Eating Alone at a Restaurant

Do you ever feel weird eating alone in a restaurant? Or doing to a food festival event alone? I don’t.

I never think twice about anyone else I see eating alone- it doesn’t seem awkward or lonely to me. The only time it ever seems out of the ordinary is when the hostess at a restaurant asks me how many and after I reply, they say “Oh, Just one?” which dampens my “Yep” only for a moment as I realize not everyone is as comfortable with this and it may not be as common. I did a Google Search and it came up so many times with guides and advice on dining alone. What? It never even occurred to me that some people are intimidated or actively avoid it, or need tips on things to do while eating alone.

I have no problem with dining on my own- before I had smartphones (as I have been eating alone here or there ever since college), I would have a book I might read. Now, I might be reading RSS feeds or the news on my phone. Of course, both of these usually only work until the food appears. So most often I am people watching- curious about other diners, or I watch the restaurant work, and contemplate what today, right now, must be like from their perspective. And usually I get lost in my own thoughts.

Sometimes I sit at the bar. The bar might have a TV, but most of the time, the TV is just a front though- I might only be watching until something on the screen sparks a thought, and then I follow that thought down the rabbit hole. Sometimes, I am at the bar because it is a really trendy restaurant but getting a seat for one at the bar where I still have access to the menu is a great sneaky way to get in without the wait. Sometimes, I am actually sitting at the bar because I want to eavesdrop which might be harder to do depending on the restaurant seating arrangements. See above paragraph about taking in other perspectives.

At a food festival, attending alone means I can go at the perfect pace for me, in the order I want. And if I want to just take 2 bites and then put the rest in a ziploc bag in my purse and move on, I can and be less self conscious about the fact I have a purse full of accumulated food. Though, I guess I just announced I do this to the internets…

But many times, I will make a reservation on OpenTable- yes, for one. And I will sit at that table in the restaurant by myself and enjoy it. I won’t rush either- in fact I will often enjoy and savor my food more because I am not multi-tasking with conversation.

In fact I sometimes treasure being able to eat alone at a restaurant because it means I can be as greedy as I want. 

I might order the most expensive dish, or a dinner of all appetizers and sides, or 3 dishes that all have cheese since I love cheese and no one can stop me! I don’t have to share and can pick and eat all the crunchy bits off the dish before they go into the take home box(es) and get soggy. I don’ t have to worry if there is a vegetarian option for F. I don’t have to coordinate schedules of anyone to try the place. I don’t have to be social- I can just enjoy the food and my own thoughts, I can think over my workday or other internal matters I just need to work through mentally and not get distracted. 

So on the last night in San Diego when F just wanted to relax and watch TV in the room, I didn’t hesitate to go on my own to LOUNGEsix, the rooftop outdoor lounge overlooking the Gas Lamp quarter on the Solamar Terrace. I decided to sit at the bar. Part of the area was partitioned off for a wedding (where you see the tents), and there were also a few scattered drinkers/diners around in the darkness of that evening. Some of the other guests seemed to be there for work, although I did overhear a group of 4 people (half male, half female) come up and the guys then ask the bartender for whatever shot of liquid panty removers he could concoct. Two women also came up to the bar and introduced two guys that happened to already be sitting there a shot with chaser as an opener to conversation. I don’t think the shot buyers in both these cases were in San Diego for work. Probably.

LOUNGESix, Solamar Terrace, San Diego Gas Lamp district, outdoor dining, rooftop dining

As for myself, I had the Chili Mango Margarita with chili infused Cuervo Tradicional Silver Tequila, Cointreau, mango syrup, and house sour mix, which came in a generous size. And then there was the Raw Vegetable Salad with Burrata, summer squash, squash blossoms, carrots, cucumber, croutons. This was one of the most prettiest salads I have ever seen. And seriously, I love burrata, and the fact there was a good amount of it, but moreso I loved the freshness of everything that was on this plate and play of textures.

Chili Mango Margarita with chili infused Cuervo Tradicional Silver Tequila, Cointreau, mango syrup, and house sour mix at LOUNGESix, Solamar Terrace, San Diego Gas Lamp district, outdoor dining, rooftop dining Raw Vegetable Salad with Burrata, summer squash, squash blossoms, carrots, cucumber, croutons at LOUNGESix, Solamar Terrace, San Diego Gas Lamp district, outdoor dining, rooftop dining

I also ordered a cheese plate, which was full of greatness, but is not pictured. That’s because even I have a ceiling when it comes to dining alone. The wedding party had been playing romantic Spanish guitar music for a while during their dinner service, and then had just transitioned to the first dance of the bride and groom, and then the dances with the parents and bridal party. Meanwhile on TV was being shown a montage of various men and women in the military who had served now surprising their loved ones with their return home. With the music playing around me, and then looking at the tears of joy and loving embraces of relief of the wives, children, and pets made me a little teary eyed as well, and I decided I could just take that cheese plate to go and watch some TV (apparently, Treehouse Masters, where they brought Ireland to California) with F snuggled back at our hotel room. I mean, I’m only human.

And also I rocked the rest of that cheese plate for breakfast, blue cheese in the morning, yeah!

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Comments

  1. gas lamp is awesome. and i love that you don’t mind eating out alone. i hate that there is such a stigma with it, because i definitely don’t mine either!

    • I know I’m going back to San Diego at least in March 2014 because of a work related conference- I am sooo crossing my fingers the conference hotel will be near the Gas Lamp so I can explore/eat/drink some more of the awesomeness!

  2. I’ve almost never eaten alone at a restaurant. I think it would be pretty relaxing, though! I’m always trying to lower the stress level at meals and digest in a relaxed, low cortisol state, and my husband’s speedy eating does not help! So I bet eating alone would be good!

    • Eating alone definitely helps you slow down to enjoy your food as long as you remember to savor and not just eat fast to get it over with, and it takes the pressure off to try to match the pace of the rest of the dining party (although depending on the dining companion, it might also slow down the meal because we are talking too much but it usually is not a low cortisol state…!) F also is a very functional eater: quick and without much conversation, so I try ask him a question that takes a bit of time to answer/tell the story to slow him down!

  3. I’m like you. I’ve never understood the stigma, and sometimes solo dining is preferable- without phones, without books, nada. I love people-watching and eavesdropping (hey, if you don’t want me listening, then don’t talk loud enough for me to hear). I feel like I get a full cultural experience when I dine alone. I’ve done some solo travel, which meant lots of solo dining, and I gotta say, a lot of times people were even nicer to me because I was alone. When I was eating alone at the 50s kitchen style restaurant at Disney World, my waitress sat with me when she could and chatted with me. I was 19 and homesick, so it really meant a lot to me. There is so much to gain from solo dining (and travel, and going to the movies) if you just set aside your fear and open up to the experience. I’m so glad that you shared this perspective. :)

    • Ooo, I didn’t even cover that part of having some solo adventures while on travel! I definitely have good memories of wandering the Taiwan Night Market or getting lost in Tokyo on my own while on work travel, or going super slow at a museum/palace in Germany and I was only able to do that because I was alone! Also, it is a great way to open yourself up to conversations with the locals because they don’t feel like they are interrupting, and you do end up paying even more attention to everything around you, great point! I wonder how much of that has also do to with the introverted parts of our personality that finds it a good balance of being surrounded yet alone?

  4. You make so many great points. Eating alone sounds awesome!

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