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Solo dining in Philadelphia

I am going to be in Center City at a conference the last week in June and am looking for some suggestions related to solo dining. I have read quite a bit of this board, but would love some specific thoughts on solo-friendly fine dining places.

I'm not looking for sandwich places or food trucks -- I already have plenty of them on my list. I am planning to spend time at the RTM and Chinatown. I'm looking for a place that I can sit down and eat an amazing meal... as a solo diner. Why solo? Well, none of my traveling companions (for work) are real foodies. I indulge their Olive Gardens and their Joe's Crab Shacks when we go out together, but I'm not doing that this time. It is possible that I can find a dining companion who cares about food, but I can't count on it. I was REALLY hoping to try to get enough folks to do the suckling pig at Amada, but may have to just settle for the pernil asado if I make it there.

Here are my top choices. I will be there Sunday through Wednesday (inclusive)

- Amada

- Zahav

- Bibou

- Xochitl

- Buddakan

- Lolita

- Morimoto

- Parc

- Kanella

- Matyson

- Dante and Luigi's

- Friday Saturday Sunday

- Fork

- Farmicia

- Mercato

- Meme

- Supper

- Southwark

Solo dining is more convenient at lunch (near the convention center), but dinner recommendations would be good too. I know Matyson has a prix fixe lunch tasting menu during the week. Is it solo friendly? I can travel a bit, but not out to the 'burbs.

Oh, and in case you aren't sure what I mean by "solo-friendly", I mean a place where I can get a table as a single diner without feeling like a leper. I don't mind eating at the bar, if they have the full menu. I hate sitting at a four-top in the middle of a busy restaurant. I've been known to use the notepad trick shown by Steve Martin in the movie "The Single Guy".

Thanks for any help you can give!

(Edit: Sorry for the double-spaced list. Apparently there is a known bug when editing a post: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/788049)

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  1. Bibou and Modo Mio/Monsu treat single as a 'friend of the chef'. Monsu is open for lunch.

    1. I was totally thinking about doing the Sucking Pig at Amada, but getting people who are pig fiends like me together is kinda hard. If you're serious about doing the suckling pig, keep this post alive. I'd gladly join you to get my pig on! I bet you'd find other people here who would join up with you too!

      5 Replies
      1. re: glamazonjade

        Great idea, glamazonjade! The Etiquette guide suggests starting a new thread, and I think I might just do that. Many locals or people who might wish to join could miss this thread.

        I'm thinking Wednesday, June 29 as the best time for me -- on Monday or Tuesday the conference is still going, so work could force a last minute cancellation. I will start a thread looking for feedback and then see about RSVPing offline with Meeting Wizard or Evite or something similar.

        1. re: 2roadsdiverge

          I tried to post something but then it got taken down. I guess you have to do it in a thread or something.. Frowntown.

          1. re: glamazonjade

            You can do a post but people have to respond to your email address

        2. re: glamazonjade


          I managed to find a couple of colleagues who have said they would attend, which necessitated moving the dinner to Tuesday, June 28. A reservation has been made for 8:15. You are invited to come if you would like to. I must warn you that the other guests will be teachers and there may be some shop talk about the conference. The good news is that they are not the most adventurous eaters, so there will be plenty of the rarer cuts available - cheeks, ears, snout, yum!

          If you are available and still game, please contact me at 2roadsdiverge@gmail.com - I have to place the order for the pig by Friday 6/28.

          Anyone else who would like to attend, please contact me as well. I can probably increase the reservation, at least for a while.

          1. re: 2roadsdiverge

            And now I've learned that Amada only does a limited number of pigs on any given day. I called yesterday to give them a week's notice on the pig, but was told that all are booked for that night. Apparently the "three day notice" that they ask for assumes that there are no other parties looking to do pigs that night.

        3. Amada, Zahav, Bibou, and Kanella are the places I'd go to for dinner from that list, they're the best four. Amada is open for lunch, Kanella is open for lunch only Thursday-Sunday, the other two don't do lunch.

          Farmicia doesn't belong on your list.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Buckethead

            Why does Farmicia not belong? No support for solo diners? Their menu looks yummy. and I've heard rave reviews from some friends.

            1. re: 2roadsdiverge

              It's not good. I haven't been in years, so your friends may have newer, more relevant experience there, but I tried it twice and it was bad enough that I have no desire to ever try it again. No way is it in the same league as Zahav, Bibou, Amada, or Kanella.

          2. Try and grab a seat at the sushi bar if you eat at Morimoto. This way if you're not crazy about the gravies they put on the fish, you can ask the sushi chefs to make your sushi/sashimi Japanese style. My experience with them is that their fish is supreme but they cover the taste with all that fusion sauce nonsense. Plus, the sushi bar (or table if you prefer) and menu are solo friendly.

            For lunch, if you don't mind the "ghetto look" you should hit Dim Sum Garden (59 N 11th St
            Philadelphia, PA 19176). Ironically, they don't make dim sum but, they do make wonderful soup dumplings and appetizers.

            5 Replies
            1. re: David11238

              I would throw a few others onto your list to consider

              Osteria - great italian food, and you can dine at the bar with full menu. I find I actually get better service at the bar, attention from the bar tender, tidbits sent from the kitchen, great conversation with the sommelier if I am ordering a bottle. And you can walk in and eat at the bar easily unless its the busiest time of the day. Downside is it will be a walk for you from CC.

              Barbuzzo. Great counter to eat at, and you can watch the chefs. If you are down close to the stove/oven it can be a bit warm. But great service and food.

              Zavino. Excellent time sitting at the bar, and full menu. All three make incredible artisan pizza. I prefer the pasta at Osteria as well as the anitpasti.

              Oyster House. You can eat either at the bar or at the Oyster Counter. Watch the amazing shuckers and have a great drink/food. Definitely good lunch destination.

              +1 for both Zahav and Amada for dining alone either at the bar or a table.

              1. re: cwdonald

                I too, shall try these places the next time I'm in Philly.

                1. re: cwdonald

                  Thanks so much!

                  The good thing about this trip is that I am avoiding weekends. I'm hoping I can get in with minimal difficulty at my final choices.

                  1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                    If you want to go to Bibou, call *now*, they book up well in advance. Actually I just checked on Opentable and the only available options during your trip are 6 and 830 pm on Wednesday the 29th. Call them, though, they have a 2-seat bar by the kitchen, I don't think they book those seats online.

              2. Plenty of places on your list I don't know, but Amada, Morimoto, and Southwark all have bars that I wouldn't hesitate to eat a full meal at. Actually quite tempted to eat at the Morimoto sushi bar some day.
                If you want to get inspired, try to dig up uhockey's tales of eating in Philly. He was here for like 3-4 days, ate more than I eat in a month, walked around 100 miles, probably filled 20 pages with descriptions of his meals. It's from a few months ago, but you might get some hints there.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                    I just had a foodgasm, an I'm still on day 1.

                  2. re: Bob Loblaw

                    Good call Bob. If I recall, he too was a solo diner. And he too arranged a chowdown at Amada for the whole pig. And yes, he ate more in a few days than I would attempt in a month.

                  3. Drives me nuts when I walk into a restaurant to dine alone and the hostess says: 'Just one?' It's truly offensive. And I'm not talking about Friday or Saturday night either...I talking Thursday at 5:30 PM or 8:30 PM at a very good place!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: gardens4me

                      Gardens I completely agree... often I preempt them and tell them only 1 ... (usually I make a reservation .. thank you open table... ) but the condescending attitude is very annoying. Many places can be enjoyed by one person, and some of us love bringing a book dining, and people watching.. or talking to the sushi chef or ... yada yada yada.

                      1. re: gardens4me

                        I know, it is sometimes really uncomfortable. Lunch isn't so bad, but dinners can be awful. I always feel like Steve Martin in "The Single Guy", when the spotlight shines on him as he walks to his table, and then stays on him until he asks the maitre d' to turn it off. I'll occasionally leave my convention badge around my neck -- if the place isn't too fancy -- just so people know I'm there on business.

                        1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                          I would go to Zahav for a dinner. They have wonderful cocktails and the food is delicious.

                          1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                            Thanks people... I know it's not just me...and frankly, I do enjoy my own company. Problem for me is that most of my friends will not spend the type of $$$ that I will on a good meal, which is a shame, but I'm not gonna fight that battle. Open table sounds like a good idea for the future. Wonder if there's a space on that reservation site for 'just me and my Kindle'.!!

                            1. re: gardens4me

                              LOL ... on open table you just have to select 1. Now I have noticed that at certain times restaurants will book a table for two but not for 1. I also often put in the comments section.. will eat at the bar etc if thats what I want to do.

                        2. The advice on here is great. All I'll add is some places that are *not* good for solo diners: Lolita, Dante & Luigi's, Mercato, and Kanella for dinner--for lunch it should be fine.

                          1 Reply
                          1. Thanks to this board I have the following reservations for my 5 days in Philadelphia:

                            Saturday night - late dinner at Zahav if my plane isn't late
                            Sunday & Monday - unscheduled, but probably lunch at RTM (DiNic's) and Chinatown (Rangoon or Dim Sum Garden)
                            Tuesday - dinner at Amada
                            Wednesday - lunch at Matyson, dinner at Osteria
                            Thursday - probably breakfast at Dutch Eating Place if I can get out of bed after Wednesday before heading to the airport

                            Reports to follow.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                              Might as well hit Claudio's and Di Bruno's for cheese and cured meats (to bring home), respectively.

                              1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                                Sounds good! I'd go to Rangoon over Dim Sum Garden.

                                1. re: 2roadsdiverge

                                  Sunday dinner will be DiNardo's (solo) if the crab looks good.
                                  Just booked Morimoto for lunch Monday with a colleague who surprised me by asking if I would take her there.
                                  Dinner Monday will be City Tavern (with a group; my only "work" dinner).
                                  Tuesday at Amada will probably be canceled due to the problem with the pig mentioned above. We are now looking for more accessible places for a group; probably Valanni due to location and availability.

                                  City Tavern
                                  401 S Claymont St, Wilmington, DE 19801

                                2. It's a bit late perhaps but I'll throw in a few lunch recs for solo dining...

                                  XIX has an amazing weekday lunch buffet (main entree cooked to order) for $20. Great room, great view, great food, low-key enough that I think a solo-diner would feel just fine.

                                  El Rey. Seems a love/hate kind of place, but I've enjoyed many solo lunches at their bar. $10 gets you 2 cources and a nice basket of chips, and great service/conversation from the daytime bartender. One of my favorite lunch stops when I'm in the city midday by myself.

                                  Vietnam Palace in Chinatown. I would eat there any time, any way possible. Awesome vermicelli plates and combos.