The mere thought of eating alone strikes fear in the hearts of many people. There’s even a name for it: solomangarephobia.
Some folks – women, especially – fear that eating alone may signal to others that they’re pathetic losers, or they may fear that other diners are pointing and snickering at them. No one likes to feel like the object of others’ scorn or sympathy. But I don’t always feel that way, especially when dining alone in a restaurant.
When I used to travel for work (cement chemistry classroom training – excitement beyond words, my friends), I actually looked forward to enjoying a meal in a restaurant all by myself. I was young, unmarried, only a couple years out of college, with not much experience in dining out. Plus even the Chicago suburbs had much better restaurants than anything you could find in Schenectady circa 1994. And my company was footing the bill for my meals, so why the hell not? It’s often better food than hotel room service (which does have a special place in my heart, mostly because you’re allowed to eat it while lying in your bed wearing sweatpants. The problem there becomes crumbs in the bed), and the ambiance is always preferable (unless you’re headed to Applebee’s).
But these days, eating alone for me means making a plate and sitting on the couch and eating off the coffee table, watching television while the dogs sit next to me on the floor, drooling. I’m enduring this sad state of affairs because my husband and I are in the process of relocating to Ohio – well, he’s actually already relocated, and I’m back home trying to
unload sell the homestead. I admit – this kind of eating alone can get depressing. Most of the time it’s too much effort to cook an entire meal just for myself, which leads to the inevitable makeshift menu of espresso bean ice cream followed by Stove Top stuffing. Don’t judge me.
But while eating alone at home in front of the tube can plunge your mood into the murky swirling abyss, eating alone in a restaurant can be fun and – dare I say – liberating, for a variety of reasons:
Gawking Is Fun. The people-watching opportunities are priceless. You might get to see a couple on their first date, or possibly even their LAST. And large boisterous parties can actually be entertaining, when you aren’t trying to converse with another person across the table. It’s great fun to watch idiots descend into drunken lunacy. Well, up to a point.
Reading Is Fundamental. You can catch up on your magazine or newspaper reading, without unwanted distractions such as DOGS WHINING AND INCESSANTLY SCRATCHING YOUR FEET WANTING TO GO OUTSIDE. But maybe that’s just me.
Solo Diners Evoke Pity, or Something. Waitstaff usually pays more attention to you, and it’s fun to make friends with them (and gossip about the other patrons in the restaurant). They have also been known to bring me free drinks, desserts, etc.
No Sharing Required. This may be the most beneficial part of eating alone: You don’t have to share anything on your plate with anyone. I really dislike having to give people “bites” or “tastes” of my food, and I also don’t like people giving me tastes of theirs. I’m sure there’s some deep-seated psychology involved here, but I can’t really explain my reaction to sharing. It’s not like I had to fight twelve siblings for scraps of food or anything. I don’t know. Sometimes Bob will offer me a piece of a particularly tasty thing he’s eating (which is really sweet of him, really), but lucky for me Bob is a picky eater and will almost never be interested in tasting anything I’m eating. This no-sharing rule does not apply to desserts, though. If your dessert looks good, I’m gonna wanna taste it. I know, I’m an enigma.
Math is Hard. It’s easy to calculate how much you owe: ALL OF IT. Because who hasn’t been part of an intoxicated 12-lady brunch, where there’s always one or two sloppy drunks who can’t seem to figure out that consuming one $10 omelette and three $12 Bloody Marys means you need to leave more than a twenty dollar bill so you don’t end up sticking the rest of us with your goddamned bar tab? Plus, you all need to stop being such stingy tippers, you alcoholics. Also, it’s a pain in the ass when nine of the twelve drunks would like to pay with their debit card.
Of course, there is a downside to eating alone in a restaurant: no one else is going to pick up your check.
I love eating alone. I used to go out for lunch by myself in Glens Falls when I worked up there. I had no problem dining at the Thai restaurant, Samantha’s or Rock Hill by myself. I’d bring a book or listen to a podcast and just enjoy the time on my own.
Have to wonder if I was there with you for that last part. If I eat out with a big group, some of whom are drinking (but not all), I’m definitely going to ballpark how much my stuff cost, round up a bit for a nice tip and that’s it — hell no, I’m not paying for your cocktails. (And yeah, who doesn’t think to bring cash to a group meal out? I usually don’t even carry cash, but I make sure to bring some if I’m going to have to chip in on a check.)
No – I was not referring to the last brunch we went to (shout out to the #518mouthybroads)! The ladies there were very organized (I thought). I went to this debacle brunch in NYC a few years ago, and ended up paying $65 for a salad and glass of wine. I’m still mad.
This is such a great post 🙂 I often like to treat myself to a dinner sometimes and don’t feel uncomfortable at all asking for a table for one. Sometimes people will ask for a table for 2 because they feel embarrassed that they are eating alone. They make a big scene of making a quick call and then informing us waiters after “The second person isn’t coming”. I was completely surprised at how often that happens.
You can always invite me to dinner and cook some fabulous meal that I could never pull off. Seriously. Call me…I’ll even procure groceries (as long as I don’t have to go on a wild goose chase for some obscure ingredient).
Yes, I like eating alone. It was all I did for a couple years in the 1960’s, when I was just starting a career. Now, my wife sometimes is gone during lunch and I eat out at some Schenectady or Latham restaurant. Nice change!
Where do you usually go (in either place)? I’m curious about solo-dining-friendly locations.
Lots of places.
Examples: Ambition, Tara Kitchen, Cafe Nola, Aperitivo, Blue Ribbon, Applebee’s, Ala Shanghai, Saati, Kabuki.
I do a lot of solo dining on my travels in VT and MA. When I visit of a distant brewery it’s often on a day off by myself. I’ll often hit up a local bar or brew pub for a bite to eat on my way back home. I sit at the bar, and bartenders are usually responsive and it’s a great way to meet some locals to chat about the area.