The “art” of dining out alone.
Two things, maybe three: First – I’m not really a “foodie” - but I’m obsessed with restaurants. I eat roughly 90% of my meals out and have done so for over 10 years. It’s truly one of my favorite things to do. Second – of all those meals out, many are often solo. Apparently this is insanely weird to most people. I love it. Don’t get me wrong, I love dinners with my girlfriend, friends, etc. There’s just a magical respite to dining alone - for me at least. Third – my top “things” to keep in mind when dipping your toes into this hobby:
Most important rule of them all: Only eat at the bar. Only. Counter-intuitively - the better/nicer the restaurant, the better the experience is dining at the bar…for real.
If you’re not over 55 or wearing a bad “I’m a traveling sales guy” sport coat with big shoulders - most will assume you’re in the service industry – doesn’t hurt to roll with it for bit, you get better service. But you’ll have to come clean if you’re going to eventually be a regular there.
The bartender will pretentiously adjust your quality of service based on what you order. Chicken ceaser and a Captain and Diet will make for less magical experience. Foie gras laced steak tartare and a negroni, with an extra burnt orange garnish, will get you “in” if thats what you want.
Don’t: spend your entire time glued to your phone. Chat with the bartender - but metered by how busy they are. Don’t: be that guy telling them super long, boring, stories. Don’t: try and impress them with your obscure cocktail/food knowledge. Don't: ask them "so what's good here?" Do: ask them their favorite pairing / current favorite on the menu.
An oddly converse nuance to the previous rule - though only before 7pm - its usually acceptable to bring your laptop and do a bit of work while you enjoy a proper meal - even at a fairly high-end restaurant. I wouldn’t try and pull it off at Le Bernardin but its probably fine at Honey’s in Chicago. ***If the dinner crowd rolls in, tuck the laptop...bright screens are a bad look.
I’m not much of a small talker, but don’t be completely tuned-out. I once ended up restaurant hopping for an evening with a fellow solo diner who turned out to be a notable figure in the oil business and wanted a bit of a shoulder to cry on about a recent divorce. Was an oddly entertaining evening.
Go on the slow nights! Sunday - Wednesday. For those of us who live with seasons, snow storms are particularly fun evenings to tuck in.
Don’t get drunk. Don’t treat servers poorly.
Don’t rush through it - enjoy it. It’s great “thinking” time.
Bonus: order a “Ferrari” as your meal ender.