Table For One: Steps for Fabulously Dining Solo
Every now and again, I will treat myself to a date. This is a concept that I once balked at - fearing the stigma of being the lonely girl in a restaurant with no company, looking sad and hopeless. But at some point a few years ago, I decided to adopt this as a monthly practice. Now, I look forward to finding that extra hour or so in my schedule that allows me to stop at a random restaurant, order up something fabulous and wash it down with a glass of wine. In fact, dining alone while traveling has offered me some of my most cherished memories. A few weeks ago, a friend asked me if I ever dined solo. Of course my eyes lit up and I gave her the following tips for how to have just a fantastic time with yourself in a restaurant.
Step One: Adjust Your Attitude.
If you're dining solo, own it. Who cares what other people may think - are they paying your bill? NO. So go in there and turn the stigma on its head. For me, I no longer have shame in approaching the hostess and saying, "table for one, please". In fact, I think I walk a little taller when I enter a restaurant alone in preparation for a little "me" time. And not in a defensive way, but instead in the "I'm here on purpose because I want to be" kind of way. There is nothing more powerful than walking into a joint like you own the place and requesting the best seat in the house just because it's a Wednesday....
Step Two: Geography is Everything.
On a recent trip to Miami, I found a quaint seafood shop in some nondescript part of town. Arriving early, the hostess offered me either a corner table by the window and virtually out of sight, or a seat in the middle of the restaurant. I chose the latter in a very "Nobody puts Baby in the corner" kind of way. Not only did I choose that table, but I made sure not to choose the seat that would require my back to face the people. No - I wanted to SEE what was going on around me. Where you sit is as much of the experience as anything else. Dining alone allows you to focus on what's going on around you. Trying to be more present in the world? There is no better way to do that than eating alone and observing the world as it comes.
Step Three: Put Your Mobile Device Away.
Just do it. Don't use your phone as a crutch. You don't need it. There are far more interesting things going on around you than Candy Crush. There is no better way to appreciate the buzz of a restaurant than being totally focused on the comings and goings. Ever wonder how the oyster bar staff really shucks oysters? There's no way to see it if your eyes are focused on a screen rather than the skill of a really great oyster shucker (maybe this makes me weird, but I am always in awe watching the fishmonger or oyster shucker prepare food).
Step Four: Don't Order a Salad.
Think of dining solo as an experience. If you're splurging, then splurge. No one ever said, "oh my goodness, I just had the best dining experience of my life" and mentioned a salad (or maybe you have had that experience, but that just means we aren't real friends...and I'm judging you). At the aforementioned restaurant in Miami, I sat in between two businessmen on my left and two ladies discussing a charity event on my right. I watched as they uncomfortably perused the menu and reluctantly settled on some undressed fish (for the men) and a kale salad (for the ladies). I bucked the entire system and ordered the conch poboy with homemade fried chips 1) because who ever sees conch on a menu? and 2) because....french fries. You'll never guess what happened. When my food came out, both sets of my table neighbors said, "wow, that looks so good - I should have ordered that" and then they BOTH proceeded to order a plate of fried chips for the table. #Trendsetter.
Step Five: Order Wine.
Drinking wine solo while in public is the best way to enjoy wine. Take my word for it. If you have an issue with drinking alone in the middle of the day, consider that there are all of these other people around you so really, you're not drinking alone. At least that's the logic I employ...
So have you dined solo? What other tips would you share?
Photo Credit: Agnieszka P Photogtaphy