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Oct 19, 2008 07:36 PM

Dining alone ... is it really any different? [moved from L.A. board]

This thread got me thinking:

Whenever the subject of dining alone in restaurants comes up, I'm always surprised that people ask for specific recommendations, as if solo dining is something that only certain restaurants specialize in.

My food tastes are sufficiently different than that of my s.o. that I do a fair amount of solo dining. My observation is that with a few obvious exceptions such as whole-pie pizzerias, older Chinese places, or a place like Buca di Beppo that serves most of their menu family-style, any restaurant should be able to deal with the needs of a solo diner, equally to that of a small group.

I can remember my mother complaining of being treated condescendingly when she dined alone in a fancy NYC steakhouse ... but that was thirty years ago. I'm not saying it still doesn't happen, but I have not heard such complaints from solo women diners in a long time.

Have you had a solo experience in an LA restaurant that would lead to to recommend for or against eating there alone?

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  1. Hi maxzook,

    Interesting topic. :) I would say one type of cuisine that doesn't lend itself very well to eating alone would be traditional Chinese cuisine (e.g., Shanghainese, HK/Cantonese, etc.) at Chow favorites like Sea Harbour, Elite, Mei Long Village and many others. Since they serve everything family style in large portions, you can order like 1 dish and would miss out on the variety. :)

    Besides that, I would say an Izakaya or Kappo restaurant like Kappo Honda, Musha, Otafuku, etc. Great Japanese "Pub"-type food that really is more enjoyable with company (and quaffing great Sake and chatting about love, life and food (^_~)).

    1. No. Like you, I have different food tastes and if my s.o isn't into it, I'd rather dine alone. I can't say I've experienced anything negative. I usually sit at the bar, or if there is not that option I'll sit somewhere where I can observe everything going on around me, from the kitchen to the dining area. I don't think there is anything wrong with dining alone. I am curious to hear if anyone has had a bad experience too/

      1. I do the majority of my eating alone out of town. However, I can honestly say I have never had a bad solo dining experience, and find it a joy. Sometimes I eat at the bar, sometimes I eat at a table. In Palm Springs for business, there is an incredible restaurant near the hotel I stay in, and I always eat there alone. Sushi bars are easy to eat at alone, as is any restaurant with a nice bar.

        1 Reply
        1. re: lotta_cox

          I really like to eat alone and in general I've had good experiences in Los Angeles doing so. I will say that I often prefer to eat dinner at the bar -alone or with friends. I will also say that regardless of the city, I've received less attentive service when at a table alone and it may correlate with the server realization that a tip from a one person check probably will be lower so attention is best spent elsewhere. A quick question for "Lotta_cox's" statement above: "an incredible restaurant" in Palm Springs? Really? Where?

        2. I've definitely had many of my best meals dining alone at the bar (never at a table, don't like that at all). That said, my very best dining "alone" experiences have involved some measure of bonding with either other people at the bar or with the bartender, sommelier, manager, or something. Companionship but not constant companionship is the perfect balance. As I mentioned in that other thread, Lucques is the place I love most for sitting at the bar and eating dinner, it was the first place I ever did it, years ago, and whenever I go I meet someone cool and interesting and have a great, soulful meal. By the way, I have a blog, recently started, called "barstool gourmet" which is (mostly) about this very thing: dining alone at the bar at really nice restaurants.

          1. I often eat out solo. If I'm at a steakhouse, I only sit at the bar, but at other restaurants--especially chains such as Daily Grill--I'll usually sit at a table. There are, however, a few restaurants where I would feel uncomfortable eating alone, such as Melisse or the French Laundry. I would not only feel terribly out of place, but I wouldn't enjoy the food as much without someone to discuss it with. I also would not eat at an upscale buffet brunch, such as at the Ritz Carlton. I did that once when I was out of town and just did not enjoy it.