Just This

Table for One

I cooked the first real meal in my apartment tonight. It’s not that I’ve been putting it off – well, I sort of have. When you have so many dining options in a one-block radius, it’s hard not to just sample the local fare. But also, it took until tonight to have a properly organized kitchen –  dishes where I wanted them, counter organized with the boxes I finally unpacked.

The occasion – making a simple dinner of pasta and salad for one – has me recalling the dozens of meals I’ve had on my own these last several months, and how in love I’ve fallen with eating out on my own.

No, seriously.

I’ve never had a problem going to a movie by myself – as my mom says, once you’re in the dark theater looking straight ahead, who can tell the difference anyways? But dining out alone has taken me a bit longer to appreciate. Now that I do, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

It’s simple really. I typically tell the host(ess) “Just myself,” and snag an appropriate table – diners with single booths (sits just 2) are prime, or a snug spot at a cafe bar, but I’m not opposed to a 4-top in the middle of the dining hall. No shame here. And no one’s in it to shame, either. I’ve not once encountered a solo-shaming server or fellow diners. If anything, I’m always pleasantly surprised at how many other hungry folks are out for a bit on their own, too.

I’ve had some amazing solo meals. On a business trip to Santa Monica, I sat in the hotel bar and enjoyed fresh guacamole and two glasses of red on the company dime while the sun set over the Pacific. There was also an amazing pork chop in Dallas on an other business trip (it’s easy to have a great meal when you’re expensing it, apparently). After my interview in NYC, I stopped for a glass of wine and an app at a local spot, chatting up the bartender while I calmed my post-interview nerves. Countless dinners in India overlooking the Ganges or people-watching in Mumbai. A cafe in Paris after wandering the Tuileries.

My favorite, though, is brunch for one. I’ve brunched on my own in Indianapolis, Park City, Mumbai, Chicago and now New York. It’s best if I happen to wake up earlier than usual, if I can get to a table before 8am. It’s the calm before the mid-morning rush, like the world hasn’t even woken up yet. Where better to get the weekend started than at a local spot over eggs and potatoes. And biscuits and gravy. And a fruit bowl. And bottomless coffee. Toast with fresh jam. Pancakes so fluffy they evaporate in your mouth.

Because when you’re dining alone, there’s absolutely no limit to your options. No one to make you feel awkward or self-concious about totally indulging your random cravings. That’s what doggy bags are made for, right?  No one to suggest (the horror!) sharing a meal, either. Need your ice cream on the side, but only if the pie is hot and if not, no ice cream at all? Go for it. No Harry to give you funny looks.

I do have a few rules I seem to follow without really trying. I don’t go to super hip (read: expensive) places on my own – they’d be more fun to experience with friends anyways. And I don’t typically go during peak hours, unless I’m starving and it happens to be 7pm. And I typically always order something to drink – coffee, soda, wine. The server’s already looking at a low ticket with just me – might as well enjoy a drink and bump up their check (and likewise their tip) if I can.

A meal shared among friends is lovely, of course – nothing like it. But the pleasure of taking oneself out for a bite now and then is truly enjoyable. Do you ever dine alone? Willing to give it a shot? I hope so.

While I had the idea for this post before I read this, I absolutely love the sentiment and couldn’t agree more. Worth a read.