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You're alone in a strange place...

Transplant_DK Dec 9, 2011 10:35 PM

Would you ever consider inviting a stranger to dinner out?

I was having an interesting conversation with someone the other night, and this question came up. Here's the scenario:

You travel a lot on business and often find yourself walking around town late in the afternoon following a day of meetings with people you don't know. You're mind is on finding a good restaurant, but you wish you didn't have to dine alone so often. You spot a pleasant looking couple that are obviously tourists and you consider going up and asking if they'd like to join you at the steak house across the street. You offer to treat them to the meal, naturally.

Would you be so daring? Or would you be afraid that they would think you were a freak of nature?

What would you do if you were the couple? Would you assume it's some kind of scam and run the other way, or see it as a chance to meet a nice person and have a good meal?

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  1. s
    smartie RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 06:36 AM

    I think I'd be kinda nervous, as the female half of the couple, if a stranger appeared and offered us dinner, but less so if we'd been in a bar and had been talking for the best part of an hour or so - that might not feel so weird.

    1. s
      small h RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 07:14 AM

      I can't tell by just looking at someone whether I'd want to spend 90 minutes talking to him or her. So I'd neither offer nor accept an invitation-as-introduction. But as smartie says, if it were someone I already "knew" from the bar, sure, why not?

      1. s
        Steve RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 09:40 AM

        I have had meals and have even been invited to stay over with people out of town that I met not long before. During a train strike in France I struck up a conversation with a couple of waiting passengers and I wound up not only taking one out to dinner but staying over as well.

        Also I have had meals with out-of-town Chowhounds who I had never met before.

        I have had meals with total strangers at crowded downtown lunch places where table sharing is essential, and I have had meals at communal tables where that is a given as well.

        But I am not interested in having meals with total strangers for simply the companionship.

        1. b
          beevod RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 09:49 AM

          Dinner with strangers? When I could be enjoying a book? I think not.

          1 Reply
          1. re: beevod
            gardencook RE: beevod Dec 13, 2011 02:45 PM

            That's so funny! I was thinking the same thing. When I'm on business trips, I enjoy being AWAY from people. A book is a perfect companion. I hate making small talk.

          2. jmcarthur8 RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 09:50 AM

            After spending the day in meetings with people I don't know, the last thing I would want to do is spend my dinner time with more people I don't know. I think I'd take my book (novel, magazine, whatever - that is a requirement for traveling), pick up something yummy and eat in a park if it's nice out, or go to a warm cozy quiet restaurant and curl up in a booth with my book and my dinner.

            1. Chemicalkinetics RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 10:34 AM

              "Would you be so daring? Or would you be afraid that they would think you were a freak of nature?"

              No, and more or less inappropriate.

              "What would you do if you were the couple? Would you assume it's some kind of scam and run the other way, or see it as a chance to meet a nice person and have a good meal?"

              Even if I don't think it is a scam, I would feel uncomfortable about the question. I actually have eaten with strangers many times (more than 10 for sure) -- but they were unplanned event, not asked. I sometime go to lower tier restaurants, where I would be asked by the waiter or waiter if it is alright that I share with a table with someone. I am ok with that, have not once turned these offers down, and sometime made decent conversations with the strangers.

              However, I don't think I would direct invitation from someone on the street, nor would I accept a direct invitation from a stranger on the street.

              1. h
                Harters RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 11:15 AM

                Would I assume it was a scam?

                Yep, absolutely.

                1. t
                  Transplant_DK RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 11:26 AM

                  Interesting responses, thanks! I am perfectly content to eat alone, especially if I've been at meetings all day so I either take a book or find a place where I can sit and watch the world go by while I eat. This man I was speaking to seems to hate even asking for a table for 1, however, and says he has honestly considered asking strangers to join him for a meal. My question was why not ask one of the people he'd met at the meetings, since there would at least be that common ground.

                  I'm quite sure my introvert is showing, but I really can't imagine feeling so desperate for company that I'd invite a stranger--or accept such an invitation. I'd probably worry it were a scam, or worse.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Transplant_DK
                    susancinsf RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 12:15 PM

                    I recently went to a conference where there were organized 'dinner groups' every night: one could sign up to have dinner at a designated restaurant with other conference participants. I didn't go to one of those dinners (although I was part of a group of colleagues who knew each other and organized our own group dinner for one of the conference nights), but I can see the value in terms of networking. I wouldn't choose to do it just to avoid eating alone, however. That is what eating at the bar is for. :-)

                    1. re: Transplant_DK
                      rworange RE: Transplant_DK Dec 12, 2011 02:18 PM

                      OK, this is different than your OP.

                      To the OP I would have answered "God no"

                      However, if you are at a conference and you meet some people there that somehow you connect with .. sure. From the OP it sounded like you meant strangers on the street .. and God no.

                      Even in the OP, why in hell should you "offer to treat them to the meal, naturally"

                      No, no, no. You would just say that you are dining somewhere and would you like to meet for dinner and clarify that it would be separate checks. Why the hell would you assume you need to pay? That actually would creep me out.

                      If this guy is so desparate for company, tell him to eat at the bar. Usually you meet people there and at the worst at least you have the bartender to talk to.

                      I would NEVER accept an absolute stranger on the street asking me to dinner ... and then offering to pay for it ... Lord ... my mind would be racing a million miles a minute wondering what the catch was and if I was going to be alive the next morning.

                      Seriously ... how well do you know this person? Either he is socially inept to the EXTREME, not a US Citizen (rules are different in various countries ... ask me about getting a hotel from a stranger that chased down our car in Guatemala ... jeeez), or ... dangerous.

                      1. re: Transplant_DK
                        gardencook RE: Transplant_DK Dec 15, 2011 01:15 AM

                        What you are saying here is a completely different scenario than you gave in the OP. If you are having a meeting with someone, they're not a complete stranger after the meeting (and I would assume there is some commonality between the two of you since you're meeting for some reason). You also already have a feel for whether or not they would be good dining companions or that you would have a good rapport at the dinner table. That's is in no way similar to walking up to strange tourists on the street and asking them if you can treat them to dinner. One makes total sense, the other is completely bizarre.

                        If you would have given this scenario in your OP instead of the one you did, I don't think the responses would have been so "interesting". I think many more people would be comfortable asking a colleague, even if newly acquainted with them, to join them for dinner. This happened to me many times when traveling for work (and I especially appreciated it when abroad). However, if anyone ever came up to Mr. Gardencook and me on the street and asked us to join them for dinner, I'd run the other way.

                      2. ipsedixit RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 11:40 AM


                        I wouldn't mind finding a restaurant with a communal table.

                        But inviting a complete stranger or strangers to dinner with me? No.

                        1. Pata_Negra RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 12:22 PM

                          never ever.
                          not only because i'm deeply introverted but also eating/enjoying a meal is a very intimate thing.

                          1. sunshine842 RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 12:33 PM

                            All of the above, plus as a woman who travels alone frequently, NFW.

                            I eventually got to a point traveling solo as a woman that I didn't even go to the bar in the hotel for a glass of wine after a long and/or difficult day. There are, sadly, still a good number of Neanderthals who believe that a woman sitting at a bar - even one wearing a suit in the bar at a nice business hotel -- is gagging for male companionship and is therefore fair game. After a couple of bad experiences, I just gave up. (I was usually sitting at a table with a book -- not making eye contact with any of them, conservatively dressed -- and yes, it pisses me off that I can't just go have a damned drink without having to deal with some legend-in-his-own mind Lothario.)

                            No way I'd stand in the path of an oncoming train by inviting a stranger to share my table.

                            15 Replies
                            1. re: sunshine842
                              rockandroller1 RE: sunshine842 Dec 12, 2011 05:43 AM


                              1. re: sunshine842
                                Gio RE: sunshine842 Dec 13, 2011 11:39 AM

                                Oh boy can I relate to this ... when I was travelling for biz.

                                1. re: Gio
                                  gingershelley RE: Gio Dec 16, 2011 10:55 AM

                                  +1, and I really REALLY HATE when you come to the host stand by yourself, and they say "JUST 1"? I mean, can't they say something more positive, like "ma'm?, a table for one?"

                                  Why the negative connotation of 'just one?', which I have heard so often that now I shoot back ' "not JUST one - the one and only!"

                                  1. re: gingershelley
                                    rworange RE: gingershelley Dec 16, 2011 11:12 AM

                                    Well, often groups drop off that early scout to snag a table. Maybe a better pharse would be "How many will be in your party?" Then you could reply "I'll be dinining alone tonight".

                                    Some of the better places I've been to when traveling will ask when I sit down and order if I would like a newspaper or magazine.

                                    1. re: rworange
                                      soupkitten RE: rworange Dec 16, 2011 11:34 AM

                                      i agree. it is very common for a single to be joining a larger group or waiting for someone to park the car or asking about seating in a bar/lounge area. the host can't read the customer's mind. the customer could always be proactive and say: "good evening, table for one, please," or "hi, do you have a table for one available?" i don't think that the passive-aggressive route with the "gotcha" response from the customer is very helpful, and it could actually get things off to a very bad start.

                                      1. re: soupkitten
                                        gingershelley RE: soupkitten Dec 16, 2011 02:24 PM

                                        Well, it is allready off to a bad start for ME, the diner, if before I can even speak, the host/ess has said the dreaded 'just one?" comment. I am suprised how often it has been said to me... at least a dozen.

                                        I would think like several of you - that I may just be the first of a party checking in for a larger reservation or something - that's why I find it so odd. It seems like poor customer service on their part.

                                        Usually it is a younger gal who says it - sometimes I wonder if they just don't think and at that age it has never occured to them that people dine out alone when travelling on business sometimes.

                                        My tone makes clear I am not upset, and I always answer with a smile, but hope that my reply will get them to thinking about the language they are using to greet someone alone.

                                        1. re: gingershelley
                                          Bill Hunt RE: gingershelley Dec 16, 2011 04:19 PM

                                          I agree with you. At least in my case, the FOH makes a lasting "first impression," and would hope that it is a good one. This is an area, too often overlooked by management, but it's important to me.


                                          1. re: gingershelley
                                            meatn3 RE: gingershelley Dec 16, 2011 08:22 PM

                                            I dine alone frequently and have heard the "just one" phrase frequently.

                                            It doesn't bother me in the least. If it helps, remember that it is basically an inexperienced/young person who is thinking more about what section to seat you in rather than passing an opinion on your dining status. True, there are better ways to phrase the question, but to do so requires a greater degree of awareness than what many of these folks are able to pull together on the spot.

                                            Perhaps you are dining alone when you would prefer not to? If so, try to find a way to relish the situation and the question won't be "dreaded".

                                            1. re: meatn3
                                              Bill Hunt RE: meatn3 Dec 19, 2011 08:18 PM

                                              That is a shame. Maybe specific to some restaurants, or perhaps a gender-thing?

                                              I would be offended too.

                                              In my "dining alone" situations, I would definitely prefer that my wife were with me, but about 18 times per year, that is not possible, so I make the best of the situation. At least I do get to scope out some neat restaurants, and then take her back to the "winners."


                                      2. re: gingershelley
                                        Bill Hunt RE: gingershelley Dec 16, 2011 04:18 PM

                                        I have never encountered that "JUST!," but maybe I have just been fortunate, or perhaps being a male has something to do with it?

                                        Now, except for breakfast and often lunch, at a resort, I normally have reservations for one, so they should know that I am very likely solo. If someone IS joining me, after the reservations, I always call, to bump thing up, but the restaurant might not know that.

                                        I'll keep my ears "peeled," to see if I can pick up such.


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                          gingershelley RE: Bill Hunt Dec 16, 2011 04:30 PM


                                          I was hoping other CH'ers would be able to share they had this same experience.
                                          It doesn't happen when I have a reservation, and certainly more likely in a 'lesser' establishment. Of course, I don't dine in very many high-end restaurants alone.

                                          Dining alone is usually only when at a biz. event somewhere out of town, and that's when due to circustances, can end up in a dreaded 'better' chain resto due to convenience near hotel, etc.

                                        2. re: gingershelley
                                          pdxgastro RE: gingershelley Dec 16, 2011 04:42 PM

                                          I once had an awesome 'just one' experience, but on the slopes: I was a beginner-to-intermediate skier still taking lessons. My group of friends wanted to go skiing at Schweitzer over President's Day weekend. I was skiing with my girlfriend who was more advanced than me. I felt I was slowing her down so I told her to go hit the harder slopes, I'd be fine. That meant I had to go on a ski lift all by myself. I had been told to tell the chair lift person if you were alone, and if you were getting off at the half-way point, so that you could seated correctly (right or left). I got on, I said 'I'm alone and getting off halfway'.

                                          She snaps back 'please sit on the left and I hope you meet someone'. :o) It still gives me warm tingles to this day.

                                          1. re: pdxgastro
                                            gingershelley RE: pdxgastro Dec 16, 2011 06:11 PM

                                            Yikes, pdx...

                                            Here in WA, when I go skiing, I am usually seperated from my BF - who is a crack snowboarder, while I am these days at best, an intermediate skiier.
                                            We have seperations in the lines for 'singles and groups; it is really easy here at most ski slopes to figure out how to see who is with folks, or join in a single or pair for the three-lift", or two singles together.
                                            But, I know the feeling!

                                          2. re: gingershelley
                                            gardencook RE: gingershelley Dec 17, 2011 05:54 AM

                                            I may be wrong, but I think I've heard "only the two of you?" when dh and I were alone as much as I've heard "just one?" when dining alone. I've never thought to be sensitive to being asked that way. I dine out alone about twice a month (lunch, usually) these days, but did so very often when I traveled for work. I think I was just so glad to be able to enjoy a quiet meal alone with my book that I wasn't really thinking of how I was greeted at the host/ess stand or by the maître d’. I'll have to pay more attention. As long as the greeting is prompt and courteous, I haven't paid close attention in the past. Interesting observation.

                                            1. re: gardencook
                                              Bill Hunt RE: gardencook Dec 19, 2011 08:19 PM

                                              Ninety-nine percent of the time, we have reservations for a party of two, and I have never heard that phrase. If the FOH cannot look at the reservations list, then I am not impressed.


                                      3. s
                                        shallots RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 03:15 PM

                                        Before I was married, I traveled alone often. Sometimes it was on business trips, other times for pleasure.
                                        Some of my finest memories are of meals I shared with total strangers.
                                        Often the meals were at crowded, popular restaurants where I'd have to wait in line.

                                        By nature, I chat. Often I'd just start by asking people next to me in line questions about their city, maybe about the park nearby or about gardening. Often they would respond and we'd talk. Many, many times they would ask me to join their table and I would.

                                        I never had a bad experience.

                                        1. Bill Hunt RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 07:41 PM

                                          I dine alone, all too often. Wife is often in meetings, with dinner provided.

                                          I do not invite strangers to share my table, but I do often share my wine, even when it is wife and I dining. That is as far as it usually goes, though recently we did invite a gentleman, who was waiting for a to-go dinner at Charlie's Seafood (Harahan, LA) to join us, while he waited. That was an exception.


                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Bill Hunt
                                            pdxgastro RE: Bill Hunt Dec 11, 2011 03:42 PM

                                            I've shared Chinese broccoli! I was at a dim sum with a few friends, sitting at a big table with strangers. My group ordered the broccoli side because we felt the vegetable component was lacking. It was a big platter, there was no way we could finish it. I offered it to the group sitting next to us and they accepted. Love it.

                                          2. free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 08:34 PM

                                            I travel alone and have been asked and have asked people to join me. It has been fun and I have not had one weird experience. I am not naive, I work with criminal types, but I use good judgment and have found most people are nice and fun to get to know.

                                            1. DuchessNukem RE: Transplant_DK Dec 10, 2011 11:34 PM

                                              Very interesting question. My answer, no from either side. I'm an introvert who acts as an extrovert in public, and I don't really enjoy self-disclosure. I love "hermit time" and I always have a book with me. If a stranger walked up to me and the Duke and invited for dinner, I'd assume there'd be multiple Roofie Coladas and a shallow grave at the end of the evening.

                                              But the world is also blessed with the very social types, and long may they enjoy their happy interaction.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: DuchessNukem
                                                Brianne920 RE: DuchessNukem Dec 13, 2011 02:05 PM

                                                This made me laugh so hard: " I'd assume there'd be multiple Roofie Coladas and a shallow grave at the end of the evening."

                                                It reminded me of a roommate I had in school who, when I said that I'd been asked to go on a blind date with a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, said : "This is terrible---this is either going to end in marriage or end with you as the star of a 48 Hours Mystery."

                                              2. ttoommyy RE: Transplant_DK Dec 11, 2011 07:03 AM

                                                If someone approached me and proposed this, I would immediately feel uncomfortable and think they wanted something from me. Money, sex, who knows. I'd never agree to it.

                                                If you are on a business trip and feel like some dinner companionship, there's nothing like eating at the bar of a good restaurant. At some point there's bound to be some conversation with either the person to your left or right. Also, a good bartender will engage customers in conversation and it's a great way to learn more about the city, what's happening in town, etc.

                                                1. meatn3 RE: Transplant_DK Dec 11, 2011 07:11 AM

                                                  Under the circumstances you highlight, no I would not accept and would feel uncomfortable. It is just a random situation without a natural way for the invitation to occur.

                                                  I have had serendipitous conversations with strangers while traveling which have segued into shared meals and were completely delightful. But the exchange started as casual chitchat and proceeded in a mutually comfortable manner.

                                                  The person you discussed this with would have better luck trying to strike up a conversation with a colleague at the event - that provides a little more comfort for the invitee. Better yet he could do a little research and have a restaurant in mind. At the point when everyone is gathering up their briefcases he could mention to the group that he heard of a great xyz place nearby and anyone who would like to come along to try it is welcome! There are sure to be others who want company and appreciate having a plan.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: meatn3
                                                    Cachetes RE: meatn3 Dec 11, 2011 07:40 AM

                                                    "I have had serendipitous conversations with strangers while traveling which have segued into shared meals and were completely delightful. But the exchange started as casual chitchat and proceeded in a mutually comfortable manner."

                                                    Exactly. I travel alone a lot, and end up traveling in circles where I meet people who have similar interests. Very often an interesting conversation has turned into a shared meal. But never would I accept from a random stranger on the street.

                                                  2. l
                                                    LeoLioness RE: Transplant_DK Dec 11, 2011 01:36 PM

                                                    God no. What if the people were awful/boring/stupid? If someone approached me cold in this manner, I'd walk away and think "wow, creepy".

                                                    1. chowser RE: Transplant_DK Dec 11, 2011 03:58 PM

                                                      Yes, I'd consider asking a stranger to share a meal, but not in your situation. It would have to be if we had already struck a conversation and were getting along really well. In college, I interrailed through Europe and we did it all the time, and often shared accommodations with strangers. Maybe it was the naivety of youth. But, I run w/ a group of friends. We've struck up conversations w/ other runners (you see the same people all the time) and invited them to run with us; and join us for coffee and I've been asked the same by others when I was running alone. My friend was riding the subway on the way to the Marine Corp Marathon. He talked to a woman who was also running it and invited her up to his friend's office where they were going to hang out before the race. Total leap of faith and she took him up on it and made a lot of new friends. But, had he led w/ inviting her up, I'm hoping she would have passed. So, if someone came up to me and my husband to invite us to eat out, his treat, I'd say no and I'd never do it. But, if we were chatting and it came up that there was a place nearby we'd always wanted to go, I'd consider it. But. at that point, I guess we're no longer strangers.

                                                      And, then I'd consider sharing a table, if there were empty seats and people really wanted to eat.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: chowser
                                                        chowser RE: chowser Dec 12, 2011 03:30 PM

                                                        Oh, back in my single days I did have a guy stop me on the street, tell me I looked like a nice person and he was new to town and if he could treat me to coffee. I declined and thought it was kind of creepy. I wonder, though, how different is that from chatting with strangers at a club and having them buy you drinks, as a lot of women do? Is it the setting? OTOH I've been running and had a guy run up and chat w/ me and we finished our run together. Is that creepy? It didn't seem like it at the time. I must tend to let my guard down around runners.

                                                      2. Jetgirly RE: Transplant_DK Dec 11, 2011 04:57 PM

                                                        The closest I've come to doing this is finding myself in the entryway of a packed restaurant and asking another single diner if they'd like to share a table. I feel bad when two single diners take up two tables in an otherwise-packed restaurant. I wouldn't mind if the other person said no, but everyone has always accepted my offer. I've met some nice, and strange, people this way!

                                                        1. j
                                                          Jjjr RE: Transplant_DK Dec 11, 2011 07:03 PM

                                                          No offense but your scenerio doesn't make any sense.

                                                          If I'm new to the area why would I ask tourists the best place to eat let alone invite them to dine with me?

                                                          1. BobB RE: Transplant_DK Dec 12, 2011 01:37 PM

                                                            That's a really interesting question, because I am a frequent business traveler who has often wished that I could be bold enough to make exactly that sort of offer. I never have, though I have on occasion ended up chatting with adjacent diners and more or less merging tables.

                                                            What I HAVE done when I knew I'd be dining alone far from home is to contact a local Chowhound in advance (someone I knew from a variety of chats on the boards), and invite them out to dinner on my nickel. That's been great fun, especially when I ask them to pick the restaurant, since they're much more likely to know the good places on their home turf than I am.

                                                            1. s
                                                              soupkitten RE: Transplant_DK Dec 12, 2011 02:49 PM

                                                              honestly? i would assume the person was a swinger, trying to pick both my dh and myself up. maybe i worked in bars too long! -- but my solution to the problem lies therein as well-- if you are interested in a local restaurant's *food,* go over there and order an app at the bar, and strike up a conversation with a group of other folks also eating at the bar. if they are regulars, you may get some excellent menu recs or get to share some dishes w others, and get to try more stuff-- and it would not be "weird," in that situation, for you to pay for a few shared plates or a round or two of drinks. assuming you like the groups' tastes, you can get other great local chow-recs that way.

                                                              1. egit RE: Transplant_DK Dec 12, 2011 03:07 PM

                                                                I would like to imagine a world/self where it might be likely for me to invite two total strangers to dinner. As many people have said, if there were some context for knowing each other, then maybe (drinks at a bar, attending same conference, etc).

                                                                I'm also fairly introverted and I wouldn't want to commit to 90-120 minutes of forced conversation with total strangers if I didn't know/believe I'd have enough that I wanted to say or hear. I used to travel a lot for work, and I found it soul-crushingly lonely. I would usually find a place where I could eat at the bar if it had TVs to give myself something to look at, or eat alone in a place with something to read. There's part of my fantasy brain that can envision the OP's scenario with a positive outcome. But for the most part, no matter how lonely it would get, I simply can't picture myself actually extending that invitation. I will say, however, that I've had a number of interesting and fun conversations while eating by myself at the bar of some pub or restaurant.

                                                                I'm not what anyone would call Shy. I like people, and I'm fairly sociable. But my batteries recharge better when I'm not "on." If I've spent a whole work day in meetings with strangers, I definitely do not want to be "on."

                                                                ETA - I stopped travelling 100% for work not long before Lost In Translation was released in theaters. My reaction to that film was "That's what it feels like to travel 100% for work, by yourself!" It's somewhat socially disorienting.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: egit
                                                                  sunshine842 RE: egit Dec 12, 2011 03:26 PM

                                                                  People who've never traveled for a living think it's stupid if you say you've awakened in a hotel room (completely sober) and had to go find a phone book to remember where the hell you are. Road warriors smile knowingly and sympathize.

                                                                  It's pretty unnerving (and a big neon sign that it's time to slow down for a while).

                                                                  1. re: egit
                                                                    chowser RE: egit Dec 12, 2011 03:32 PM

                                                                    I'm the same way. I hate small talk w/ co-workers or my husband's co-workers as it is. I can't imagine voluntarily doing that. And, I'm fairly social, too.

                                                                  2. Veggo RE: Transplant_DK Dec 12, 2011 03:32 PM

                                                                    I was one of a threesome that was invited to dinner by a stranger. My roommate at Penn and I were hitchhiking back to Philly from Acapulco on winter break, and we passed through New Orleans to get a night's rest and a shower at a friend's frat house at Tulane, and joined a third Penn friend there, a native American girl, to hitch the last leg back to PA. A soft spoken, retirement age white gentleman approached the 3 of us on a sidewalk. We must have looked cold, hungry, and broke, and we were. He offered to take us to dinner. We went. I have not been a party to many "random acts of kindness" in my life, but that was one I remember. 40 years ago, next month. Thank you, kind sir.

                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                    1. re: Veggo
                                                                      chowser RE: Veggo Dec 12, 2011 03:46 PM

                                                                      Nice story--heart warming. Things like this would happen in Europe all the time when people were interrailing. My friend met a guy at the laundromat who'd just moved to this country and had little money/ He invited the guy to come live w/ his newly wed wife. His wife was completely welcoming, which might be why they're still happily married 20 years later.

                                                                      1. re: Veggo
                                                                        pdxgastro RE: Veggo Dec 13, 2011 12:42 AM

                                                                        Yeah and Veggo you provided something too. I bet you had great stories of your travels to tell that nice man.

                                                                        1. re: Veggo
                                                                          Bill Hunt RE: Veggo Dec 13, 2011 07:24 PM

                                                                          Well, I remember one afternoon, with the High Sonoran Sun beating down, when you were looking for sustenance, and another "kind gentleman" took you in... [Grin]

                                                                          At least the restaurant was cool, in the Summer heat, and the conversation was excellent! During that meal, many of the world's problems were solved, but unfortunately, the "powers that be," have not listened, and they danged well should have! Many world problems were actually solved that afternoon, if they had only listened. Guess that we need to have a "reset," and hope that the satellite is overhead my deck, with Port and cigars. Some could learn a lot of useful stuff.


                                                                        2. TroyTempest RE: Transplant_DK Dec 13, 2011 11:13 AM

                                                                          i might think i was in a twilight zone, but i think i'd go. I wouldn't go anywhere after the restaurant, though.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: TroyTempest
                                                                            BobB RE: TroyTempest Dec 13, 2011 12:11 PM

                                                                            Reminds me of the time I was dining i alone in London, and there were two younger women at the table next to me. After a while one of them started chatting me up - not really flirtatiously, though I do think she probably had a glass or three of wine in her, and as it turned out, was also a musician so somewhat accustomed to performing to an audience - while her friend was clearly terrified that she was doing this, sure that I would end up following them home for mass rape & murder. But the talkative one and I had a good time at dinner, and that's all there was to it.

                                                                            1. re: BobB
                                                                              Bill Hunt RE: BobB Dec 13, 2011 07:26 PM


                                                                              Thanks for the full details. As I was reading, I was also checking the London Times, for the reports...

                                                                              I understand,


                                                                          2. Bill Hunt RE: Transplant_DK Dec 13, 2011 07:31 PM

                                                                            Some years back, we were dining on Maui, and I'd ordered some very nice wines. There was no way that we could drink all of them, but they DID go well with our multi-course meal. My lovely, young wife excuses herself, and I looked at all the bottles (Maui has some odd wine laws, unlike most "counties/Islands" in Hawai`i), and saw a nice young couple, one table over from us. They were doing a nice wine in half-bottle, so I called our server over, and instructed him to pour a glass for each, from the three opened bottles. We talked, and they expressed their gratitude. It happened to be the wife's birthday, and the gentleman happened to be the executive chef for a local restaurant, plus their lu`au. Next trip, we dined with him, and his fare was excellent, though we did not do his corporation's lu`au (not normally our style), and he was excellent. Those few glasses paid ME dividends, as we got his recs., and when we did dine, he more than made it up to us.


                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                              rworange RE: Bill Hunt Dec 13, 2011 07:47 PM

                                                                              I don't find that outside the acceptable social parameters. You are already in a restaurant and not inviting a stranger off the street to dine with you because they seem nice.

                                                                              There was an odd to me request on my local board. Someone blowing into town and wanting to do a food crawl ... they would provide the car and gas. Um no. I did check the profile and they were a long time but infrequent poster ... but still. That is a real two way street. Local getting into a strangers car ... visitor picking up locals who are strangers to them.

                                                                              1. re: rworange
                                                                                Bill Hunt RE: rworange Dec 13, 2011 08:23 PM

                                                                                I thought so too. As for approaching a stranger on the street, well, that is not my thing. Maybe it is just me?

                                                                                I also understand your trepidation about going for a drive with a stranger. Meeting up (if they are a poster to one of your local boards is one thing), would be OK with me. Otherwise - well I'm not so cool with the idea. Maybe I am just a tad paranoid, or maybe cautious?


                                                                                1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                  rworange RE: Bill Hunt Dec 13, 2011 08:45 PM

                                                                                  Last year I took off to the wilds of Guatemala to a Chowhound's posada. I never met the guy but had followed his posts for quite a while, chatted on the phone and emailed. It was located near a Coca Cola sign, a trek up a dirt road by foot. It was truly one of the most memorable eperiences in my life. I mean ... there's strangers ... and there are strangers.

                                                                                  1. re: rworange
                                                                                    Bill Hunt RE: rworange Dec 14, 2011 07:15 PM

                                                                                    Great news!

                                                                                    Though the ChowHound team seems to think that "Chow-downs" are a bad thing, I have done two, with but one CH each, and the evenings were great. We so greatly enjoyed ourselves, that I would gladly do it again.

                                                                                    When it comes to dining, many on CH know their "stuff," and I greatly appreciate that.

                                                                                    Thanks for posting,


                                                                                2. re: rworange
                                                                                  fruti RE: rworange Jan 25, 2012 07:13 AM

                                                                                  Btw. Not sure if this is the same food crawl but I did go on the one (actually I went both days) that Von moishe organized when he came to town Met some other hounds, had great food - which was the point. I exchanged several emails before I committed and it was great. Went to many new places and I am an introvert - would rather each alone than evenwithmany acquaintances. Was inspired and am organizing my own food crawl with another couple.

                                                                                  1. re: fruti
                                                                                    rworange RE: fruti Jan 25, 2012 05:59 PM

                                                                                    Yeah, it is. You know, even after reading about the great food people ate, I would still never do this. I wouldn't do it either if the same poster asked again. Maybe i watch too many crime shows, but all that crossed my mond was that someone established a confidence level. So it looks safe. Everybody had a good time. What is to guarantee that the nes time isn't the set up.

                                                                                    What bothered me about it was the organizer controlling the car. I just would not get in a car with a stranger. Meeting people I don't really know in a restaurant where i control my own transportation ... fine.

                                                                                    I don't know, no food no matter how fun or fabulouse seems worth the potential risk. i live in the area. I can visit these joints on my own. The whole thing made me feel uneasy. It still does.

                                                                                    1. re: rworange
                                                                                      fruti RE: rworange Jan 25, 2012 06:55 PM

                                                                                      I totally see your point. And I'm usually a very suspicious person but he seemed to into the food to have ulterior motives so I took a chance and had fun. And, upu're certainly right about living here and being able to do it on your own. I'm certainly not trying to convince you. Happy eating!

                                                                                  2. re: rworange
                                                                                    BobB RE: rworange Jan 26, 2012 08:25 AM

                                                                                    I did something like that last summer when I was in London alone on business. I wrote to a local 'Hound with whom I had had some interaction on the boards but had never before contacted personally, and offered to take her and her significant other out to dinner, in order to have some company. She was interested but her SO was not available, and instead she brought along limster, which was a great treat for me - the guy is a veritable walking encyclopedia of food! A delightful dinner was had by all.

                                                                                    1. re: BobB
                                                                                      rworange RE: BobB Jan 26, 2012 09:14 AM

                                                                                      Did you drive them or meet them at the restaurant?

                                                                                      The difference is that you had some sort of relationship with them on the board. iin the case of SF, this was a person who was not local and asking any stranger to jump in the car and drive around the Bay Area with them.

                                                                                      It would have been a different thing if the car had not been involved.

                                                                                      1. re: rworange
                                                                                        BobB RE: rworange Jan 26, 2012 10:28 AM

                                                                                        We all met up at a pub of her choosing and walked together from there to the restaurant. And you're right, I wasn't looking for a random Londoner, I specifically asked her since we'd had some pleasant discussions on the boards. I had also gleaned the fact that we work in related fields, so I knew we'd have something to talk about beside food.

                                                                                3. Beach Chick RE: Transplant_DK Dec 13, 2011 07:44 PM

                                                                                  Let it happen organically...go the bar, have a couple of drinks, maybe an app and if you strike up a good conversation that leads to dinner, great, but, I would think if someone came up to me and asked to join them, outside of the restaurant and they would buy..my first thought would be...swingers..freaks, serial killer..
                                                                                  Communal table is another animal and sometimes, I really like hanging with strangers.

                                                                                  It's kind of like golf..if your a twosome and they put you with another twosome and sometimes you jibe and it's and out of the park home run (played with an Indy 500 winner, Nobel Laureates, famous actor and some freaks too) and then there are times you just want to play alone or with your tribe..

                                                                                  1. GraydonCarter RE: Transplant_DK Dec 14, 2011 01:31 PM

                                                                                    I always thought it was dumb when I would eat in the hotel dining room, alone, and every night see the same businessmen sitting there eating, alone. But people just aren't that open.

                                                                                    I also thought it was dumb when going to a seminar being held in a hotel and seeing other classmates that evening who just want to go order room service and not join others for a meal.

                                                                                    22 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                      LeoLioness RE: GraydonCarter Dec 14, 2011 02:25 PM

                                                                                      It's possible that some people are completely fine dining alone and don't see doing so as a problem that needs fixing, let along something "dumb". It may have nothing to do with how "open" they are.

                                                                                      As for secnario #2, I know when I spend all day with certain colleagues the last thing I want to do is break bread with them--I want some downtime to myself. Isn't that the point of room service?

                                                                                      1. re: LeoLioness
                                                                                        rworange RE: LeoLioness Dec 14, 2011 06:35 PM

                                                                                        Also, if I am at a company paid seminar, I'm probably reviewing information i learned during the day. If I must socialize it is in a work context. It isn't a vacation.

                                                                                        1. re: LeoLioness
                                                                                          IndyGirl RE: LeoLioness Dec 26, 2011 06:50 PM


                                                                                        2. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                          sunshine842 RE: GraydonCarter Dec 14, 2011 02:31 PM

                                                                                          It's just different personal preferences. I've been to many seminars where the topics were very technical and/or intense, leaving me mentally drained and wanting nothing more than to have a sandwich and go to bed.

                                                                                          Sometimes my fellow attendees are just not my type of people, and I don't care to spend 4 solid days with them both in the seminar AND in the evenings. (Other times I've had a blast hanging out with people with whom I've hit it off)

                                                                                          Sometimes I have actual work to do after the seminar, and it's easier to have room service while I work than to screw around going out to eat.

                                                                                          I hate eating in restaurants by myself (but have done so for decades) -- but it's far preferable than listening to some boor drone on and on, and I'd very much prefer to share my dinner with CNN or a book in my room than to have to fend off some lonely-heart who sees anything of the opposite gender as a possible sexual partner.

                                                                                          It's only dumb if you have no perspective on why people might make those choices.

                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842
                                                                                            Bill Hunt RE: sunshine842 Dec 14, 2011 07:21 PM


                                                                                            That makes a lot of sense, and I can understand completely. In wife's case, the "others" are usually in the same corporation, but not 100%. There have been times, where we invited a presenter. Usually, they have agreed, as they usually hope that wife hires them for one of her retreats.

                                                                                            Still, and with some seminars/retreats, we will book a fine-dining reservation, even when there is some "after-meeting" buffet provided. Neither of us is a "buffet type person." Given the opportunity, we'll do fine-dining every time.


                                                                                          2. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                            chowser RE: GraydonCarter Dec 14, 2011 02:58 PM

                                                                                            Ahhh, alone time. I thrive on alone time especially after a day w/ co-workers. I even need alone time when I've been w/ friends and family too long. When I traveled on business, my evening consisted of hitting the gym, grabbing a quick bite to eat in the hotel or room service--all w/out talking to anyone. Peace at last.

                                                                                            1. re: chowser
                                                                                              meatn3 RE: chowser Dec 14, 2011 07:00 PM

                                                                                              I can relate. Much of my work history has required me to be "on" in a major way. My idea of bliss has often been having a day or more where I don't have to speak and can just luxuriate in a lovely cocoon of silence.

                                                                                              I enjoy people, but I'm not so good with the middle ground. I can be "on" performing and I love spending time with those I am close too - it's the large middle range which I find difficult, small talk with those you barely know, cocktail party chit-chat in groups too large to have a conversation which can really go anywhere.

                                                                                              When I was younger I would have been uncomfortable going out for dinner alone. The last 15 yrs. or so I have gotten where I rather enjoy it!

                                                                                              1. re: meatn3
                                                                                                chowser RE: meatn3 Dec 15, 2011 04:32 AM

                                                                                                My friend calls that being a functional introvert--I'm the same way. But, after being "on" for my job, I need to be off and have my own down time. I hate small talk in a "cocktail" type setting, too. My family understands--sometimes I won't shut up, sometimes I just want to be alone.

                                                                                            2. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                              Chemicalkinetics RE: GraydonCarter Dec 14, 2011 03:44 PM

                                                                                              "I also thought it was dumb when going to a seminar being held in a hotel and seeing other classmates that evening who just want to go order room service and not join others for a meal."

                                                                                              Not dumb in my opinion, but evidently you think I am dumb....

                                                                                              1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                Bill Hunt RE: GraydonCarter Dec 14, 2011 07:17 PM

                                                                                                My wife is often in similar situations, and often asks me to "bump up" the reservations, to accommodate _____. Usually, works fine, but some do not seem obligated, and will cancel at the last moment... better offer?

                                                                                                Still, we dine very well, and if someone from the meeting joins us fine. If they do not, well OK.


                                                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                  soupkitten RE: GraydonCarter Dec 14, 2011 10:04 PM

                                                                                                  sometimes i think that it's only a matter of time before everyone on earth realizes they would much rather eat alone, without their pants on. all restaurants will close or go to delivery or "room service" versions only. we must keep marijuana illegal, to prevent this.

                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                    chowser RE: soupkitten Dec 15, 2011 04:35 AM

                                                                                                    I wonder how a restaurant would do, if it had a wall of rooms, glass overlooking a view, all for single diners. Pleasant atmosphere, no need to interact with others or deal w/ manners (picking up cornish game hen w/ fingers), your choice of music/volume, lighting, or none, kindle w/ your choice of reading material.

                                                                                                    1. re: soupkitten
                                                                                                      Beach Chick RE: soupkitten Dec 15, 2011 12:04 PM

                                                                                                      'it's only a matter of time before everyone on earth realizes they would much rather eat alone, without their pants on'
                                                                                                      New restaurant marketing concept...solo dining with no pants required...love that!

                                                                                                      1. re: Beach Chick
                                                                                                        betsydiver RE: Beach Chick Jan 22, 2012 06:10 AM

                                                                                                        isn't this why some municipality is moving to make wearing pajama panta in public liiegal? could it ne new orleans?

                                                                                                        1. re: betsydiver
                                                                                                          small h RE: betsydiver Jan 22, 2012 06:46 AM

                                                                                                          Shreveport. But so far it's just one guy's proposal for an ordinance.


                                                                                                    2. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                      GraydonCarter RE: GraydonCarter Dec 15, 2011 11:51 AM

                                                                                                      Golly, what a bunch of sourpusses. If I'm out of town and have a free evening and don't have to help the kids with their homework or clean the house or mow the lawn, there is nothing I'd rather do than have dinner with you.

                                                                                                      1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                        chowser RE: GraydonCarter Dec 15, 2011 12:13 PM

                                                                                                        I'd eat w/ Chowhounds because we have at least one common interest. I just don't want to make small talk with total strangers, after doing it all day.

                                                                                                        1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                          sunshine842 RE: GraydonCarter Dec 15, 2011 03:42 PM

                                                                                                          but not everyone has a free evening when they're traveling.

                                                                                                          To each their own.

                                                                                                          1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                            small h RE: GraydonCarter Dec 15, 2011 04:43 PM

                                                                                                            I like that you replied to yourself, as if GraydonCarter is expressing interest in having dinner with GraydonCarter.

                                                                                                            1. re: small h
                                                                                                              GraydonCarter RE: small h Dec 16, 2011 01:20 PM

                                                                                                              Well, I would.

                                                                                                              And so would I.

                                                                                                              1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                                Bill Hunt RE: GraydonCarter Dec 16, 2011 04:20 PM



                                                                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                                  gaffk RE: GraydonCarter Dec 16, 2011 06:00 PM

                                                                                                                  If you want a third, I'd join you.

                                                                                                          2. DuchessNukem RE: Transplant_DK Dec 14, 2011 04:24 PM

                                                                                                            Lol, I keep coming back to this thread. And still in the non-social camp.

                                                                                                            But the musical accompaniment to the meal (other than "Strangers in the Night") has finally popped into my head: "Phone Booth" -- Robert Cray version (a seriously delightful song anyways):


                                                                                                            1. a
                                                                                                              AsperGirl RE: Transplant_DK Dec 16, 2011 11:27 AM

                                                                                                              Even when I eat at the bar alone, if I talk to guys at the bar, they seem to think that's a come-on. Even a smile and a friendly nod can turn some men into a pest. So I can't imagine actually asking a stranger for his company.

                                                                                                              I've thought about advertising on Craigslist for a nice gay man who wants to go out with an out of town woman, to go to the theater or a good dinner. I mean, if he has nothing to do, it's always nice to get out with someone stylish and be seen/do something interesting, right?

                                                                                                              I have yet to try this idea out, tho.

                                                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: AsperGirl
                                                                                                                GraydonCarter RE: AsperGirl Dec 16, 2011 01:25 PM

                                                                                                                You should read that book by Jonathon Ames, The Extra Man. They call them Walkers, but then you have to pay, which is probably worth it.

                                                                                                                1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                                  pdxgastro RE: GraydonCarter Dec 16, 2011 04:45 PM


                                                                                                                  1. re: GraydonCarter
                                                                                                                    AsperGirl RE: GraydonCarter Dec 19, 2011 08:23 PM

                                                                                                                    Ha! i'll look it up, thanks.

                                                                                                                  2. re: AsperGirl
                                                                                                                    Bill Hunt RE: AsperGirl Dec 16, 2011 05:33 PM

                                                                                                                    I often have young ladies initiate conversations with me, when solo at bars. I assume that they have something to share, or that they are looking for info on something. I never look upon it as a "come on," of any type. [In that, I do believe that the vast majority are NOT "ladies of the evening." I think that they just want my opinion on something, like the wine, or the food. I hope that I have always come across as friendly, have given them good info, and have not been a pest.


                                                                                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                      AsperGirl RE: Bill Hunt Dec 19, 2011 08:33 PM

                                                                                                                      There are indeed many nice solo males out there to talk to, I was overdramatizing a bit, I think. It's wonderful to come across a good chat like that.

                                                                                                                      Plus, it seems there are more professional women who will go alone to good restaurants and bars, than there used to be, even ten years ago.

                                                                                                                      1. re: AsperGirl
                                                                                                                        Bill Hunt RE: AsperGirl Dec 19, 2011 09:07 PM

                                                                                                                        This is just from looking around, and not some scientific study, but I tend to agree with you, and am glad at what I see. A solo diner, regardless of sex/gender, should be able to enjoy themselves at most dining venues.

                                                                                                                        If you see an older guy, with a navy blazer, and a white beard, strike up a conversation with me, and I promise to only talk about the menu and the wine list.



                                                                                                                        PS - My wife is often solo, when traveling on business, and I would wish the same for her too. She has too many problems with ME hitting on her, and she does not need any additional pressures.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Bill Hunt
                                                                                                                          Beach Chick RE: Bill Hunt Dec 20, 2011 08:08 AM

                                                                                                                          'If you see an older guy, with a navy blazer, and a white beard, strike up a conversation with me, and I promise to only talk about the menu and the wine list.'

                                                                                                                          1. re: Beach Chick
                                                                                                                            Bill Hunt RE: Beach Chick Jan 25, 2012 06:46 PM

                                                                                                                            Yes, that is the way that it always has been - the food, the wine, and maybe a very few sports teams. I am totally harmless, though hopefully not "charm-less."


                                                                                                                  3. Harmy RE: Transplant_DK Jan 25, 2012 07:09 PM

                                                                                                                    I wouldn't ask to buy a stranger dinner, but if there were enough signals that we'd have enough in common to talk about, I would strike up conversation (e.g. dining at the bar).

                                                                                                                    I attenuate the fear of being perceived as a freak of nature by understanding that to some people, a young, smaller-bodied woman who (by choice) walks fast and roams alone is already a freak of nature -- i.e. nothing I do will throw me further in -- or send me out -- of this bucket.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: Harmy
                                                                                                                      Bill Hunt RE: Harmy Jan 25, 2012 09:01 PM


                                                                                                                      I am in no position to pass any judgments, but were you to approach me, while dining solo, I would gladly welcome you to the table.

                                                                                                                      For me, it's all about the dinner, the wine, and conversation. Usually, my lovely young wife provides the conversation, but some times, she is not available.

                                                                                                                      In some dining experiences, I choose a "communal table," if one is available, and welcome the conversation. I would allow as how many feel the same way.

                                                                                                                      Now, it almost sounds like a line from "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and I never wish to get into intrigue, but good food, wine and conversation are something different - very different.



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