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Dining Alone – Why Don't You Like It?


I like dining out on my own and have had meals at both the high end (Eleven Madison Park, and The Modern in NYC; and North 44, among others, in Toronto) and the low (all the time in several places). Yet, I often hear of CHers who don't even like grabbing a bowl of pho alone in a restaurant and, of course, there is always the memory of Elaine and the flounder from Seinfeld.

So, I ask you to explain it to me. Why not dine alone? Do you just not like to, or do you really feel there is a social stigma? Or . . . ?

  1. I was 40 when I married and had many meals alone. I also traveled in my work and had many meals alone. Like you, I've never understood the CHs who had problems or felt uncomfortable. Never have been able to figure out if it was the diner or the restaurant. I've never felt less than welcome anywhere.

    1 Reply
    1. re: c oliver

      I'm with you. I have on occasion been treated less well than a single man, but mostly in the 80's and 90's. Not so much anymore, of course I no longer travel on business and don't go out to eat much so maybe it's just lack of exposure that's making me think that situation might have improved.

    2. I've never felt uncomfortable (or been made to feel uncomfortable) when I've been on my own. My only regret on those occasions is that there's no-one to chat to about the food.

      7 Replies
        1. re: Harters

          Excellent point about the chatting. Like travel, I can do it alone but it's more fun to share. 'Course not every meal is worthy of chatting about :)

          1. re: Harters

            Ah, I see. I am lucky enough to have friends who will actually want to chat with me about it later.

            1. re: Harters

              No one to compare tastes with, no one from whom to nibble bites off their plates, no one to split the dessert - those are the downsides.

              But, give me a good book, the paper, or a challenging crossword, and I'm perfectly happy to dine alone.

              1. re: FrankD

                And I'd much rather dine alone than to be with someone who has no appreciation of the food.

                1. re: c oliver

                  Great point.

                  I am fortunate, or maybe unfortunate, in that my wife could probably be a chef, if she did not do other things oh, so well. What that means is that as a dining companion, I cannot think of many, with whom I'd rather discuss the meal. OTOH, if she's not there, then it's rather "fill my tummy," and move on.

                  Now, I have had to share meals with people, who could care less. I usually keep the subject onto something else, 'cause they will never "get it." Not that they are bad folk, but food (or wine) is not what motivates them.

                  Some people eat to live, while other live to eat. Different folk.


                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                    I'm lucky like you are. And, yes, the Chow-ier I get the more I want dining companions who are like-minded.

            2. Could it be that people who don't like to dine alone are bored with their own company?

              1 Reply
              1. re: beevod

                Hmm, good thought :) But there are those who aren't comfortable doing it.

              2. I don't mine eating alone (with a book or newspaper in hand), but dining requires a companion.

                Dining is an experience involving conversation, interaction with others besides the server.

                4 Replies
                  1. re: bagelman01

                    bagelman, I agree. I have no problem eating alone for reasons of work obligation, but for me, dining is a social event, with a companion or a group.

                    I do like travelling alone, but much of this travel involves visiting places where I know people, so my restaurant suppers are with colleagues or friends. When I'm alone, I'm more likely to do takeaway and have a picnic meal - outdoors if the weather is fine, indoors when its raining or cold.

                    I'm like rockandroller1, I guess. Not a phobia, and I don't find women working or travelling alone usually get poor service as was the case decades past, but it simply isn't something I enjoy. I'd just as soon pick up some good takeaway and eat it in my own space then, with my shoes off.

                    1. re: lagatta

                      I am really surprised by the comments about getting treated poorly.

                      Dining alone is one of my favorite indulgences. I either read or write, and I wholeheartedly enjoy the experience.

                      As a solo female, I am usually treated far more regally, than if I had a companion...
                      The servers seem to want me to feel comfortable and well taken care of..Usually it is the complete opposite of being ignored!

                      Only once in all of my experiences did I feel the waiter treated me with disregard compared to his other guests. My bill wasnt going to be as much as the other diners, I supposed.
                      But then again he was an idiot of a person anyway!

                      From reading this post, most CH'ers agree with me, and do not mind enjoying a meal solo, but almost of of my friends, who arent CH'ers think I am mad to eat alone!

                      1. re: NellyNel

                        The places where I no longer dine alone are that did the exact thing you mentioned. Waiters who seemed disappointed by a solo person, because it meant a smaller bill and therefore a smaller tip. Of course, it's s self-fulfilling prophecy, because the less attentive service compared to other tables meant a smaller tip than I might give otherwise.

                  2. I don't mind eating alone, but on my own I can't really eat more than a main course unless I'm able to take something home. I like to eat with other people because it means I can share an appetizer or at least try more than one thing.

                    1. I don't mind dining alone.

                      But it's certainly not something I want, or seek, to do on a consistent regular basis.

                      There are some types of meals better enjoyed sans dining companion (e.g., fast food, street food stands, food trucks, etc.) and others that are more meant for a group (e.g. dim sum, family style restaurants).

                      Each has its place and neither should displace the other, at least not on an exclusive basis.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        I have no problem eating Dim Sum alone. Don't forget. Traditionally, many people eat dim sum (drink tea) alone with a piece of newspaper or maybe with a bird.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          How true. But one is never alone for long. Everyone table-hops. Along with one's bird.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            :) Ha ha ha. True. You cannot be alone even if you want to. I usually just talk to his bird instead of the person :) (just kidding).

                          2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            "Traditionally, many people eat dim sum (drink tea) alone with a piece of newspaper or maybe with a bird."

                            True, but dim sum today bears little resemblance to traditional dim sum.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Yes, but I am old school. I am going to get a bird and bring it to my next dim sum and if they try to stop me, then I will hit them with my paper fan.

                              In all seriousness, what I meant to say is that it does not go against the spirit of "drink tea" to eat alone.

                        2. Nothing wrong with dining alone. I am much much more likely to eat at a low end (but tasty) to moderate restaurant if I am alone as I would prefer to share the experience if I am at a high end place. Funny thing thought, it is rare that I can't find a dining companion or two (no objection to being the third wheel, especially if I'm treating) so long as I plan a day or so in advance.

                          Certainly no one should deny themselves an enjoyable meal, or feel they have been denied an enjoyable meal, just because there is only one at the table, at home or out. And if you have made yourself a great meal, go ahead and use the good china.

                          1. This thread seems to be missing the CHs who say they aren't comfortable or aren't treated well when dining alone. We all seem to be fine with it.

                            And, boy, do I ever agree with ipse about dim sum. I have it alone on rare, rare occasions and hate it cause I can only eat two things rather than the four or five when there are two of us. I usually go for the spare ribs sans rice and har gow.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: c oliver

                              Yes, I do think the waitstaff aren't as attentive to a single, when in fact I usually just want to eat and get out. When I'm with a date they won't stop interrupting.

                              I always think it is so weird when you go to a hotel restaurant and there are 16 travelers, dining alone, each with a paper or book. I just want to say, hey anybody want to join me? Let's pull our tables together!

                              1. re: GraydonCarter

                                I'm going to disagree with you completely :) So no offense please. I've never found the staff less attentive. If anything the opposite. But understand, I'm an extreme extrovert which shades many aspects of my life.

                                When I was one of those 16 travelers in that hotel dining room, I had just spent the entire day interacting with a person or people. As extroverted as I am, the last thing I wanted was to be with ANYONE.

                                So two sides at least to this question.

                              2. re: c oliver

                                I'm one who positively hates eating alone at a restaurant. I've never found that I'm treated badly, but I just find it a very lonely experience. For me, a meal is almost as much about the company as it is about the food!

                              3. The major pleasure of dining, - in fact any pleasure, - is about sharing. Not being able to share takes a big chunk out of the fun.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Parigi

                                  Parigi, may I suggest that you rephrase this as:

                                  The major pleasure I take in dining, in fact in any pleasure-- is the sharing. For me, not being able to share takes a big chunk out of my fun.

                                  One of the significant problems with how the 'I can do it but I prefer being with others' answers is that they opt to create a standard in which group activities are the preferred activity-- and the norm-- whereas activities done alone are somehow lesser in quality. You prefer to do things with others. I enjoy doing things with others, but sometimes I just as much enjoy being alone. And in fact, I could argue that for me, pleasure is diminished whenever I do something that is counter to my mood.

                                  The only downside I have ever experienced in dining alone is the absence of options in tasting other dishes. And definitely a downside in dim sum (which I've also done alone, no problem). But that's not about the other people, sadly, but more about my own gluttony.

                                2. I'm not uncomfortable about dining alone. I have done it. But it does tend to get me in trouble, either with myself or with others. Like so many others here, I miss the conversation. And in most restaurants today, you cannot help but overhear conversations at near-by tables. And THAT gets me into trouble. I either have to butt in and talk to them (compulsions!) or I have to bite my tongue, sit on my hands, stuff napkins in my ears, or ask the waiter for a doggy bag and take my dinner someplace else to eat alone. But I eat alone at drive-throughs all the time! NO problem! '-)

                                  1. i eat alone often but usually only when i can grab a bar seat near the service station. that way i can chat up the staff, overhear the gossip and i have my own waiter (the bartender).

                                    dining alone at a table seems a little sad to me.

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: ScubaSteve

                                      This is exactly what I was thinking. Service is always swift at the bar, and nobody looks oddly toward you if you read a paper or watch the television there.

                                      1. re: ScubaSteve

                                        As a non-drinker, sitting at the bar doesn't appeal to me at all if it's happy hour or the bar is otherwise crowded with people who may want to chat me up. Usually if I'm eating alone, I don't really want people chatting me up, so I prefer the table.

                                        1. re: queencru

                                          Reminds of a tale from my past. I used to be in medical sales in Atlanta and I went to Augusta for a week out of every six. I stayed at the same place every time as it was near several of the hospitals I called on. It was easiest to just go back there for lunch if I was solo. I'd sit at the bar. A typical lunch was often an egg salad sandwich and a glass of chocolate milk! The bartender, who I would also see in the evening for non-chocolate milk libations, would tease me that I was going to ruin the bar's reputation eating and drinking that :)

                                      2. I like dining alone, not that I hate dining with others. I should say I enjoy both.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. When I was working 60-80 hour weeks I often ate alone. Mostly due to never having food in the house, or perhaps rotting food because I never had the time to shop.

                                          There was one place I really enjoyed eating at, especially since it served dinner until 11 and snacks until 1 AM, which was very convenient to me. I got to know the staff pretty well, which enhanced my experience. I'd sit at the bar, chat with the staff and occasionally some patrons, whilst enjoying a nice dinner and a glass of wine. Definitely a lovely way to end a stressful day. It also helped me when I' go there on a weekend with friends and they'd see me get rock star service, like a short wait for a table, and warm greetings from the staff in a place that was always mobbed. I never requested the short wait part, it was just what they did for me. I sure do miss their $17 steak with seasonal sides. If the chef was busy but spotted me, he'd blow kisses, and wave.

                                          There are other places I ate at, and usually I prefer to sit at the bar when dining alone. Mostly because you may start a conversation with another patron, or with the bartender. I enjoyed eating by myself It made me feel that I had at least some sort of "life".

                                          But I do have to say that I felt uncomfortable at first. No problem now.

                                          7 Replies
                                          1. re: cosmogrrl

                                            You've triggered more thoughts about how I feel about eating alone. As I said above, I don't mind it but it's not something I yearn for. On the other hand, tea is an entirely different story! One of my ultimate personal luxuries is composing an elegant silver tray with great porcelain (sometimes my Jasperware, sometimes my inherited very baroque china, sometimes silver tea service with porcelain cup and saucer), some great tea and probably one or two very small very elegant pastries. I often do this when I'm writing. Writing is a strange pursuit. You are totally isolated from the "real" world, yet your world is crowded with the fictional characters flooding your mind. I think the elegant teas are some sort of "velvet coccoon." It is all and totally mine.

                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                              Great post Caroline! I have to ask, and I am serious here, have any of your fictional characters ever shown up when you are dining out alone? It has happened to me and I certainly wasn't lonesome. Best lunch ever!

                                              1. re: givemecarbs

                                                I lock my characters up before I go out. Did yours eat much? '-)

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  He he he! He was a cheap date. It has only happened the once (so far) but this experience still makes me want to say what makes you think I'm dining alone?

                                                  1. re: givemecarbs

                                                    If you stop and think about it, you're always alone, no matter how many people are crowded around you. But if imagined characters help themselves to a forkful of your food, at least they put it in your mouth!

                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                      It is easy to picture Hemingway sitting in various cafes, bars, or hotels, eating and drinking as he writes, especially with A Moveable Feast, or much later, The Garden of Eden.

                                                      1. re: GraydonCarter

                                                        I have never had the ability to sit and write in a cafe. I get involved in conversations and get absolutely no writing done! I have to have my isolation for all of my characters to come promenading into view. Yet I know a lot of screenwriters who write their screenplays on notebooks in very noisy coffee houses. Sometimes I think that may be what's wrong with today's movies! '-)

                                          2. Great post and interesting comments. I want to say it is an introvert/extrovert thing but I'm not sure. You see my mother was quite the extrovert yet she happily dined alone. And that is how I learned to love it as well. There is something decadent about dining alone at a posh restaurant that I can try to put into words but I don't think I can quite capture the experience that way.
                                            My mom also sometimes made very lovely meals just for herself when no one else was home. My theory is that the two are somehow connected. If you've never really put some effort into a meal just for you at home try it sometime when you are up for it. When I do this I get a feeling of "I'm worth the trouble" washing over me. Like giving yourself a big hug. If a meal is too much trying fixing a lovely snack of foods you love and lay it all out nicely. Of course I may be preaching to the choir here as this is Chowhound!
                                            As for the conversation, it can be fun to listen in when dining alone. Bring a book as a prop. My book is my security blanket and if nothing much is going on I actually read it. If you are confident and comfortable getting a table for one it should help with the vibes from the restaurant staff. I have this one friend who is such an amazing conversationalist that sometimes, when I can bear to, I ask him to hold that thought for later so that I can taste and notice my food. No worries with that when dining alone.
                                            I guess for me it was just the wonderful example my mom set and I am so grateful for that.

                                            1. not only do not not like it, sometimes i seek it out. i tend to to do it at ;east once a week. A good book, some good food, maybe a notebook and a pen to work on some writing, thats a fine time, in my book.

                                              just for giggles - this is the last poem i wrote while eating alone, at a semi-upscale italian place:

                                              morningblue bricks

                                              Shell my pistachio eyes
                                              Dehulled vulner-
                                              able under nutcracker breath
                                              Cricklecrrracks split
                                              me & I just can't tell if
                                              exposure germinates
                                              weak or strong

                                              Lightning skidded trances
                                              skin deep @ morning

                                              Tongue-pithed & flayed
                                              open to monsoon breezes
                                              Organs arranged by color & size
                                              yet all I think is ice & beets
                                              & I want to feel
                                              you but I only feel me
                                              My mind brines my heart

                                              Lightning skidded trances
                                              skin deep @ morning

                                              Love’s the peroxide
                                              to dissalve love's scabs
                                              Pistachio love kudzus neoprene like
                                              vines eat a temple beyond
                                              Angkor Wat & in
                                              morningblue bricks
                                              become soft as peony mist

                                              Lightning skidded trances
                                              skin deep @ morning

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: thew

                                                to make this even more ontopic - here are details that were in the 2nd attempt at this (thanks to the mods for reposting my original post)

                                                "i look forward to eating out. i meet with a group of other writers weekly to workshop our work, mostly poetry, and i usually have dinner alone that night of the week (kid is with babysitter, and i have an hour or so between the sitters arrival and the workshop/cocktail time) and i actively look forward to eating alone, and either reading a good book, or starting/editing some poetry.

                                                I go to every sort of place from hole in the wall to upscale dining, and never feel out of place, or like anyone feels sorry for me because i'm eating alone (nor would i care if they did)

                                                i like myself. i'm comfortable with myself, so beng alone for a meal does not bum me out at all"

                                              2. I'm apparently the lone CH who doesn't like it. Since I'm in the minority, don't let it bother you. If I'm alone, I will just get takeout and bring it back wherever (office, home, hotel). I just don't like sitting there by myself, it's not enjoyable for me. At home or a hotel, I can watch TV while I eat and relax. I find juggling a book while eating to be tough - books for me are almost always library books, and I'm always trying hard not to get food on the book. One hand to hold the book, one hand to eat, but then you have to cut the food, put down the book, then it flips closed, gah, it's just a PITA. I'm not much of a newspaper reader.

                                                It's not to say I haven't done it, I have, many times. And always, have preferred that I would have just gotten it to go. I feel uncomfortable. Sorry that none of you understand that, but that's how I feel. I feel the same way drinking alone at a bar, it's just not for me. I've done plenty of it, and always find myself desperately trying to insert myself into other people's conversations or trying to get the bartender to talk to me because I feel like there's nothing to do. I don't like sports, and sitting there rapt while watching sports on TV just isn't me. Staring at myself in the bar reflection doesn't do anything for me. I mean, I just dont' get it. It's just not enjoyable for me.

                                                17 Replies
                                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                                  you don;t have to apologize, nor are you being judged for your preference - at least not by me. do what makes you happy.

                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    Thx! I've received a LOT of flak in previous posts discussing this, was just trying to avoid that.

                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                      You didn't get the idea that I don't enjoy it either when I say much of the pleasure of eating for me is sharing?
                                                      And I don't understand people giving you flak. Why would one make an ideology out of dining alone or not alone?

                                                  2. re: rockandroller1

                                                    Fully understood - my partner used to travel for work and always preferred room service or bought a "picnic" to eat in the room. Just didnt feel comfortable eating alone.

                                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                                      rr1, I completely understand and you expressed my feelings about eating alone perfectly. Thank you. If I'm alone, I almost always get take out. I just don't feel comfortable reading or even fiddling around with my cell phone or something in a restaurant. And to just sit there and do nothing...well, no thanks. Would rather be at home where I can eat in my PJs surfing Chowhound!

                                                      1. re: rockandroller1

                                                        I've been surprised that tons of CHs haven't jumped on this cause I've read it plenty here about not being comfortable. You're no more wrong or right than I am who has no problem with it whatsoever. I think for myself, in addition to being so extroverted, I'd have missed out on a lot of dining if I'd mostly wanted to eat with others. Being married has that as a plus. At least in my case since Bob loves all kinds of food as much as I do.

                                                        1. re: rockandroller1


                                                          to a bunch of your points jfood agrees wholeheartedly. sometimes take out in the hotel is a great mind-repairer. but to your book quandry. here is what jfood does. while eating he has his book closed (bookmark in place) and he concentrates on the plate. moves things around, tries different combos on the entree plate, etc. then when the dish is complete, he pushes away and back to his book or to his notes on the meal on his bberry. sometimes jfood eats in the hotel bar and they have wifi so he is the only one there with his laptop open typing away, googling and reading chow-posts.

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            I have one of these and others may find it helpful when reading and doing something else:


                                                            Bob travelled SO much before retiring, probably 75% of the time. And his company had an insanely generous expense policy. But there were times that a bag of burger and fries and a baseball game in his hotel room was the best. I was in NYC on business when the last episode of MASH aired. I begged off a corporate type dinner to have room service and watch the finale.

                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                              thanks for the website...conatained the following advice

                                                              "Currently unavailable.
                                                              We don't know when or if this item will be back in stock."


                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                Yeah, but just google "weighted bookmark." It's widely avail, I believe. I love mine. Use it in the kitchen with cookbooks also. Sorry I didn't give you a valid source.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  I'm waiting for my Kindle (e-reader) to arrive and I won't need no freaking bookmark! LOL! I've dragged my feet on getting one for a long time now, but just got tired of dozing off while trying to read from my notbeook in bed and books are a pain... drop them and they close and no bookmark, weighted or otherwise, will help you when you read in bed!

                                                                  It will hold 3,500 books and only 8 ounces. I can hardly wait! I have a bunch of cookbooks waiting to load, not to mention other stuff. I can really see how reading in a restaurant with an electronic ebook reader would be a real advantage. Spill soup? Just wipe it off, no stained paper! '-)

                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    For those with iPhones there's a Kindle app for it (I believe there's also one for Blackberry and Droid). I love mine, and my advantage in restaurants is that I eat with my left hand and have the iPhone/Kindle on my right so no worry about mess. Even though I travel alone a lot I tended to do what a lot of people do and bring food back to my room, but since I got the Kindle app I venture into restaurants. On my last trip to New York I had a great meal at a Korean BBQ down the street from my hotel, and the server was intrigued that one could read a book on a phone.

                                                                    1. re: MandalayVA

                                                                      Well, I hope your Kindle app works better than mine for the PC. A friend sent me an ecopy of his latest book, and I have real difficulty reading it because Chapter headings and inserts come out in micro-script I can't read without cutting and pasting and blowing up! So I'm waiting for my back ordered Kindle to arrive. <sigh> I already have a bamboo easel for the cook books I have waiting to load on it. I will set it next to the cook top and away we gooooo...!!! '-)

                                                                  2. re: c oliver

                                                                    not to worry,just bustin'

                                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                                      Kinda like "I wouldn't tease you if I didn't love you" which was the MO in my family :)

                                                              2. re: jfood

                                                                I have a little wire stand if I'm reading a book - this is also useful for over-40 eyes. But like jfood I don't actually read while eating, except for sipping coffee or tea.

                                                                In some countries, there are very good cafeterias and other venues where eating alone is practically the norm. I don't mind eating in a bistro at noon either, when it is mostly working people, some with a colleague, some alone. But I really don't like eating dinner at a fine restaurant in the evening alone; I so much want to share the experience.

                                                              3. re: rockandroller1

                                                                I can certainly understand it. For me, it depends on the restaurant. It has less to do with how fancy the place is, and more to do with the attitude of the staff, I think. Though, I'll admit, there are certain foods that never seem as good as take out. So I have my list of "go-to" places for when I'm on my own based on those two factors.

                                                              4. I'm ok with dining alone. Sitting in a hotel room, even if it's fancy, is a little too sterile for my tastes.

                                                                My routine is pretty obvious and varies little if I'm in Europe, Asia or North America. Generally, I do a little research and head off to a decent restaurant where I strategically place myself at the left or right corner of the bar so I can see everything (I'm a busy-body). I try to arrive early so I can watch staff set things up, hear the gossip and make friends before things get slammed. I usually bring a paper (FT).

                                                                Locations known for street food are target-rich environments for me: walking, eating, making decisions on the fly is a fine way to spend an evening in a foreign port. Coping with a language I don't speak is always a hoot.

                                                                Only a churl could cavil.

                                                                4 Replies
                                                                1. re: steve h.

                                                                  My Spanish pronunciation is pretty decent but four years ago my Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation was so bad and wrong that it was weeks before I/we could be understood. We weren't even pronouncing our street address correctly! But I never went anywhere without my "dictionario" so after failing to be understood, I'd point (and grunt), they'd laugh uproariously but we almost always bonded cause I was trying so hard. My pronunciation is better but my skills aren't as good so I still point and grunt alot.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    It's cool how a smile and a good attitude can make up for my miserable language skills.

                                                                    1. re: steve h.

                                                                      When we moved to Greece, I bought one of those Berlitz phrase books. What a waste of money! You read a sentence to someone with a fairly understandable accent, and they answer you in Greek. And you immediately understand where the phrase, "It's all Greek to me" comes from! Second day there I stuck Berlitz back in my suitcase and went out and bought two identical Greek-English//English-Greek dictionaries and things went fine from then on. One for me, one for the person I was trying to talk to. I'm queen of the Dictionaries For Two movement. Only way to communicate! Oh, and for the record, in Greece they say, "It's all Chinese to me!" Just for the record. '-)

                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                        In that vein.... I have a knack for languages and can speak any language pretty much accent-free -- even if I only know a few phrases.

                                                                        Having once ordered a fresh-squeezed orange juice at a Greek resto, and being confronted with a lengthy answer in Greek, all I could do was smile, admit that my order had exasperated my knowledge, and ask to please switch to English.

                                                                        Perfect pronunciation only gets ya so far....

                                                                2. When I was much younger (back in the 80's), I sometimes had to travel alone. I didn't mind lunching solo, but would order room-service for dinner. How dumb was that? Not sure if it was the "age of time" or my own level of self-confidence. Probably a bit of both. I just know I missed out on a lot of great, expensed food!

                                                                  1. This thread reminds me of the scene from "The Lonely Guy," when Steve Martin's character comes into a restaurant, a spotlight shines on him, and the waiter says in a very condescending tone, "Dining ALONE again?"

                                                                    When I was single, I never dined out alone because people stare and point at you when you're dining alone. O.K. they really don't, but I somehow always felt self conscious dining alone. It wasn't fun.

                                                                    Odd, tho, is that I didn't feel self conscious about dining solo when I was away from home on business. Go figure.

                                                                    1. You know a corollary to this is the habit of taking a book with you to a bar or restaurant. I've actually had people tell me it's rude to read in public. When you're ALONE, I mean, not with a companion.


                                                                      I think it boils down to the perception that reading is weird. I actually sat in a doctoral level class a few months ago (psychology) and listened while the doctoral students discussed, in all seriousness, how damaging it is to allow children to read a lot.

                                                                      Sitting in front of the TV, mouth agape, for hours on end is fine and "normal", but god forbid a child should spend the same amount of time reading and using their imagination to put themselves into the story, because that is "avoiding reality".


                                                                      1. I'll preface this by saying that I've eaten out alone a lot, and don't find it uncomfortable. I read, listen to music, stare into space, etc., no problem.

                                                                        But, very often, I just don' t feel like having to deal with people I don't know face-to-face, even if it's just placing an order or exchanging a few pleasantries. In those cases, I prefer take-out. Social anxiety, introversion, having a job that demands I often be interactive, whatever the cause, I just don' t feel like it.

                                                                        32 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Cachetes

                                                                          And there's nothing wrong with that. I think everybody feels that way sometimes.

                                                                          I think what the OP was talking about though is the idea that people shouldn't dine alone because there's something strange about going to a restaurant alone, or because they're afraid people will notice they're alone.

                                                                          Typically I've seen this fairly often in women and I can't think of a single man I've ever known who decided NOT to go out to eat solely because they didn't have someone to go with them. I have, however, often come across women who routinely - not occasionally, because we all feel that way once in awhile - refuse to eat out unless they're with someone, most often a love interest.

                                                                          Personally I just think it's kind of like shackling yourself and walking around in invisible chains. But I think those of us who don't limit ourselves in this way don't really "get" why other people do. Or at least I don't. Again, I'm talking about people who routinely refuse to eat out alone based solely on the idea that there is something inherently wrong with dining alone in public.

                                                                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                            I don't recall anyone saying it is inherently wrong for anyone to dine alone, only that they feel that their dining alone is uncomfortable and therefore they don't like to do it. Everyone has different comfort zones.

                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                              The OP said:

                                                                              "So, I ask you to explain it to me. Why not dine alone? Do you just not like to, or do you really feel there is a social stigma? Or . . . ?"

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                There are some who suggest that "is inherently wrong" to dine alone. That it suggests you are a failed individual lacking the requisite social skills to find a dining companion.

                                                                                One example of this is Elaine's line in that Seinfeld episode I mentioned:

                                                                                "It's better than eating it alone in the restaurant, like some loser." (with lots of emphasis on the last three words).

                                                                                Such a line wouldn't have resonance and currency unless some people believe such things.

                                                                                Moreover, I can point to a specific Chowhound thread were a long-time poster on these boards wouldn't go out for Ramen because he wouldn't want to dine alone. Not even to try a new food that he was interested in, would he dine alone. I really simply wondered what was behind such thinking. Was it entirely individual (I feel this way and that's just me), or was it more socially (I would, but I don't want to be viewed that way)? Since I didn't want to put him on the spot by asking directly, I posed this more broadly directed question.

                                                                                1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                  The heart of comedy, even droll comedy such as Seinfeld, is OFTEN (not always, but often) gross over-statement, so I would take anything Elaine said with a large grain of salt. Rock salt! Anyone who thinks dining alone is "inherently wrong" needs a shrink. This is Chowhound. Ain't nobody like that around here. Just some who are uncomfortable dining alone, and that's a whole different thing. '-)

                                                                                  1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                    Like all jokes, there is a hint of truth. Yet if it is entirely true, then it won't be funny. Much exaggeration is needed.

                                                                                    There was an episode about muffin tops, wasn't it? Well, yes, muffin top is the favorest part for some people. Do people really toss muffin tops out? No.

                                                                                    I think it is perfectly fine if a person does not want to dine alone. It is a personal choice, but I also think it is not a universally truth. I love eating alone as well as in company.

                                                                                    1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                      I have actually heard people say this or something similar when given the reason for why they won't go to a restaurant alone. "Because I would feel like a loser", "Because people might think I can't get a date", "Because people will think it's weird".

                                                                                      I don't get it either.

                                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                      Actually, upthread someone referred to dining alone as "sad". Sounds inherently wrong, or close to it, to me.

                                                                                      And I've known a number of otherwise well-adjusted people who can't imagine that anyone would dine alone.

                                                                                      And I've encountered negative reactions over the years from other patrons (and, fortunately rarely, from staff).

                                                                                      So, yeah, the idea that it's inherently wrong is definitely out there. I just ignore it.

                                                                                    3. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                      Zen, I've worked away from home far too often to feel discomfort about eating alone in a restaurant; it is part of work. There is not anything like the social stigma there might have been about a woman eating alone there was some 30 years ago (I'm talking about the Western world) and it certainly doesn't bother me. However, it is not an activity I'd seek out, as for me enjoying a fine meal is above all a social activity. Tavola grande, all that.

                                                                                      I've never come across such a prejudice against reading in Canada/Québec or in Europe - think it is a more US thing, as one poster said, because Americans are expected to be extroverted and "friendly". One notable exception is your current president - a journalist here happened to accompany Obama on planes when the latter was a Senator and during the campaign, and the future Prez was reading full-length, serious BOOKS.

                                                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                                                        Thirty years ago I was one of those women dining along in restaurants and never felt there was a "stigma." I think it must be something that originates in the stigmatized person's mind.

                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                          We are probably about the same age, and I disagree. I think great progress has been made in that respect over that time. I do remember the getting put next to the kitchens or the loo.

                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                            I disagree. 30 years ago I was also often dining alone, especially when traveling. I was often ignored, slighted, seated poorly (even in nearly empty restaurants) and at least twice rousted by hotel personnel who suspected me (in my BUSINESS SUIT with nary a trace of lace anywhere) of being a prostitute trolling for "friends" in the bar. Book in hand.

                                                                                            I once had a maitre d' attempt to seat a single man who had come in behind me before me. The guy came in like 10 minutes after me and was immediately offered a seat.

                                                                                            I think it's better now, or maybe age is overcoming sex.

                                                                                            1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                              I think there is one very important thing that is (just like always) being swept under the carpet here and everyone is pretending the giant alligator is not in the room. How a woman is treated when she presents herself as a lone diner in a restaurant is far too often determined by how attractive she is or isn't. Everyone -- especially males, but also other females -- assume that extremely attractive women have doors opened for them and the world welcomes them. That is not true. Simply not true. Lone attractive women are suspect. But the good old bun and glasses will usually get her a seat when she needs to hide her assets.

                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                I'm not sure, correct me if I'm wrong, but are you saying we should dress like little old librarians or expect to be treated like hookers?

                                                                                                I was professionally dressed and attending conferences in the hotels where I was rousted as a potential prostitute.

                                                                                                When I went out and "dressed up", I never wore makeup. I don't like makeup and I've never worn more than a little lipstick, and that rarely. I might wear a nice dress or a nice blouse with nice slacks (my favorite outfit when I was young and much thinner was a pumpkin silk blouse with olive silk slacks and a matching pair of shoes). There was no cleavage, no lace, no tight revealing or semi-revealing clothing. No spike heels and fishnet. I was dressed tastefully and (back then when I was making the big $$$$) expensively. Didn't muck with my hair, it was strictly wash 'n wear. Basically, not tarted up in any sense of the phrase.

                                                                                                I really don't feel that any woman should need to "hide her assets" just to be treated with respect when alone in public.

                                                                                                I apologize in advance if you didn't intend to imply that.

                                                                                                1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                                  Librarians don't dress like someone's grandmother, unless they actually ARE someone's grandmother.

                                                                                                  1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                                                    Correction: like the stereotype of a little old librarian then.

                                                                                                  2. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                                    What I'm saying, ZS, is that I suspect you are a very attractive woman, even in a "business suit." It is neither your fault nor mine that attrractive women may get the kind of reception you write about. If an attractive woman seeks to dine alone, it is unusual enough that restaurant staff from maitre d's on down to busboys may think, "Whoa! She's gotta be shopping!" The last thing that occurs to too many is that you may just be a normal well adjusted human being in a circumstance that makes dining alone a reasonable option simply because you are hungry and don't want a cellophane pack of peanut butter crackers for dinner.

                                                                                                    The time a lone male diner was going to be seated before you represents the same kind of "knee jerk" thinking I'm talking about. Men = money and a good tip. Women = probably going to pay with the loose change from the bottom of their purse and no clue on tipping.

                                                                                                    You don't have to wear make-up to be attractive. Sometimes it's simply a beautiful personality that is percieved wrongly. And I agree completely that no woman should need to hide her assets just to be treated with respect when alone in public.


                                                                                                    We have been climbing the evolutionary ladder for about four million years now, and while we have certainly made progress, the fact is we "ain't there yet!"

                                                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                      40 years of a woman's movement, or even a hundred or 2, have an uphill climb against 5 million years of evolution

                                                                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                        I don't know if it's still true but the statistics used to be that women tended to tip more than men.

                                                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                          I think it's still true but that doesn't mean every maitre d' who comes strolling down the block will know it. '-)

                                                                                                    2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                      I have to admit, Caroline, I didnt really understand what you are trying to say either. (?)
                                                                                                      Can you elaborate?

                                                                                                      1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                        To put it simply, we have absolutely no control over what other people think. In a situation where a woman is seeking a solitary dinner in a restaurant, how we will be perceived is a gamble at best. In other words, god help us all...! '-)

                                                                                                      2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                        "assume that extremely attractive women have doors opened for them and the world welcomes them. That is not true"

                                                                                                        I can tell you that it is actually true because I have seen attractive people (more so for females than males) get more attention. Is getting more attention the same as have the doors wide open for them? No, but it does increase opportunity and chance.

                                                                                                        I will also add that being attractive is not the only quality which help to open door. Being charming, funny,... can also improve your career opportunity -- even if your job does not require you to be charming and funny.

                                                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                          are you kidding? bun and glasses are hot!

                                                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                                                            Bless you!

                                                                                                            Or maybe you're just plain kinky? '-)

                                                                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                              is it an either or situation?

                                                                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                                  im known to have an open mind

                                                                                                        2. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                                          My points of reference at that time were entire state of Georgia and Northern Florida and also San Francisco. Guess I was lucky. I'm in agreement with the post above indicating better treatment actually.

                                                                                                          1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                            Possibly I'm just not attractive enough. LOL!

                                                                                                      3. re: lagatta

                                                                                                        Flying on a plane is very different. Many people read books/articles on a plane or even write their own articles/manuscripts while flying. People don't usually do the same thing in a restaurant. You know, take a labtop out and start writing a manuscript or making powerpoint slides. On the other hand, people do that very often in a cafe. So, there.

                                                                                                  3. I am a person who goes out to a park bench, or drives to the forest, or goes to a museum in order to sit alone with my thoughts and dwell upon them.

                                                                                                    Sitting alone isn't having 'nothing to do'; it is finding the time to be alone with my thoughts.

                                                                                                    I guess I am an introvert and enjoy solitude. Perhaps this is at the core of this more than I realised.

                                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                      I love solitary time, and although I do have a companion, Iove living alone - I don't think I'd be as happy living together. When I was studying in Italy, some of the other foreign students from more "traditional" cultures (African, Middle Eastern, some Asian) could not understand this and want to hang out with me when I was reading or painting alone.

                                                                                                      But from early childhood, a fancy meal means a meal with others, a celebration. Oh, I eat well on my own, but try to eat less, and fairly simply.

                                                                                                      1. re: lagatta

                                                                                                        I too, love spending time with myself.
                                                                                                        In fact I am happily married, but we live separately. (This is WHY I am HAPPILY married!)

                                                                                                        Anyway, I love to cook, and I love to eat, but I do not find pleasure in cooking for myself. Cooking for me is something I do for others...I love to eat my own food, but only when it is being shared with others.
                                                                                                        But I still like a good meal, and I still like my own company, so dining in a restaurant alone for me is an ideal indulgance.
                                                                                                        In fact, after this thread today, I am really considering taking myself out for a nice dinner tonight!

                                                                                                        1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                          how funny, after reading this thread yesterday i was set on having a date with myself. it was already in the works... a show i planned to attend right beside my favourite solo-date place, but this gave me the push to treat myself.

                                                                                                          i'm more of an introvert. i've tried co-habitation and in the end i really needed alone time and more frequently than i took it. but beside that, i find that rather than stigma per se it's more projection. if someone isn't comfortable with dining (or doing anything) alone then they naturally expect that it would be so for the one who does it. i guess i expect a stigma to be more universally accepted, whereas i think that your choice of dining companion is really based more in preference. i can tell you that if any one of the other diners glanced at me (very infrequent), they certainly didn't give me a second look. and i was watching for it out of curiosity.

                                                                                                          when not on business, where i'll dine anywhere i please on my own, i loathe being offered the bar (i dislike being hidden in a corner in either situation). i'm there for the full luxurious experience of being in a nice restaurant. i want the service, the comfortable chair, and the bubble of serenity surrounding my table. just like recommending romantic/anniversary/birthday/etc restaurants to someone, there are very specific restaurants that i visit for solo-dining. they're never trendy and in turn not ridiculously loud, the decor wouldn't be considered romantic, the service is near perfect but completely unobtrusive, and the food... delicious. dining alone gives me the opportunity to truly savour every single bite of food because there's nothing else to focus on. this brings me serenity... sometimes near dessert i'll bring out the reading/writing material just to extend my time there and digest. though perhaps i feel this way now because i was forced to get comfortable on my own if i wanted to ever eat a decent meal while away on business.

                                                                                                          final thought, that nellynel brought to my attention that i never really considered fully before... cooking is love for me. i cook to show others love and like her i cannot seem to put together a really fantastic meal just for myself. i might try to, but eventually one side or another gets ditched and before you know it i'm just eating out of the pan whenever each component is ready. i think that's what i'm going to work on next, putting together something beautiful just for me.

                                                                                                          and btw, i do love dining with others. i like the conversation, the sharing, the conviviality... just not all the time.

                                                                                                          1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                            Pinstripe - thanks for the post and your thoughts.
                                                                                                            Its funny but I had never actually considered cooking myself a grand meal, but your post has given me the inspiration to do so!

                                                                                                            Last night, I wasnt feeling so great so I decided to go home rather than out for a meal with myself. I thought, I may as well go at the weekend and really enjoy a night out on my own...But now, I am going to plan to buy a great bottle of wine and cook myself a lovely meal.
                                                                                                            I had never even considered it before! What a concept!

                                                                                                            I had to laugh at Pinstripes: "before you know it i'm just eating out of the pan whenever each element is ready"
                                                                                                            because the last time I threw some pasta together for myself - thats exactly what I ended up doing! Picking bits out of the pan and eating out of a plastic bowl!

                                                                                                            I love sharing my cooking with family and friends, but next time - I treat MYSELF!!

                                                                                                            thanks again for the inspiration PSP!!!

                                                                                                            1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                              you're welcome, so glad to inspire!

                                                                                                              i'm often pretty tired after cooking a dinner for people and often am completely disinterested in eating, so i've made an effort to do more prepping over a couple days and that's helped a lot. i'm going to have to set a specific date for myself and use that methodology, starting prep a couple days in advance. i'll even pull out the candlesticks!

                                                                                                            2. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                              Wonderful post. When I was living alone in a strange city for grad.school, I made a point of making myself a nice sit-down meal at least once every other month. It's amazing how it can brighten your outlook on things. I need to get back in the bait. Whic I've avoided eating out of the pans, I find myself eating in from of the computer or TV much too often. But, like so many others have mentioned, I enjoy cooking for others as a way to show my love for them. So, like you, I'm going to make a commitment to show myself some love.

                                                                                                              1. re: Terrieltr

                                                                                                                thanks! it's a different kind of pampering and for food lovers it seems entirely appropriate. ha, perhaps this is inspiration for a thread on the home cooking board - what meal did you pamper yourself with this month?

                                                                                                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                                                                                  Seriously, I have been thinking about this all afternoon!

                                                                                                                  The wheels are turning, and I plan to pull out all the stops!
                                                                                                                  Yes, candles, first course, entree, dessert. ..the whole nine yards!

                                                                                                                  My DH does not understand my love for food...he is an eat to live type person....cooking for him is always a bit of a let down because the most enthusiastic response I've ever gotten was a very subdued :"it's nice".

                                                                                                                  Luckily, I still have other food-lover loved ones to cook for ...but hey I love myself! - why not treat myself in this way??
                                                                                                                  I don't know why the thought never occured to me before!

                                                                                                                  I like the idea of starting that new thread!
                                                                                                                  I want even more inspiration!

                                                                                                                  1. re: NellyNel

                                                                                                                    Go for it, NN.
                                                                                                                    When Deb travels for business, I pull out all the stops and cook up a storm of things she doesn't like to eat. Solo dining at home requires outstanding wines and LOUD music, too.

                                                                                                                    1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                      Thanks Steve!!

                                                                                                                      Loud music while cooking, for me - is a given!

                                                                                                                      Sometimes, I order sushi in and I sit on the couch, and watch a great old film, but if I cook a grand meal for myself, I shall be sat at the dinner table.
                                                                                                                      My four cats will have to be banished to the bedroom so that I can eat it in peace!

                                                                                                        2. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                          Well said Atahualpa! The quality of the comments here is unbelievable! I love chowhounds. Extroverts greatly outnumber us introverts but I am very happy with who I am.

                                                                                                          1. re: Atahualpa

                                                                                                            Most of the replies here agree with you. Most people have no problem eating out alone.

                                                                                                          2. I don't like it because I'm shy. What if some kid laughs and points, ha ha, look at the pathetic dork sitting all by herself? What if I get mustard on my nose and there's no one to tell me? Also, I never know where to look, if I don't have something to read or tap away at. Once I stayed alone at a B & B in the country. At breakfast the next morning, I would have been so happy just to focus on the assortment of jams, but the couple at the next table felt sorry for me, and struck up an appallingly dull conversation. I should have hung a "Do Not Disturb" sign around my neck. So you see, it really isn't that simple. In fact it's so complicated most of the time as to be best avoided altogether.

                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: bakersdelight

                                                                                                              Another good reason to take a book with you - to serve as a deterrent to people who insist on intruding.

                                                                                                              1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                                                                jfood has a great solution. He looks at the person and says "I don't speak English." Especially effective with the seat mate on an airplane.

                                                                                                            2. I am not adverse to dining alone, but find that I do so, more often than I would like.

                                                                                                              It allows me to get reading done, or a script written, but then it's more sustenance, than a real meal - something to get some calories, while I do something else.

                                                                                                              For me, dining, like wine, is more often better shared.

                                                                                                              When I am working, I will do wine tastings solo. These are technical endeavors. For my enjoyment, I will not do so, unless pressed. I'd much rather that my wife accompany me. Same for dining.

                                                                                                              Going back, I had dined at one excellent restaurant in Washington, DC solo. That was fate. Finally, I had my wife's company, and the staff greeted her, like a long-lost family member. "Welcome, we have heard so much about you... " The meals with her there, were the best.

                                                                                                              I just enjoy her company, and do not have it, as often as I would wish.


                                                                                                              1. It seems like everything there is to be said on this subject has already been said, and now the conversation is just going in circles, and growing increasingly unfriendly. We're going to lock it now.