Best Place to Dine Solo?
While I agree with others here that, generally speaking, just about any restaurant is a good place to dine solo.
That said, there are certain places where dining solo adds a certain unique flavor to the meal. For example, the counter at Apple Pan or Pie N Burger come to mind. As does the communal tables at places like Nook.
Also, there are certain places where I would think dining solo would be counterproductive. For example, at a family-style Hong Kong seafood restaurant like Ocean Star, Elite, etc., going by yourself would defeat the purpose. If you ordered anything more than 2 items you'd be stuck with a week's worth of leftovers.
I agree about dining at the bar, and some bars that are great for dining solo based on the bartenders' attentiveness are: Roy's, Drago Centro and Church & State. I would also try Bottega Louie, I love their menu for a solo diner. There are a lot of small plates and side options so you don't necessarily need to share a side with someone.
The recs about sitting at a bar are right-on. When I do not have the comfort of a dining companion I seek comfort food and a place with a bar or counter with other people and a TV. Moffett’s has a nice counter with great home style comfort food. Another good place is Pie N Burger. For really good Chinese-American Comfort food try Wang’s Palace.
Moffett’s Family Restaurant, Chicken Pie Shoppe Great soups and salads, Chicken or beef Pot Pie & fruit Pies, and a great BLT.
1409 S. Baldwin Ave.
Pie N Burger (Really good burgers, and pie but also the best pancakes in L.A.. Try the thin and chewy pancakes.
Wang’s Palace. (Lemon Chicken, Fried rice, Beef tomato Lomeim…. OMG!)
120 E. Lemon
Here's the link to an old thread listing lots of Chowhounder's favorite bars and counter service spots to eat at. Most of them still hold true.
I'm curious, beyond the ability to sit at a counter or bar, are there any variables that make a restaurant lend itself particularly well to solo dining?
That is a great old post. I can;t believe I forgot Pann's which has that cool long Googie style counter, great service and chicken wings w/ waffles.
Another good place with the best bowl of chili made in the L.A. area, some home style soups, burgers and breakfast with a true "N.J. Diner" menu and ambiance is Harbor House Cafe. They have a counter also and a good reason to sit at that counter is the servers who work behind it all have great personalities. It is nice to see that team work and the kitchen window right is right in front of you. With all the action going on you never feel solo and all the food that comes through the kitchen window makes you even more hungry. Open 24/7.
Another angle is to seek out places with a lunch or diner "specials" menu. I mentioned Wang's above. Last week i ate solo at Wang's and had a veggie lunch special (Buddha's Feast) ncluding a small bowl of soup at a reasonable price while I watched CNN on a large flat screen TV.
Up above ipsedixit mentions eating at "communal tables at places like Nook." That is a great idea and another place with communal tables is Eat at Joe's in Redondo. A fun group of local people and really good food. The "John Wayne Special" is so special that several places have copied the recipe and offer it with the same name. The people who eat there are really cool. I met a person there and later that day we went diving off Torrance Beach. My brother-in-law sold his boat to someone he met there and rented a house in PV from another. A good place to eat and network. Try the "Mad dog Special" also.