've seen the bartenders have conversations w/ customers, but always w/ someone else calling for their attention, doing lots of other things, etc.)
i've certainly seen other people do it and, as i said, i've done it myself...but of all my solo dining experiences, i've felt most conspicusous and uncomfortable at pearl and i don't think i'd do it again.
as for recommendations, when i eat alone i generally look for places where i will generally be left alone so i don't have the best advice to "get out more". however, probably my best solo dining experience was at jane. great meal, great service, nice chat w/ bartender.