Solo Mid-Week Dinners
I just searched for past threads on this topic, and seems time for a refresh. In the past I've had great solo bar meals at (no surprise) Craigie, ICOB, Coppa, Oleana, Strip Ts, Hungry Mother, and Highland Kitchen. I like the combination of friendly bartenders, small plate specialties, and (mostly) buzzing atmospheres at those places.
I'm looking to expand my horizons and / or check out some newer places. I work up in Burlington and live south of Boston, so basically anywhere in Boston, Cambridge or inside 128 works for me.
Solo 5:30p mid-week is my favorite way to restaurant. I dig:
Saloon - order carefully, but the room is great
Rendezvous - I like the bartenders
The Blue Room - bartenders chat quietly
Gran Gusto - IF you're in the mood to chat with the host for a full fifteen minutes
Harvest - I think their bar service is their best service
Market by Jean Georges - one of their bartenders also teaches sometimes at CCAE, fun to chat cocktails with - Domingo something? He has interesting hair
Painted Burro - to my surprise, if you get there before it's crowded.
Sandrine's! - perfect bowl for a salad; it needs only a fork so you can hold your book. Staff very cool with solos and can either chat or leave you alone.
Sportello - particularly if you sit up front, so you can watch them cook.
For solo dining, I did _not_ dig:
Basho (one of the few places I've gotten single-diner stares from staff)
Chez Henri (nice for the cubano, but the bar's small and crowded)
Ten Tables Cambridge (I don't mind no bar, but staff seemed quite pressured and anxious)
First Printer (pretty crowded seats. haven't been since menu revamp)
writing this, I realized that I tilt strongly toward uncrowded rooms, a non-drinkin'-scene clientele, and medium-to-small rooms. Serious bias alert.
Some recent enjoyable bar-dining experiences: Sycamore (Newton Centre), Puritan & Co. (Inman Square), Franklin Cafe (South End), Franklin Southie, Estragon (South End), jm Curley's and also Bogie's Place (DTX), Steel & Rye (Milton), Shojo (Chinatown), Cinquecento (South End), Khao Sarn (Coolidge Corner), Vee Vee (JP), Daddy Jones (Magoun Square), Tres Gatos (JP), Park (Harvard Square), West Bridge (One Kendall).
These are all great ideas. I have also enjoyed solo bar meals at Posto in Davis and Abigail's on Third Street in Cambridge. Catalyst has a large bar, which seems busy and fun, but I have never eaten solo there, only at the tables with friends and family. I'm eager to try Puritan and Co.
To add to the OP... My family headed south for a warm school vacation week, while I'm up here solo. Let the adventure begin! Some Southern NE / Northern NE stops in the first day, but none that far from Boston.
Day 1 - dropped off in Providence. Hit Nicks on Broadway for an awesome breakfast. Eggs and (all homemade) black beans, chicken sausage, salsa, and tortillas. Tough to top for breakfast.
Met a friend late afternoon Saturday and headed north to go skiing. Stopped in Portland for dinner at Eventide Oyster Bar - could form a trifecta with Neptune and ICOB if in Boston. I'll post more on the NNE board, but there was a least one solo diner enjoying her meal and talking with the crowd.
On the way home we hit Popovers in Portsmouth. Fresh, top ingredient sandwiches (I had smoked salmon and egg, my friend had a Cuban panini) and their warm pretzels with crab dip is a great side dish. They have beer, but it's counter service.
Sunday night I tried my first of the great suggestions in this thread. Sportello was an easy Sunday night stop in - lots of seats and really good service since only half full. Good Belgian Red Ale (aged beer that was between beer and wine in flavor) to start. Went with the non-traditional minestrone - the safron broth and amaranth grains had great flavor/texture, but the veggies were near raw. I'm sure that's intentional, but I didn't "get" it. Tasted good, but felt like a miss. I quickly forgot about the minestrone when I dug into the Braised Rabbit Strozzapretti, with rich broth below chewy pasta. Not a ton of meat for the price, but the flavor was out of this world. Definitely recommend for a solo midweek stop.
More to come...
Yes to Madrid - Love Neptune, but I wouldn't be there until 6PM or so. Seats left at that point? Any nights better than others? I would typically go with my wife on a Summer evening and walk around the NE waiting for our table.
Pemma - Will add Vine Brook to my list - that's very close to work.
Day 3 included stops at Ba Le for a couple of sandwiches. The shredded pork was perhaps the best I've had, but the meatball was a sloppy mess with confused flavors. Mayo and drippy sauce on a Bahn Mi? Good peppers on both. Will try the cold cut next time. Any Dot Ave places do better with meatballs? I typically like them as a filling.
Thanks to MC Slim for the Steel and Rye suggestion. Hadn't heard of it previously, and it hit the spot last night. I went with my dad (so no bar / solo relevant comments), and had the turkish flavored lamb meatballs in a deep tomato sauce with yogurt and a lighly cooked (poached? sous vide?) egg followed by the salmon with Maine shrimp and black eyed peas. Both had well developed, deep flavors that were completely different from each other. Good beer selection (Sixpoint Bengali and a Belhaven can for me; Dad had an Allagash) and great anadama bread. Highly recommend.
BTW... I've had Maine shrimp twice this week and they were completely different animals. The head and shell on fried shrimp I had at Eventide in Portland were about the size of my pinky, with shells soft enough to eat. The Maine shrimp at S&R were about the size of a quarter, with the shell off - maybe 1/3 the size of the Portland shrimp. Two different sizes of the same catch? Different species / locations?
To wrap up the solo week thread... I had my first dinner at Strip Ts on Wednesday. I had only gone for lunch previously. I went with a friend, but there are definitely good and bad seats for solo dining. We sat in the last two counter seats on the far right (near the stairs to the bathroom) and faced a wall. That would be very isolating if solo. Same for the window seats. No problem getting a stool at 6PM on a Wed. We ordered 9 dishes and created our own tasting. Wonderful culinary experience with maybe 7 hits (chaat papri, fried chicken, steamed lemon cake were the highlights) and 2 misses (tilefish was a bit too raw in the center, rice pudding was nothing special). Overall, great meal.
Last night I punted after five straight dinners out and had a nice, simple bowl of pho ga from Pho and Spice in Waltham. Hit the spot.
Thanks for all the suggestions from MC Slim (tried Steel and Rye) and enhf94 (tried Sportello). Pemma - Vine Brook is in queue. Many left for next time I get a night out solo.