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Reading at the table? [moved from Boston board]

I have a late lunch reserved at one of the fancier Restaurant Week locations, but due to family and friends' schedules, will be going alone. How awful would it be if I brought a book?

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  1. This will undoubtedly be moved to Not About Food.

    Solo diners are always free to bring reading material (though I would suggest it not be of Hogwarts spell book size or decoration that calls attention to itself) . And I don't care how fancy the restaurant is. A restaurant that would inhibit the practice is a restaurant that is inhospitable, and thus contravenes its fundamental purpose.

    1. I can't see a problem so long as you aren't so into your book that you're oblivious to any waiting patrons (and your server) with the amount of time you're taking. Taking one bite between chapters would boil my blood if I were waiting and waiting on a two-top.

      And even if nobody seems to be waiting, I'd tip very well if you're spending substantially more time than you normally would.

      1. I used to travel alone for business and would treat myself to the most high end restaurant in the city with my book. No one ever minded and I was not usually relegated to a corner although back in the day they used to put women dining alone in corners. I usually just ask for a table with a little light.

        1. I find it absolutely impossible to dine alone without any reading material, whether at home or at a restaurant. Like tubman, I'd be cognizant of service to the table and not take up any extra time. And yes, tip well!

          1. This was just discussed a week or so ago on a thread about dining alone, and the consensus was, we all do it and it's perfectly acceptable - except for one Angeleno who considered it to be "wasting" the restaurant's time, but everyone knows Californians don't read! (just kidding, just kidding)

            12 Replies
            1. re: BobB

              That was me, the lone Angeleno. I eat out alone but would never bring a book. It's a restaurant, not a library and people with books tend to linger a lot longer, usually at a space that would otherwise seat two or more.

              1. re: rednyellow

                I disagree with that. I'm done faster when alone, book or no book. A book is less of a distraction or slow down than another person at the table. I don't have to stop eating to read, while to have a conversation, I have to pause in eating more often.

                1. re: Sooeygun

                  Agreed. People who eat alone tend to finish faster regardless of whether they have a book. It's easy to chew and read, while that's not really a polite option when you are talking to others. When you have one person who completely dominates a conversation, it takes even longer because everyone else is finished while the talker has only taken a bite or two.

                  1. re: Sooeygun

                    I'm with you. That book is just replacing the conversation that I'm not having because I am eating alone. It doesn't make my meal last any longer.

                  2. re: rednyellow

                    And as a solo diner, jfood would reply...so what.

                    If the restaurant does not want to seat solos then they make that policy. Once seated at a table that customer has the same rights (not legal) as anyone else in the restaurant. If other tables are allowed 90 minutes so is the solo diner.

                    1. re: jfood

                      Yes, and if the server treats me well instead of an underpaying burden, she or he will typically get a tip that equals or betters what would have been given by two diners...

                      But woe to the server who treats me as an underpaying burden. Woe indeed.

                      1. re: Karl S

                        Woe Baby indeed.

                        And a good sign for a bad tip is jfood getting up and walking over to grab his own pepper mill for the salad after waiting 5 minutes. And yes it has happened.

                        1. re: jfood

                          That's why I starte carrying my own Peugeot pepper mill with me!

                          1. re: tracylee

                            Haven't done that but I have been known to travel with a little plastic bottle of Melinda's XXX Habanero Sauce in my computer bag.

                            1. re: BobB

                              the glove box of my car is known as the mobile condiment rack!?lol
                              you just never know when you are really going to need Chalula or malt vinegar!:-)

                      2. re: jfood

                        Agreed. I'm out within 60 minutes as long as my food comes in time. Most of the time, the book is for the time when I've ordered and when my food comes. I rarely read while I'm eating or linger to finish pages after I'm done eating... maybe just to nurse my iced tea.

                        Take my order, bring me my food, check up on me at least once during the meal, refill my drink, give me my check anytime I've gotten my food, and I'm a happy woman. I try to pay ASAP so that I can leave anytime I want.

                        I don't think I need to tip more than normal. What additional burden am I giving them? I know I'm at a table for 2, but if 4 of us were seated at a table for 6, we shouldn't have to tip more either.

                        If I linger and look like I'm lingering, but never if people are waiting, I will tip more - need to waste time in between appointments, etc. I only do this at a coffee shop where the owners know me or at a hotel restaurant that has lots of available tables.

                        1. re: boltnut55

                          jfood agrees with you onthe tip.

                          You tip based on the number of diners, not number of chairs.

                  3. I don't consider it a problem. Heck, I've seen couples reading the newspaper at the table at brunch restaurants.

                    1. As long as your reading material isn't awful, your dining experience won't be.

                      From the comments here, others seem to think that a reading diner lingers longer. Personally, I don't. If I'm reading, the reading is providing the "conversation" that I am missing. YMMV.


                      1. Normally, I'd say no problem, read to your hearts content but, on RW they maybe heavily booked and probably need the table within a reasonable time, maybe one chapter.

                        1. I think reading "Penthouse" and exaggeratedly ogling the fold-out would be tacky, but I've read just about everything short of that in perfect comfort, never feeling at all odd or out of place. It can be a little tough if the table's tiny and overcrowded with condiments and napkin-holders and things, but that's the only discomfort I've ever experienced.

                          1. When I dine alone, out or at home, I LOVE reading while I'm eating. I wouldn't think twice about taking a book with me, altho' lately, as I've gotten older, I'm comfortable dining and watching others and what's going on more and more. Still have the book, though!

                            1. jfood traveled to Boston on biz for years and read extensively while dining solo at some of your best restaurants up to and including Cleo.

                              And do not letthe restaurant rush you, even if it is RW. Tell the server you want a reaosnably paced dinner and anticipate keeping table for your time. If the entree arrives right after the app is cleared and you want to dine send it back.

                              A solo diner needs to be vocal about b eingtreated like a squatter.

                              1. I do this all the time. Who's going to object? The wait staff? The people at the next table?

                                1. I bring a notebook and do my work - numbers stuff - at lunch. It's like going to coffee bar to think except you're eating lunch. Having people around with some noise helps some people concentrate and provides helpful stimulation.

                                  1. As long as you aren't reading your "book" aloud in the style of a Roman orator to your SO over your cell phone I say go for it. ;-D>

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Servorg

                                      I just snorted wine on my monitor at that! Dramatic readings into a cell phone indeed!

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        According to St Benedict 'while the [monastic] brothers are eating they should not lack in reading'.

                                        However, this is referring to the public reading some 'spiritually edifying material', while the rest eat in silence.

                                        For a long time, everyone read out loud. Reading silently is a relatively modern innovation.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          I would assume that the reading aloud/in silence thing was related to books not being readily available. With the advent of modern printing/bindery technology, It became economically feasable for indivuals to own copies of books, hence people reading alone. Goes without saying that people alone, dont and never did, read out loud.

                                          1. re: nkeane

                                            It was a novelty invented by St Ambrose of Milan, as recounted by St Augustine. Roman libraries were not quiet...

                                            1. re: Karl S

                                              I recall hearing about some comment like this about the novelty of reading without moving the lips, but couldn't recall how far back that was.

                                      2. What's the difference between reading a book and someone reading over a contract he or she is planning to sign after lunch?

                                        Take your book (or your Kindle :o), order a nice beverage and enjoy your evening. If anyone bothers you about it, tell them to mind their own business.

                                        1. You know you're in trouble if they reprimand you for reading the menu.

                                          1. I do it all the time and have never, ever had anyone question it. I travel a lot on business and usually even take my book down for a pre-dinner drink in a bar. Hotel restaurants are very used to singles with books, but even high-end restaurants have never given me any grief (it is about customer service after all) And though i usually have my nose stuck in a book, I have never noticed any other patrons giving me weird looks. Not just here in the US, but overseas as well.

                                            Once in a while, I will get asked what I'm reading or if it is any good. Just folks being friendly.

                                            1. Why not? Personally I would not bring a book as I like my books nice and clean. So I don't want anything from my food migrating onto the pages. I'd bring a magazine, and depending on the lighting in the restaurant, either the Economist (for bright lights) or Sports Illustrated (low lights, not the swimsuit issue).

                                              What I really object to is people who are dining with others and start reading the paper instead of having a conversation. This is very common in dim sum restaurants where it's usually the husband who lays out the newspaper while the wife deals with the kids. I hate that.

                                              1. Maybe I just have a short attention span, but solo in the dining room, I prefer to read a book. Maybe while eating; definitely while waiting for service. Even when dining at the bar, a book is handy if there isn't anyone seated next to you or if you decide you'd rather keep your own company.

                                                One more thing - when I used to travel a lot for business I'd always take along a folding LED book light. It's surprising how many hotels - even good ones - have anemic bedside lamps, and lighting that's good for dining isn't always sufficient for reading.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                                  "It's surprising how many hotels - even good ones - have anemic bedside lamps, and lighting that's good for dining isn't always sufficient for reading."

                                                  Gosh Alanbarnes, what a good idea. I have often found myself in restos where the lighting is insufficient for eating! I like to see my food, and appreciate the visual presentation. I find a lot of places tend to overemphasize the mood lighting, which is usually dim. I'd use the book light to see my dinner!

                                                  In case some of you are wondering, it isn't that I have poor vision, I just really like to see my food....

                                                  I love reading when eating alone. I prefer magazines during dinner, it is easier to stop and interact with the waiter, I don't like to break up the flow when I am reading a good novel. Just a personal preference. I certainly prefer a solo dinner to read than to talk on their cell phone or watch a DVD on their computer or something!