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Rail Paul

Solo Dining

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I despise eating alone at a table. I have this weird feeling that everyone is staring at me.

 

I just stare right back at 'em. ;)

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I despise eating alone at a table. I have this weird feeling that everyone is staring at me. Plus, what do you do in between courses? No one to talk to.

That's why I always bring something to read.

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I turned 21 in London, eating by myself in an Indian restaurant. I was so happy and proud and it was one of my favorite meals. I remember thinking, "I've pulled this off! I survived childhood and I'm eating Indian food in London! I am in charge, now!" So naive!

 

Awwww. That's so sweet.

 

There was a vegetarian Indian restaurant in London that I used to love...Woodlands?? The waiters were incredibly kind to me, and the food was good.

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I used to dine solo when I traveled a lot for work. Didn't mind it as long as I had some reading material. And a decent expense account.

 

Saw a diner enjoy a wonderful, 3 hour meal at L'Arpege last yr. And I think Evelyn has gone solo at ADNY with great results before.

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I have taken a few solo vacations, and I loved it. One of the pleasures of those trips was dining alone. I always found the staff to be attentive, friendly, sometimes flirtatious (in a pleasant way), interesting in explaining things, and I was able to focus on things I don't usually spend so much focus on when I'm with another person. I like dining out alone sometimes.

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I dined solo a lot when I traveled for work. It was by choice, I could have gone out with colleagues/associates, but I liked the quiet time after a long day of talking and dealing. I took a two week vacation to London and Paris alone a few years ago. Loved it.

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When I first moved to NY I dined solo quite a bit and had a number of pleasant experiences. Including a meal at Washington Park (is that the restaurant--pre Cru) with a great btl of '76 Dujac Echezeaux. The food was pretty lame, but it was an enjoyable experience.

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I have dined at ADNY, Jean Georges, Manresa, FL, Joel Robuchon and numerous others on my own. They were all enjoyable meals and the time flew by. I never bring reading material, and none of those meals has ever lasted under 2 hours (some over 4 hours). I use the other diners as my entertainment. They can provide amazing "theater". As for anyone who might stare, I just smile ever so sweetly and stare back. I also enjoy chatting with the staff at restaurants and have made some good friends over the years while doing so. I also have never felt that I was not treated as a valued customer. No "hurrying up". Many times, gifts of a glass of wine or an extra course or two.

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My, how times have changed: 30+ years ago I used to walk out of places because they treated me with disrespect. Le Français in Wheeling, IL comes immediately to mind. :(

 

But now, what Omni said, and what Evelyn said. No book, yes conversation with staff, and sometimes receiving special treatment when they see I'm serious. And I agree with Wilf about the drinking part ;) -- which is now so much easier in NYC since we can take liquid leftovers home. Well, anyway, I have leftover wine to take home. :(

 

I never, ever sit at the bar to eat when I'm alone; I don't want to subject people to my behind. :(

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Now that solo dining is enough of a thing here in the States that a whole school of restaurant has declared war on it, it's surprising to see how clueless European restaurants still are about solo dining. Clueless as in, they clearly think there's something wrong with it and treat the solo diner worse. (And, of course, bar dining is virtually unknown.)

 

In a recent trip to Northern Europe, I was consistently given the worst possible table in the house -- even when the house was not full. I felt like I had to fight for a decent table. That's just unacceptable.

 

OTOH, at the very most high-end place I ate, whereas I still was given the worst table -- although to be fair, there were excuses for it (they squeezed me in as a favor to someone even after the book had long been closed for the night; I was the last diner arriving the night I ate there) -- the entire staff was friendly and congenial and made sure I always had someone to talk to between courses. (They even lingered to chat outside the door on my way out.) So they, at least, appeared to get it -- although they, unlike the other places I'm talking about, are part of the International Dining Circuit. Perhaps the only good thing about such places.

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I think the reason the solo diner gets the worst table is the restaurant believes the solo diner would prefer to be at a table away from the center of the room to minimize "Look at that loser eating alone!" That usually means ending up near the kitchen or rest room.

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I can't believe a whole lot of solo diners care about that in reality, though.

 

That's what I mean by their being clueless. They still seem to think there's something shameful about solo dining -- and that solo diners think so, too.

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I can't believe a whole lot of solo diners care about that in reality, though.

 

That's what I mean by their being clueless. They still seem to think there's something shameful about solo dining -- and that solo diners think so, too.

 

Agreed.

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interesting. i've had great luck solo dining in europe; paris, london, edinburgh, rome, brussels. if i make a reservation sometimes i ask for a specific table or say that i'd like a nice table with a good view of the room or mention that a regular said i should ask for their regular table. a few times when offered a crummy table, i've asked for a better one and offered to wait. i find front of house is usually pretty nice to me, especially if i'm dining alone.

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Are we sure you're not at cultural cross purposes?* isn't it possible that the assumption in Europe is that solo diners want to eat in peace with a book or whatever? Like, we can't very well praise the European high end for its unobtrusive non-Meyer service and then complain when they equally apply that principle to the solo.

 

*aside, someone in the restaurant has to get the worst table though no excuse if it's not full.

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