Perhaps it’s because I was raised an only child or maybe it’s the gypsy heart in me but whatever the reason, I have always loved going out for a meal on my own.
Eating alone at a restaurant takes courage. Even as a seasoned soloist I still find myself having the occasional bout of insecurity as the hostess leads me to my table for one. Will people think I got stood up? Do they think I don’t have any friends? Oh GOD…will people think I’m hoping to be hit on?!
The only place where I am truly immune from these fears is New York City where I am mercifully not an anomaly. In my, now native, Los Angeles however, you’d think no one had ever seen a woman eat alone before. Dine solo at a cool spot on a busy night and the reactions multiply exponentially. On the bright side, I’ve lost count of the amount of free drinks I’ve been sent and have even gone to pay the bill a few times to find a stranger has “taken care of it.” Presumably they do this out of pity but hell, I just scored a free meal!
On the off chance that you find yourself needing to grab a bite sans back-up, here are a few helpful hints I’ve picked up along the way:
*Sit at the bar. Being alone at the bar is way less conspicuous and a good place to start if you don’t normally eat alone and aren’t particularly comfortable.
*Bring a book. A book on the table says, “I didn’t get stood up, I knew I was going to be alone.” I used to actually read a book even when I didn’t want to, just to take the sting off the “that poor girl’s eating by herself” looks. That eventually became just placing it visibly on the table, and now I don’t bring one at all (unless of course I genuinely want to read).
*When a place is busy don’t be picky. In my experience being friendly and easy to seat makes a host/hostess more inclined to find you a good spot. Sometimes I end up cramped at the end of the bar and sometimes I find myself being led past other wait-listers to a prime bar stool or table.
*Look nice. This may seem superficial and that’s because it is. I simply feel more comfortable eating alone if I’m lookin’ sharp. I mean, someone who dresses that cool could only be eating alone by choice, right?
*Have a fully charged phone battery. Like me, you might hate the idea of texting or doing sudoku while you eat but trust me, if insecurity hits there is no better pacifier than looking busy on your phone. Just don’t talk on the phone the whole time- people will hate you and I can’t disagree with them.
*Talk to your waiter/waitress. Not as a crutch or in a needy “I’m alone way” but just because how often do you really get to? Now, they might not want to engage with you and that’s fine but in my experience (both as a waitress and as a customer), staff is generally used to being treated as such, and any real human connection is appreciated. I have incredibly fond memories of getting to know the wait staff at my neighborhood haunt or late nights spent drinking in foreign cities with awesome servers who go unappreciated by hurried tourists.
Over the years I’ve come to realize that there are people who are inherently at ease dining alone and those who aren’t. For those of you that are, you don’t need my encouragement but to those of you that aren’t I’ll offer this: Try it! As daunting as it may seem at first, the payoff is epic. Taking yourself out for a great meal can be a true delight. Also, you’ll never have a bad date ; ) ♥