How to Dine Alone

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Dining alone is an essential skill.  Whether you are traveling alone, living alone or simply on your own for a single evening; dining alone well means the difference between apologizing in a crowded restaurant and racing through a meal or sitting down for some quality time with yourself and enjoying participating in the world.

Over the past year or so I’ve sharpened my solo dining skills, but I still have so much to learn.  I’ve moved from grabbing a salad at Pret for dinner to having a proper restaurant meal.  Instead of saying no to the wine, I’ll get a nice little glass if it seems appropriate.  Dining alone shouldn’t be about scarifice or compromise, in fact, it should be exactly the opposite.  Dining alone should mean celebrating your amazing self.

Of course, it’s easier said than done.  The first time you walk into a restaurant alone and ask for a table for one can produce some nasty anxiety — anxiety that can be squashed with practice.  Here are some of the tips I’ve come up with to best enjoy dining out when the only company you have is yourself.

1.  Choose the right restaurant.  There are some restaurants that I, frankly, wouldn’t enjoy dining alone at.  Anything that involves spectacle sounds like a recipe for a disaster as does the newest, coolest restaurant.  If it involves a reservation, I’d probably want to pass.  Basically, I want dining alone to be all about relaxing.  If the restaurant isn’t a relaxing environment, I won’t enjoy myself.  I’d want someone to deflect my discomfort.

2.  Bring something to keep you company, preferrably not your phone.  You know how you’d talk to someone while waiting for your food to arrive or waiting for the bill?  Well, take that time to do something fun.  I love to read or write, but I could also imagine looking at your planner, drawing or doing something else would be just as fun.  Put down whatever it is you’re doing when the food arrives; eating slowly and focusing only on your meal is a fantastic mental exercise.

3.  Take your time.  I didn’t realize I ate slowly until I came to Italy.  I would be sitting down for dinner with my host family, half way through my first course before I realized that everyone else at the table was done and waiting for me to finish.  I’m not saying I would speed up, but eating alone means you set the pace.  Don’t want to eat quickly?  Don’t.  Want to eat your risotto one grain of rice at a time?  Be my guest.  It’s a relief to slow down and focus.  You’ll be surprised what you can learn about yourself during this time.

4.  Indulge smartly.  Want dessert?  Get dessert.  Want wine?  Get wine.  Obviously, you should know your limits, but have the most spectacular meal with yourself.  You are, after all, completely and totally worth it.  I always get sparkling water when dining alone because it’s a little (expensive) treat that I wouldn’t normally enjoy.

5.  Do something that you want to do that others might not want to.  Is there a type of food you love that others don’t like?  Take advantage of that!  Perhaps you love Indian food, but know people who can’t stand it.  I am insane for new-American, extremely-hip places that other people I know can barely stand.  Breakfasting alone at The Smile was brilliant.  I also have a soft spot for place like Le Pain Quotidien and will eagerly dine there alone if I’m stressed out by finding somewhere else.  Communal seating is perhaps the most amazing thing for solo diners.

So, next time you find yourself eager to eat out but without a trusty companion by your side, don’t despair!  Get out there and get ready to have a truly fantastic meal.

Do you enjoy dining alone?  What tips do you have for solo diners?

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