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Single... still eat dinner out? Tips?

Hi, I am forever single--which is great--but I have recently realized from reading another thread about food and grocery bills that single people still eat out. Really? To be honest, I never eat out; maybe once or twice--since I have been 'off in the world' after my BA and MA. It never struck me as a good idea to sit, order, wait, stare at the wall, wait, chow, pay and leave all by myself.

So when I eat out alone, should I bring a book? Is that rude, sad, or pathetic? Should I bring work?--when I've been at chain-lunch places alone, I have always felt guilty taking up a table by myself.. so I can already imagine feeling awkward at a real, thriving nice place to dine. I just moved to a new area, so I would like to try some places out (unfortunately a co-worker, male did not take me up on two invitations to eat out.. so I can tell that's not happening...), but do you have any suggestions for how to make the 'eating out' experience not wretched at a non-chain/non-lunch establishment, if I am alone?

I've never ordered-in.. so maybe I should just skip the 'eating-out thing and just 'experience' ordering delivery.

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  1. I like to eat out alone (in a relationship or not). I try to go at off-peak times if hogging a table is an issue. Usually Mon-Wed and either early or after the rush dies down. I take a book, but I know this is a contentious topic here... I wouldn't bring work, but for me that means a lap-top and a stack of books or papers.

    1. I was single for 10 years before I remarried, and I certainly ate out. Why stare at a wall? There is plenty of people-watching at restaurants, but I don't think a book is taboo. I always found it interesting to see the flow of the restaurant, how waiters worked, and so on. I asked the waiter questions about the food, spoke pleasantly, and expected respect and not to be patronized, and I mostly got it. I did make reservations for fine restaurants, and - this was more than a decade ago; I'm not sure if I'd bother these days - sometimes made it for two and then said my friend had to cancel, when I walked in. Sometimes I'd put "Doctor" before my name, which in those days gave an added impetus for good service. I once found myself in New York for the first time in 20 years, for one night only and called the Four Seasons to ask for a table. Nothing. Well, I said, if I show up and wait, is there a chance...? Yes, they admitted, that might work. I did, and it did. I was treated like a queen, too.

      Only once did I get a really stinking table assignment, in a room alone, until they brought in a couple with a very small child. I had my revenge, but that's another story. If a waiter was grouchy, I sympathized, which generally worked, although once: "Are you having a rough night?" I asked. "No," snapped the waiter. "Then," I replied, "stop flinging my food around."

      I tipped well, and when I didn't, I stopped by the manager to say, "I stiffed my server, and I want to tell you why."

      I ate from coast to coast, and went to Europe several times, speaking only dabs of French and Italian, and with one exception, was treated very politely.

      You can do this. Most restaurants can't afford to blow off a single diner in this economy. There is nothing to feel guilty about. If tables are hard to come by and you're sitting there drinking zillions of cups of coffee, that's one thing, but for the most part, you are just as entitled as a twosome. Many servers would rather have you than folks with a handful of children or someone who's had too much to drink or who comes in with an attitude.

      Look at menus on line. Ask intelligent questions if they're needed. Be pleasant. Don't fall into the cliche of women not tipping well - unless they deserve it; then see above. This is just way not impossible.

      1. - Eat at the bar
        - Eat at off-peak hours, talk to the staff
        - Book/Magazine is fine, moreso at off-peak hours. I fuss a lot with my phone. Answer emails, play Words With Friends, etc.
        - Find few places that you like and can frequent so the staff get to know you. Makes it nicer when you're on your own.

        Most of the awkwardness of eating alone is about you. Most often, no one else is going to care, so it's just you and what's in your head. If you are comfortable, then that's all there is to it.

        ---
        http://www.foodpr0n.com -- food. is. love.

        6 Replies
        1. re: jlunar

          Most of the awkwardness of eating alone is about you. Most often, no one else is going to care, so it's just you and what's in your head. If you are comfortable, then that's all there is to it.
          _____________

          Couldn't have said it better.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            +1. Or is that two?

            I'm 63 and have eaten hundreds of meals alone. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. High and low end. As 'they' say, 'just do it.' It will get SO easy.

            1. re: c oliver

              Let me add to this.

              To the OP. If you really do not want to be alone when dining out -- regardless of whether there is a feeling of awkwardness -- look into restaurants that have communal dining tables. Best of both worlds ... eat with other solo diners.

              1. re: c oliver

                +3. Sometimes I just need some time alone....

              2. re: ipsedixit

                +2 (3?). There's no reason to feel "less than" any other person in the restaurant. I had my first experiences dining alone when I traveled on business and decided I hated the lingering aromas of room service. I learned quickly that I could take my time dining in fine restaurants, and I never felt guilty about taking up table space. While it's true that some restaurant seating arrangements work better than others (banquette-style seating is not my favorite when I'm alone), it's all quite manageable with the right attitude.

              3. re: jlunar

                Very much agree with the awkwardness issue - it's a non-issue. i admit i usually eat alone only at lunchtime, but i usually bring a book or magazine, and half the time end up putting it down while i'm eating anyway, just get engrossed in the food, in the scene around me. i used to think that people would feel "sorry: for me or think i was pathetic, but i don't think anyone cares at all. i never think that about people i see dining alone, i think they look bad-ass!

              4. I travel a lot and have eaten hundreds of meals solo. The first 10-20 are the awkward "why am I eating alone" self-assessment but then you get into the "no-biggie" self assessment.

                There are lots of ways to handle and it depends on what makes you comfortable. Want to sit at the bar, do it. want a table, do it. Want to order take-out, do it. Bottom line is you are as much of a customer as everyone else.

                People will tell you you should not occupoy a table since it takes away money form the server, or you should not bring a book because you will stay too long, or this or that. I am 53 and i believe that when you are a customer and not a line in the linear program where the definition is "Max every seat."

                For me...I bring a book or plan on doing a review and keep notes on my blackberry or bring your cell phone to text or talk quietly to others (if appropriate). Thing to remember you are a paying customer and deserve the same treatment as the people around you. Don't let people rush you or not give you the specials or bring food as if it were a fast food establishment.

                Go, relax, enjoy and after a few times you will get over any reservations you have. There is a lot of great restaurants you can experience.

                6 Replies
                1. re: jfood

                  I too travel a lot for business and have done so for years. While I have a vague recollection of discomfort in the early days (when it was still a tad unusual for a young woman to be on the road alone), I do love dining alone as much as with convivial companions.

                  Oddly, sometimes when I dine alone closer to home I feel that I need to 'justify' taking a table to myself. It's mostly in my own head, as if dining alone while traveling is forced on me (and therefore OK) dining out in the neighborhood is more of a choice and open to questioning. Silly, I know.

                  The other element is that first moment with the host - "Just one?" or "How many?" when I'm clearly the only person standing in front of them. Argh - I hate that! Sometimes when I'm feeling particularly feisty, I will look around in an exaggerated way before I confirm that I am indeed a lone pathetic, tip-stealing single.<lol>.

                  BTW, I don't go anywhere without a book, Kindle and smartphone.

                  1. re: chrisonli

                    Yes, that first moment when confronted with the singleness. I take the bull by the horns on that one and immediately state, "table for one please." Accomplishes so much. Tells the host to please seat me, do not make any comments and I know what I am doing. So easy and so effective.

                    1. re: jfood

                      Ditto. Communication is an oft overlooked skill.

                      1. re: jfood

                        i've found fewer hosts asking me the "just one" question and mostly greeting me and then waiting for me to make my request. could be that they're not expecting reservations so they're more relaxed.

                        my preferred phrase that i squeeze in right after they greet me is "just myself". for some reason i like the tone over the emphasis on "one".

                      2. re: chrisonli

                        I've found making light of the phrase "Just one?" has worked wonders for me in setting a positive tone for many solo meals. I smile and respond, "No, I'm not a 'just.'"

                      3. re: jfood

                        See, I don't get the "Book will make you stay too long" thing. So many things I love require both hands. Plus, good food deserves my full attention. The book is for between ordering and the food arriving.

                      4. I like to explore food options my wife doesn't and I travel a lot by myself so I find myself eating solo frequently. Sometimes there's enough people-watching to keep you occupied, but I always bring a newspaper or book, just in case. When traveling it's easy - bring the guidebook.

                        Seating can sometimes be awkward, and you may have to share a fourtop with another single or the end of a six with a party of 3, but that can often lead to conversation.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: hal2010

                          On occasion I don't mind this and enjoy meeting a new person. However, more times than not I am luxurating in my alone time. Do not ever let a restaurant force another person at your table if you are uncomfortable. This happened to me at Pongal, a delicious South Indian restaurant in the city. Due to this being their policy during the lunch rush, I unfortunately have never returned. [If they had asked me prior to just plopping a stranger at my table, I wouldn't have had a bitter taste in my mouth].

                          1. re: hal2010

                            I can't imagine a restaurant seating a person dining alone at a table with a group, or even with another single UNLESS it's an option regularly offered by the restaurant and all parties involved have actually requested such a seating arrangement -- OR, if you happen to be dining at a NYC deli like Katz's or Carnegie. But no one should ever HAVE to share their dining space with strangers.

                            1. re: CindyJ

                              I've dined alone (or with one other person) at many restaurants in Manhattan's Chinatown, which often have big round tables that seat six or eight. Thus, I'm usually seated with other parties. There are also restaurants - Perbacco in the East Village comes to mind - that have a long communal table, a sort of way station between bar seating and individual table seating. I sat with others there as well. Doesn't bother me at all. Of course, if it did, I wouldn't go to those places, and that's an option open to everyone. Personally, I'd feel a lot weirder monopolizing a four top than I would sharing one with three others, even if I didn't know them.

                          2. I work from home, and one of my ways of engaging with the "outside world" is to eat lunch out frequently. Even when married, I would occasionally eat dinner out, in order to explore new foods or restaurants. Honestly, I'd much rather dine alone (and people watch, enjoy a different wine, chat w/ servers and restauranteurs) than share a table with a grudging companion. Perhaps the key is to be comfortable with one's own company. It's rare that I would make use of my mobile phone, but I occasionally take a magazine or guidebook along.

                            1. While not single, my bf often doesn't care for the food I like, or I'm traveling and I am happy to eat out alone and don't think a thing about it. I agree with the suggestion to consider sitting in the bar area, but don't feel obligated to. If I want company, I'll pick a place off the list that welcomes dogs on the patios and usually end up meeting 5 or 10 new people, several which will join me and the corgi at the table.

                              1. I am not single, but I eat out alone all the time--I don't understand the pathetic factor that is so often mentioned. Sometimes I want to go out to eat and can't/don't want the hassle of rustling up a dining companion.

                                Most places I eat in have a bar, and that's where I eat. I usually have a book with me, or I read the paper or fiddle with my iPhone or I watch whatever game is on the TV. Sometimes I talk with the bartender/other people at the bar.

                                I agree with jlunar that all your issues about eating alone are in your head. The fact that you are using the words "pathetic" and "wretched experience" make me think that you are really building this up to be something big...it's just a meal.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: LeoLioness

                                  I so enjoy the times I dine alone. If you're finding it hard to break into this scene, I would like to suggest a very comfortable place to enjoy dining alone and getting your confidence up - having lunch at art museums. The food is usually delicious, the settings lovely. I don't mean the cafeteria in the basement. I mean the nicer, and a little more expensive option most art museums offer. You don't have to view the art to dine there. If you do, you will have lots of brochures to peruse while dining. Otherwise, bring a book, enjoy the people watching.

                                    1. re: CookieLee

                                      that is so funny. my designated me-date dinners are at a museum restaurant. the atmosphere is perfect for it. not too dark/romantically lit, not too buzzy, great food, and great service.

                                  1. I married with a couple of teenage girls, and am actually **more** likely to eat out when I'm solo. Cooking dinner for the family and enjoying it together is a near-daily event, and an important part of my routine. When everybody else is off doing their own thing, though, it's harder for me to get motivated to prepare a meal. And as KarenDW noted above, it's a good way to get out of the house. Then there's the cost factor - taking the family to a nice restaurant costs a whole lot more than going by myself.

                                    I always take a book, magazine, or newspaper (or even a little reading for work if I'm swamped). But I don't always open it. Sitting at the bar is more convivial than sitting at a table, if that's what you're looking for. Sitting at a table gives you more time with your book or your thoughts. Don't feel bad about taking up the space, just be aware of your surroundings - if the restaurant is bustling and people are waiting to be seated, don't linger with your book for an hour after you're done eating.

                                    The first step is to overcome your own hesitation. Just get out there and do it. So long as you're a pleasant customer, the staff will be pleasant to you. And if you become a regular someplace - especially if you eat at the bar - you'll probably begin to recognize and strike up an acquaintance with the other regulars there. At which point you won't really be eating alone any more. (Cue theme from "Cheers.")

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. Baby steps is probably good advice. Have a soup/1/2 sandwich special somewhere. Sit at a bar and have an app and a glass of wine. You're gonna quickly realize (I hope) that there are other singles do the same thing. And YOU don't think THEY'RE pathetic, do you? :)

                                      I LOVE people watching and wind up chatting people probably too much. I find people endlessing fascinating and a casual question can lead to some interesting talks.

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        Sitting at the bar can often have another advantage. If you become friendly with the bartender, free drinks will often come your way. In my drinking days not long ago, I had a bartender at a Mexican restaurant, and one at a seafood place, where all drinks were free after the first. They got an extra good tip, I got free booze, and the restaurant had a good repeat customer, and when I dine alnoe I don't go cheap. Usually I order a salad, appetizer, and entree.

                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                          I only meant that if she got her feet wet by just having a little something and bolting :) it might not seem as intimidating.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            You did say that and I completely ignored it. I hate it when people don't read my posts and respond. Sorry.

                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                              Apology unnecessary. I just want to go over to her home, take her by the hand, deposit her at a bar/restaurant. I'd then sit on the curb and wait for her to come out and say what a great time she had :)

                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                Thanks 'c oliver' for the thought--I don't know anyone where I live so it isn't happening, but it is a nice gesture.

                                      2. SUB-QUESTION: If I do not drink, would you still recommend sitting at the bar?

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: GraceW

                                          I assume you're talking about alcohol? No problem. Coke, tea, coffee. jfood's no drinker and he hangs out everywhere :)

                                          1. re: GraceW

                                            Yep. I generally prefer tea to alcohol most days. Sitting at the bar to me is just more fun/practical. Even if I'm a deuce, I prefer the bar.

                                            1. re: jlunar

                                              I used to be in medical sales and traveled to August, GA, every six weeks. A lot of my big accounts were in one area and I stayed at the same place all the time. It was usually just easier to go back there for lunch. I'd have something like an egg salad sandwich and a glass of milk at the bar. I jokingly asked the bartender if I was ruining the reputation of his establishment. No problem.

                                            2. re: GraceW

                                              Hand raised. Heck I do not even order a soda unless it is root beer on tap (once in the last 5 years). Glass of tap water and dinner.

                                              1. re: GraceW

                                                i actually don't like sitting at the bar. i think it is a good way to make yourself comfortable with dining alone because you are generally tucked away into a corner or the side, the bartender will make chit chat readily, and the flow is rather constant so most others there aren't lingering for a full meal... but i hate the busy nature of it with drink orders coming in and going out, mess from the liquids, the loudness, and the cramped dining space.

                                                i got fed up with the bar pretty quickly and no matter how trendy or buzzy the restaurant is, when i'm traveling on my own i insist on being in the middle of the action. they will generally expect you do not want that, but i do. i like watching the dynamics of the staff, seeing what people are eating, hearing funny bits of conversation.... i'll bring a book because i've usually got something on the go, but for the most part i just absorb everything that is going on. the service is generally speedier and most of the time i'm actually occupied by eating. after a few people mentioned how uncomfortable they feel when dining alone, the two times after that i would sit and watch people to see if they even glanced my way. hardly. only if they were having trouble forming their own conversation with their companions. the only time i got a long stare was because i love variety and knowing i was dining alone i pre-arranged a sampling menu and they wanted to know why i was getting special treatment.

                                                it can be a great experience and i make it a habit to dine alone at nice restaurants while at home to escape from it all. it can be quite luxurious if you pick places with the right atmosphere.

                                                1. re: pinstripeprincess

                                                  I don't like sitting at the bar when I'm alone either, unless I really feel like making conversation with other people. When I'm dining alone, I usually don't want to be social. When I'm at the bar I feel like I should be.

                                              2. As someone upstream said, most of it is in your head. It took me quite awhile to get comfortable dining alone. As a teen working at a mall I initially found it awkward dining without a companion, after a bit lunch alone was old hat. After a 20 yr. marriage (ie constant dining partner) ended and I relocated I had to work through another hurdle. As long as I felt awkward, then it was. Once I changed my view point it was fine. Again, being aware and respectful of the restaurants flow is important.

                                                Now I am in a relationship, but I still enjoy solo travel. Also my SO is a musician, so many alone nights for me. Bottom line, life is short! I'm not going to pass up a wonderful experience just because I don't have a dining companion!

                                                Being alone does have pluses! In travel you are more approachable than as a couple or in a group. I've had some fantastic experiences and conversations happen because I was alone!
                                                Each situation has pluses and minuses - just focus on the pluses!

                                                Treat yourself like you would a much loved friend. Be comfortable in the environment and open to the possibilities. And most of all, enjoy!

                                                1. I love eating out by myself, especially if it's a nice, long lesiurely lunch. It's total metime, and I think I savor my meals and notice the nuances of what I'm eating more than when I'm dining with others.

                                                  In a different life, I used to be able to have a nice lunch topped off by an afternoon movie. I felt like I was getting away with something. It was deliciously sinful.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: gloriousfood

                                                    LOVE going to movies alone! (beside the fact that you had a whole afternoon that was all about you!)

                                                  2. As another "forever single", I can only reinforce what many other posters have said. Pick a place you've been wanting to try, check out whether the bar or a table would feel more comfortable for you, and don't psych yourself into feeling guilty: you're a paying customer!

                                                    I'm literally never without a book, so that's natural for me. If people-watching or sudoku is more your style, go for it.

                                                    In any case, be nice to your server, tip well, and enjoy your meal. You might be surprised how quickly your comfort level increases!

                                                    1. Are single people pariahs of society? That's just ludicrous! Go out if you want to and enjoy yourself! If you want to order in, do that too. Just do not feel like you are violating some taboo. You're not.
                                                      However, after rereading the OP, it seems as if anxiety may be the real issue at hand. If that's the case, then you can try a few approaches.
                                                      1. Start eating out solo, but expect the 1st few times to feel uncomfortable. It may take a bit to get over the hump, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

                                                      2. If going out alone is too scary or continues to create such negative associations in your head, you may want to talk to someone about social anxiety. I suffered from social anxiety when I was child until a little post-college. What seems like a simple thing for many on CH like dining solo may seem like climbing a mountain. However, just know that it does not have to feel this way, and social anxiety can get better. In a million years as a child I never would have guessed that I would love to dine solo, or to perform stand up comedy, but I do and I have:}

                                                      1. I don't ever remember having an issue with dining out alone. One job I worked was across the park from a nice restaurant. Once every couple of months, I'd treat myself to a nice lunch there - tortellini soup and caesar salad. I still order that soup from them in their new location.

                                                        At a Mexican restaurant in the other direction from work, I got to know a couple who worked there - she as a waitress, he as a cook. I speak Spanish, so if I had a blind date, I'd meet him there for lunch, and let the waitress know - in Spanish - that I was meeting someone I didn't know. I felt kind of watched over and protected by them. They since opened their own place in a neighboring town, and I regret that I don't get there as often as I should.

                                                        There's a hotel we stay at by the airport when we have to fly out early - sometimes I'll check in by myself if my SO is flying in really late at night or early in the morning (the airport is at least an hour away). At that restaurant, I always sit at the bar. Sometimes I have great convos, other times, it's just me and my food.

                                                        I love to people watch, and if you get to know the staff, the service can be excellent.

                                                        1. I am reminded of the scene in the Steve Martin comedy, "The Lonely Guy", wherein he goes to a restaurant alone. The maitre de makes sure everyone within earshot knows he is dining solo, and a spotlight shines on his table. All of which is to mock the anxiety people have about eating alone. Nobody else cares. There's a saying that "you wouldn't care so much what people think of you if you knew how rarely they do."

                                                          Unless all seats at a restaurant are customarily occupied at all times, there's no cause for the management or servers to prefer other customers. Those places are few, especially in today's economy. In decades of dining alone, I can only think of three times when I felt that I was "singled out" for sub-par service. I left a penny tip each time, and told the manager why.
                                                          These were while traveling, so not places I've had occasion to revisit.

                                                          1. Grace, Grace, Grace ... eat out. Maybe you won't be forever single. Even if you don't meet someone when dining out, it seems lonlier to me to be sitting by yourself at home.

                                                            >>> It never struck me as a good idea to sit, order, wait, stare at the wall, wait, chow, pay and leave all by myself.So when I eat out alone, should I bring a book? Is that rude, sad, or pathetic? Should I bring work?--when I've been at chain-lunch places alone,

                                                            So exactly what is it you are doing at home when you are eating alon? Staring at the wall?

                                                            Fabulous blog btw. Gotta like someone who writes about Cupcake Pebbles. Funny stuff, it made me chuckle a lot.

                                                            But your blog says you are young, so maybe you just haven't experienced the luxury and joy of dining alone. You got a career. Somewhere along the line you are going to have to eat alone when on a business trip.

                                                            Do what you do at home when you eat. If you read, read. If you write, write. If you watch tv, go to a restaurant with tvs. When I traveled on business, sometimes top-notch restaurants will offer reading material to single business travelers.

                                                            >>> I have always felt guilty taking up a table by myself.. so I can already imagine feeling awkward at a real, thriving nice place to dine.

                                                            When you start, if you are feeling akward, go at off hours and not prime time. However, even before the bad economy, few restaurants are so busy that they don't always have a few empty tables. You are doing them the favor of taking up a table that would otherwise be empty.

                                                            >>> I just moved to a new area, so I would like to try some places out (unfortunately a co-worker, male did not take me up on two invitations to eat out.. so I can tell that's not happening...

                                                            Are you working in a two person office? There's no one else who you could eat with if you want company? This isn't dating, it's having lunch. Ask some of the women in the office if they'd like to eat out. Ask your boss, male or female.

                                                            >>> do you have any suggestions for how to make the 'eating out' experience not wretched at a non-chain/non-lunch establishment, if I am alone?

                                                            Start drinking?

                                                            Just kidding.

                                                            I don't understand why it would be wretched? I don't like waiting around for the check, so my only tip is when they drop off dessert to aks for the check. Or tell them they an bring the check with dessert ... or sandwich ... or entree ... or whatever you know is the last thing you want to order. So that eliminates the wretched factor for me ... but it has nothing to do with being alone. It has to do with not usually liking to hang around when I've finished my meal.

                                                            >>> I've never ordered-in.. so maybe I should just skip the 'eating-out thing and just 'experience' ordering delivery.

                                                            NO, NO, NO. It is never as good after bouncing around in a delivery vehicle 30 or more minutes. And you miss the experience of the restaurant.

                                                            Get out of that house Grace. The world is waiting for you. From your blog you seem to have a great sense of humor. The restaurants need your business

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: rworange

                                                              hear, hear.

                                                              Just four things to add to what has already been said:

                                                              1. Enjoy eating alone while it is easy to do so! Now that I am married, I don't eat alone nearly as often, and that means that I sometimes have to compromise on choice of restaurants. It is SO great to go where you want to go and not have to worry about a dining partner's taste or budget. Indeed, I look forward to business trips alone, so I can go explore!

                                                              2. On one of those business trips, I chose one of the highest end restaurants (in a city known for fine-dining) because I was curious about it. And I ordered the tasting menu. The server brought over a selection of magazines and asked if I wanted one or two to read during the course of dinner (I declined. I told him I wanted to concentrate just on the food, which is sort of true. I also like watching the room between courses..'people watching' of servers can be fun. That said, if the restaurant didn't think there was anything wrong with reading material during fine-dining, why should I?)

                                                              3. if you dont' want to eat alone, you could also look into Chowdowns with others on this board. many boards have them. Check out the sticky from Ruth Lafler on the SF Board for example.

                                                              4. You never know. Way back decades ago, when I was single, I moved to a new area and knew no one, and to make matters worse, I was in a small town, where I found it hard to meet people. I took myself out to breakfast one weekend morning and sat at the counter. The guy next to meet started a conversation, and we ended up dating....

                                                            2. I eat out alone often and have for years. I can thank a lot of foreign travel and a man that travels for works a lot. I've grown to love it! You pick where you want, eat exactly what you want---it's all about you!! I often sit at the bar if the place has one, bar staff can be very chatty. If I feel I'll need a table, I'll tuck a magazine into my bag to flip through. Mostly I just watch people. Not in a staring type way--just glancing around. And if somebody asks why I'm eating alone I generally laugh and tell them that it would be even more pathetic if I were alone sitting in my apartment/room, lol!!

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: alliegator

                                                                also"forever single" ;have eaten out solo very often; never have been asked why am i dining alone... would consider anyone who would ask such a rude question incredibly boorish! reading,writing, catching up on calendar "maintenence"often quiets my nerves. I understand well that some people are uncomfortable or threatened by singles but we certainly are due all the respect/consideration of anyone... you are an important citizen of the world; there is no other like you!

                                                              2. it's all been covered in this thread already but:

                                                                i eat alone often. from low end to uber high end. never felt bad about it. don;t act like it is something to be ashamed of and you will not be treated as you are doing something shameful.

                                                                when they ask me "just one?" i often say "not just. one!" which usually gets a smile.

                                                                sometimes i eat at the bar, but often enjoy a table. i almost always read a book, or do some writing while i eat.

                                                                don;t worry what other's think of you - they ought to be concerned with what you think of them, instead.

                                                                1. Agree with what numerous posters here have written ... I can't recall a single time I've ever felt uncomfortable about dining out alone. Sometimes I will sit at the bar, but most times I get a table, and have never had any issues from servers, either.

                                                                  From cheap eats to Joel Robuchon, no one's begrudged my my book, my time/pace, or anything else.

                                                                  Go. Eat. Enjoy!

                                                                  1. Eating alone really freaked me out for awhile. I got use to sitting at the bar and becomming a regular in some places. I do not agree with bringing a book out to eat, I think it is not a place to go read. (imho, not saying no one should)

                                                                    For me when I see someone sitting alone eating for whatever reason, I take the notion that the person is important or of unique nature. (no explanation why)

                                                                    21 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Augie6

                                                                      just curious as why you feel it isnt a place to read?

                                                                      1. re: thew

                                                                        Im honestly being hypocritical, for I have cetainly brought a notebook , book , laptop while going out to eat alone. What I meant to say is that not every place is suitable to bring a book too.

                                                                        I had a women complain at a local spot that our table was disturging her reading.. we accomidated her, not restaurant, and moved our table .. Next same women sat next to lounge again and complained... If she wanted to read that much, than stay home.. BUt if you just want to pass time... I would bring agree on bringing a book

                                                                        1. re: Augie6

                                                                          which places are not suitable? (not trying to be an ass, just getting what you mean)

                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                            No worries, I would say sitting at a bar stool reading is not suitable, people sit at the bar to socialize. (takes up a seat ) Also , a place that offers view of the kitchen, as enertainment. I do not think any upscale place would have any issues with that.. (usually quite calm , great reading environment) .. Like i said I do not have an issue with reading at a place, just do not expect to be accomadated to read...
                                                                            (reviewing my spelling I should read more often)

                                                                            1. re: Augie6

                                                                              ok. ive never had a problem reading at the bar, or anyplace else

                                                                              1. re: Augie6

                                                                                A couple of the places where I eat at the bar provide newspapers every day. It doesn't seem to be a problem for them.

                                                                                1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                  Thew I agree with you, and you shouldn't have a problem. I guess I don't see the allure of going to a crowed social bar, to sit and read a novel. Places I frequent would not allow me to sit at the actually bar stool and read while other wanted to sit and socialize.

                                                                                  Newspapers were not my speculation

                                                                                  1. re: Augie6

                                                                                    if you were eating and/or drinking at the bar, they wouldn't let you sit there? they would force you to talk to someone if you wanted to stay?

                                                                                    1. re: Augie6

                                                                                      I actually checked your profile to see where you were from because I have never, in the decades I've been sitting at restaurant bars world-wide, ever had a problem of not being able to read at a bar. Pittsburg must have a unique restaurant scene.

                                                                                      Then it might be timing. Yes, if you are going at prime time on a weekend at a place where the bar scene is more important than the food, yeah, it's going to be noisy and uncomfortable. Even these types of joints in SF wouldn't make a big deal if you wanted just to sit, read a book and not socialize. In that case, its more of a noise pollution thing with people drinking a bit too much and getting loud.

                                                                                      When I'm eating at the restaurant bar, I RARELY socialize with the other customers. I will chat with the bartender if I'm in the mood, but that isn't necessary.

                                                                                      My favorite seat on the end of one of my favorite restaurant bars has a magazine rack next to it, so they encourage reading.

                                                                                      However, at the right time, the right place and the right crowd, I've struck up really nice conversations with people, even at times sharing tastes of each others food ... as it is just delivered before anyone goes eeewww, I wouldn't eat from a strangers plate ... no one has touched the food yet and you can usually transfer it to a butter plate or something.

                                                                                      So in most cases, you can be as social or unsocial as you want at a bar. It also is great for entertainment value. I like bars were you can see the restaurant. Then you can people-watch and keep an eye out on what is going on the tables. You are sitting close enough to others at the bar to evesdrop on others converstions if you like ... usually how I get into conversations with others if something interestings me ... "sorry, to evesedrop, but I couldn't help overhearing that ... ". Also, I like watching bartenders make cocktails. Sitting at the bar can be quite diverting.

                                                                                      1. re: rworange

                                                                                        listen this is getting a bit crazy.. This is all circumstantial hypothetical situations , that do not need any further 'reading into"
                                                                                        rworange you hit the nail on the head! It is a situational/timing problem, if the bar is crowded and thier is groups of people waiting to sit at the bar to socialize and mingle with the bar crowd, and you are reading taking up a seat , someone probally will ask if you wouldn't mind sitting at table -- Now having said that, if you are at a quite low key bar, with a library connected to it , then go ahead.

                                                                                        I personally do not have a problem with and have seen people get asked if they wouldn't mind sitting at a table, as a courtesy not requirment. The guy could of been a prick and said No, BUT he realized Im at a bar during happy hour with people attempting to talk and hang out .. Im sitting reading , which can be done anywher else

                                                                                        1. re: Augie6

                                                                                          a bar is in the business of selling drinks. if you are buying drinks you are not "taking up a seat" you are a valued customer. you are not getting in the way of the socialization, nor are you taking anything away from the bar by being there. you are doping exactly what the bar wants done with that seat. it is occupied by a paying customer. why would they risk losing that by moving you?
                                                                                          i just don't see what you are saying at all.

                                                                                          1. re: thew

                                                                                            Forget the bar.. personally would you be that SELFISH to not allow someone that wants to socialize to sit and be social I am speaking towards a place that has louder music, sport games, and other SOCIAL activities.. Why would you even want to sit at a place of that nature and read?

                                                                                            i think we are just not on same page on the type of establishment.. because I do agree with you on this subject in general

                                                                                            1. re: Augie6

                                                                                              as opposed to someone being so selfish as to move me from my seat because i want to read?

                                                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                                                It is not because you want to read.. it is because of the surroundings. that is the point!!! I am done talking on this..Going back to food posts
                                                                                                Have fun reading a book at a packed bar, during the super bowl , infront of the tv. You have every right too.

                                                                                                1. re: Augie6

                                                                                                  I know you're "done" but I'm sure you'll be reading this. Who said the bar has to be packed? My schedule allows me to eat at off peak hours, and I might be one of a handful of people. Even though I coulsd easily get a table, I prefer the bar when dining alone. I would never go to a packed bar and attempt to read, eat yes, read no.

                                                                                                  1. re: Augie6

                                                                                                    Yeah, I got called away before I could add an edit.

                                                                                                    The only thing I wanted to note was the OP ... already concerned simply about entering a restaurant and eating alone ... was hesitant about sitting at a bar and there is no reason to be, so I didn't want your experience to discourage her from considering that as an option which can be very pleasant with or without book.

                                                                                                    The reason you sit at bars is different and you go to places that have lively bar scenes at peak times. A lot of restaurants might not focus on that. Even those that don't, immediately after work, depending on location might mean a full bar and more activity.

                                                                                                    I usually try to take an end seat (not the end where the staff is exiting and entering the bar). That way I'm not the middle person with two empty seats on either side of me. Usually, if the bar is crowded and I am in the middle of two seats, I'll ask a couple if they'd like me to move over. Also, the end seat is usually more private and affords more room.

                                                                                                    No matter how full the bar is, I have NEVER been asked to move to a table. In fact the opposite ... but not when I'm alone ... occasionally, if I'm with a friend at a table and lingering over desserts and the restaurant is packed, there might be a request to move to the bar area with some sort of comp from the restaurant.

                                                                                                    I don't want to get this off track about manners, but if a customer not only asked me to move to a table and told me I was in the way, I would flat out refuse. THEY can socialize at a table. If I personally wanted a bar seat and wanted someone to move, I might, like a decent restaurant, say "I hope you don't mind my asking, and its fine if you say no, but if I buy you a ... drink ... dessert .. coffee ... depending on what they are into .. ... could we bother you to move to that table over there?"

                                                                                                    Yeah, even writing that I can see I'd never have the nerve to tell someone to move.

                                                                                                    I really don't see that person as selfish if they don't want to join in on the activity. They are still buying food or drinks. They got to the bar on time to snag a seat, that's all. Too bad for me and my friend(s) if we breeze in too late. Next time we'll get there earlier.

                                                                                                    But honestly, in that situation, people always seem content to stand behind their friends who are seated.

                                                                                                    Anyway, the OP should not be put off in considering a bar seat and size up when entering whether that would be a good choice at that restaurant.

                                                                                                    1. re: rworange

                                                                                                      yea, you got me , James..chow pulls me back into convos(thats why I love this site)

                                                                                                      James:
                                                                                                      " I would never go to a packed bar and attempt to read, eat yes, read no."

                                                                                                      My hypothetic situation this was all based on refered to a packed bar and You demonstrated the only point I was attempting to make..

                                                                                                      rworange--always on point, BTW tried the McGrasshopper today well played!!

                                                                                                      Personally if was at the bar doing paper work and noticed a group of people wanting to sit at the bar and they couldn't because I was working/reading, I would give up my seat w/o anyone asking or suggesting anything to me..

                                                                            2. re: Augie6

                                                                              I don't like bringing books because they're hard as heck to keep open while eating! :o) But I do like those free daily newspapers they hand out in metropolitan regions and magazines.

                                                                              I tried doing the journal thing on vacation, but it was too much juggling for this clumsy oaf...

                                                                              I also prefer to sit at a nice, secluded table, even in the noisiest of restaurants. Went to a very busy and very noisy restaurant by myself last week to enjoy restaurant week and catch up on some of the magazines I have piling up. They gave me a great table in a corner somewhere, and I tipped 30% for that type of consideration. I hate eating at a bar. Seats are too high (bad for the back) and those are the only times I feel self-conscious of someone looking at me (namely, the bartender, especially when it's not busy). I don't like to talk too much when dining out by myself unless I forget to bring something with me to read or do!

                                                                              1. re: yfunk3

                                                                                I know EXACTLY what you mean about the difficulties of reading a book whilst eating, and have found that an e-reader makes it so much easier.

                                                                                1. re: a213b

                                                                                  Ha, totally remembered e-readers after I hit "post". But then I'd be worried about getting grease, food and/or drink on my e-reader! There's always a catch, isn't there? :o)

                                                                            3. I dine alone a lot. I like it; I bring a book, I strike up a conversation with the staff or the chef, and often get better service because of it.

                                                                              Often, even when I have a 'fridge full of food I will opt to go out just to get some human interaction and taste something different that I wouldn't fix for myself.

                                                                              I despise chains and avoid those but have never felt awkward or out-of-place. And I NEVER feel guilty taking up a table! My money is as good as anyone else's - even if they are getting half of what they are expecting. Usually, because of the aforementioned better service, I will tip better than many doubles!

                                                                              1. I don't really mind eating out alone - I'm an only child and "forever single" like you, so I've just kind of gotten used to it. I avoid "fine dining" places because I view going to them as a social event, but pretty much anywhere else I'm fine going. I usually bring a book or my net book to work on whatever I'm writing. If I'm in a diner or a very casual place, I bring my iPod. If I don't have any entertainment, I'll sit at the bar.

                                                                                Start out going very early or very late and then build your comfort levels up:) Visit places with a lot of private nooks and booths at first.

                                                                                I work from home, so if I didn't get out for dinner a couple times a week, I'd go stark raving mad:)

                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                1. re: Heatherb

                                                                                  +1
                                                                                  only child, do not work at home but mostly solo.. If i didnt go out to eat, i would become very nasty

                                                                                  1. re: Augie6

                                                                                    Living alone currently and unemployed, I have to pick and choose my time out carefully. Usually lunches out are treats of my Mom. But this afternoon, after a doctor's appointment, I took myself to my favorite place - they were very happy to see me, and there were others around dining solo also.

                                                                                  2. re: Heatherb

                                                                                    I agree about the stark raving mad part. As a "lady of the house" and I mentioned before that my man travels probably 2/3 of the time, going out to eat is a basic need for good mental health, lol!!
                                                                                    I agree a lot with the folks above that it's all about your own comfort level. And working up to it is a good idea. I'm lucky because I've always been very comfortable. I remember leaving campus on lunch break in high school to have a nice, peaceful lunch--solo. Just keep in mind that you are a guest, your money is just as green, and enjoy your food and the people you cross paths with!

                                                                                    1. re: alliegator

                                                                                      My husband had a speaking engagement in New Orleans. He typically orders room service and works. But I told him he was crazy if he didn't go to a great restaurant while he was there. He called up one of Emeril's and made a reservation for one and told them he'd like to do a tasting menu. When he arrived he was ushered into the kitchen and the chef chatted with him the entire night. He said it was one of the best meals of his life.

                                                                                        1. re: alliegator

                                                                                          And he had no idea that they were going to seat him in the kitchen. I'm so glad that he called for reservations.

                                                                                          Honestly, no one is really paying attention to you unless you are behaving badly in public or you are a celebrity. So, why not be good to yourself and enjoy a nice meal. Tip well and be polite and you'll be welcomed back with open arms.

                                                                                  3. Nice blog post (not mine!) here on eating alone
                                                                                    http://seasonalcook.blogspot.com/2010...

                                                                                    She discusses the great scene in Moonstruck of Olympia Dukakis' character eating out alone.

                                                                                    1. This is a slight side-track to the current conversation and maybe a delicate issue but I don't see anyone commenting on another potential issue of a single dining alone - the attempted pick-ups. I'm not talking about a perfectly polite, nice person commenting on the book I'm reading, or introducing himself and starting a conversation, I'm talking about the ones who just don't get that I'm not sitting at the bar in order to be picked up or heckled by the slobby drunk a few chairs down. (I walked out of one seemingly very nice place after getting v.loud "Hey Red"s from down the bar and an inability to get the bartender's attention for a quick bill. I left cash with a good tip, of course!)

                                                                                      I travel quite a lot on business, so I'm perfectly comfortable dining alone (I'm on the plus side for bringing a book, btw, ereaders are the best travel invention in the history of the world, imho). But this defintely stops me from dining alone at local pubs when I'm in my home city.

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: FrenchSoda

                                                                                        I'm glad you brought this up. I was thinking the same thing. If I'm sitting at a table, it's usually ok, but if I'm at the bar, it's like you're "fair game". I always have my iPad and my phone. I don't think I'm giving "hey, why don't you come over" signals, but I've definitely had unwelcome company.

                                                                                        Obviously, I'm in a social environment. I'm not shy, and I don't mind a friendly conversation. But these days, unless I really want a cocktail with my meal, or I have time to kill, I'm more likely to just get take out if I'm dining solo.

                                                                                        1. re: FrenchSoda

                                                                                          Maybe it depends on where you are, geographically? I haven't had this issue ever when dining in Toronto...

                                                                                          1. re: jlunar

                                                                                            Actually I'm in Toronto too. Maybe I'm not going to the right places ;)

                                                                                            1. re: FrenchSoda

                                                                                              lol, maybe? I think if anyone shouted "Hey Red!" at me in a restaurant it would draw everyone's attention... and not just because my hair is more raven than red!

                                                                                              1. re: jlunar

                                                                                                Hee. Well, that was an extreme example! Perhaps the "gentleman" in question had been celebrating something that evening! Still, I tend to sit at the tables instead of the bar in order to avoid this scenario.

                                                                                                1. re: FrenchSoda

                                                                                                  Yes, a table would reduce the number of those who would accost you. Well, all but the most determined!

                                                                                          2. re: FrenchSoda

                                                                                            When you're in a local pub, you're stepping into a place many people have come to view as their own personal playground. They feel more confident approaching a stranger in such situations, maybe? And in a hotel bar, everyone knows they're on equal footing - they're all strangers to the area.

                                                                                            I dunno, I've never really had a problem. But then I'm very good at becoming engrossed in a book in even the most distracting of situations:)

                                                                                            1. re: FrenchSoda

                                                                                              (I do have that as a concern: I tend to attract gentlemen my father's age... some reason being shy of 25 means attracting mid-40s to mid 50s (presumably I repel men my own age). That combined with the fact that I do not drink, means sitting at the bar, just seems like it would not be worth it.)

                                                                                            2. Grace,

                                                                                              How's this working for you? Are you eating out?

                                                                                              I was afraid we might have scared you off but you seem to be posting on other boards. What's the end of the story?

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: rworange

                                                                                                Hi,

                                                                                                In general I have been very busy with work. This means I have been posting less and less; also, I have had no time to eat out--besides, I'll be honest and admit everyone's discussion of eating at the bar, vs. eat at the table... it all did not make me want to run out and eat alone.

                                                                                                I did, however, just get renewed for next year... so I will probably go get an expensive dinner soon.

                                                                                                1. re: GraceW

                                                                                                  Oh, apologies, please don't let us turn you off of it. My example was an extreme case and just brought up for conversation. I eat alone frequently while travelling and often enough in my home city. It's perfectly comfortable.

                                                                                              2. I am young and single and it took me a bit to get over eating by myself. Once you get pass your own personal stigma you are in the clear. i actually found that eating by myself to be quite enjoyable and gives me a chance to talk to the staff and people around. I went on vacation on my own for the firs time by myself and before going, I was a bit uneasy of dining on my own and doing stuff on my own abroad but I found out to be a very enjoyable experience. i got to chose when I wanted to eat and where the eat. the only downside to eating alone I ever had was that I like to try many different things but stomach capacity/not being a complete glutton is a big hinderance.

                                                                                                You should not feel uncomfortable diing alone and embrace it, and the staff in my experience has always been accomidating and service was fine. Walking in with some "swagger" always helps too.

                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: jester99

                                                                                                  Wow, I could never go on vacation alone (although I've wanted to many, many, times). Congrats on the confidence and the "swagger" at such a young age. Cheers to you!

                                                                                                  1. re: jester99

                                                                                                    When I was single and working, I took a few days off and treated myself to a vacation in Seattle (of course it rained the whole time). I took the train up and stayed at a reasonable hotel within walking distance of Pike Place Market, and made reservations to eat at a nice waterfront restaurant. I walked down to the restaurant and the staff were happy to call a cab to go back. I ordered a nice meal for myself, and had my first glass of Port for dessert, asking the waiter for suggestions on which to try. By far the most expensive meal I'd ever paid for, but so much fun and worth it!

                                                                                                    ETA: Same time frame, my parents had a time share on Maui, and I invited all of my friends to join me, since we wouldn't have to pay for lodging, and ended up going alone. Again, I did what I wanted, when I wanted. A couple of nice dinners out, snorkeling trip where I got horribly sunburned. The next time, my best friend joined me for her first trip to Hawaii - it was great to see it through her eyes.

                                                                                                  2. I dine out a good deal, and most often I do so alone. I eat alone in every type of establishment - fine dining, dives and everything in between. I also travel a lot and generally dine out by myself then, too.

                                                                                                    One thing I've learned is that I love dining out alone. Actually, I often prefer it. After a long day at work I find it generally very relaxing to sit by myself in peace and quiet with just my food and drink.

                                                                                                    I never take a book or work with me when dining out but have seen plenty of people that do and don't consider it rude, sad or pathetic. And you definitely shouldn't feel guilty taking up a table by yourself -- most places are happy to have you. It's your time and your dime and you should do what pleases you the most within the bounds of decorum.

                                                                                                    Ultimately, people don't care about you as much as you care about yourself. Realizing this and getting over your feelings of awkwardness when dining out alone is the key to having a great time.

                                                                                                    As a single diner I often eat at the bar. That's probably because I like to drink and the bar is in closest proximity to the alcohol; however, I've also found that dining alone at the bar more often than not leads to very interesting social interaction with the servers, bartenders or other patrons. If I'm too beaten down, don't feel the capacity for social interaction and just want some peace and quiet, though, I'll happily take a table in the main dining room and enjoy my meal with just myself and my thoughts.

                                                                                                    1. I understand your misgivings, I am in the same boat in the single department. IMHO it is a mixed bag. The majority of the time I like it and other times I say eff it and cook at home. The times I say eff it are usually if the place is too loud, a see and be seen place or I want to eat sooner than later or if I need total alone time. I think it is one of those things you have to try and then reassess the experience to see what works for you. After all not all places are equal when eating alone. in my experience I have found different strategies work for different places. For example, there's a sports bar in my neighborhood that has great food but is too loud and has a sterile ambiance. Instead of eating my whole dinner there I prefer to order my dinner to go and have a drink (more often than a not soda) and an appetizer while my dinner is being prepared. Also, researching places helps alleviate some of my occasional anxieties. Check the web sites and reviews of the restautant, call in advance and ask questions, post questions on the local boards on CH and ask the host and wait staff questions while you are there. I have found the more prepared I am the less apprehensive I am when eating out solo..

                                                                                                      1. I love eating out alone, especially after a long day or week of feeding everyone else. Sometimes I bring a book but I find if you don't, you may get an opportunity to meet someone new! As a bartender though, I do find that women eating alone get more stares then men, who seem to do it all the time ( I am of the female variety). That being said, single diners are often the most generous as they have no one influencing how much they tip, and their bills tend to be nice and hefty.