A Gentleman’s Guide to Dining Alone
Dinner plans: you’ve got ’em.
Tapas with friends. Family-style Italian feasts. Surf-and-turf date nights. Late-night tacos. Bottomless mimosa power brunches. All of which have one thing in common: other people.
Which, one could argue, is the entire point of eating. Hell, entire books have been written on this subject. But those who fear the company of no one are missing out on a truly noble and gratifying experience.
Which is why every once in a blue supermoon, it’s a good idea to dine alone. Not because you have to, but because you can. And just because you’ve chosen to spend the night in your own good company doesn’t mean microwavable burritos on your couch—in fact, we believe it should prompt the opposite.
And so allow us to present: the Gentleman’s Guide to Dining Alone.
Rule #1: Come prepared.
In its purest form, solo dining is precisely that: devoid of any distractions, be they human, paperback or electronic. No texting. No Sudoku. Just you, a meal and a pleasing view of your surroundings.
However, not everyone has the confidence of a Victorian-era flaneur—so if you must, bring some backup reading materials. Like a book, Kindle or newspaper. But not like your laptop, your taxes or “business” of any sort. This entire experience is an exercise in treating yourself—and while it may be difficult to check your BlackBerry at the door, you’ll be a better man for it by the end of all this.
Rule #2: Choose your location wisely.
A place that serves their full menu at the bar is the obvious choice for solo diners. You have enough space, you aren’t singled out for being the guy sitting by himself, and you’ve got the option of making small talk with your bartender.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe choose a small two-top near the bar—you’ll want to keep yourself within earshot of an employee at all times, as a single-person table is easily overlooked. Or if you’re on good terms with the maître d’, claim a large booth to yourself. (This may come in especially handy at Rule #5.)
Rule #3: Order even more wisely.
The great thing about eating with others: you get to try a bit of everything. But today, you’re eating solo. And while this might seem inextricably tied to a fate of menu remorse, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Remember, you’re only paying for one here, so feel free to go all out. Get the whole cheese plate. Get the filet. Get the lobster thermidor. Wear the goddamn bib. Or if you’re in this for the love of the food and the chef has a tasting menu, opt for that. And if you had your eye on the Rib Eye for Two… well, maybe just ask if they can bend the rules this once.
Regarding drinks: yes. Drinking alone is an art in and of itself. Go ahead, order a full bottle of your preferred wine. You aren’t battling opposing palates, and on the off chance that you can’t consume four glasses of Bordeaux over the course of a couple hours, most restaurants will re-cork and seal it for you to take home.
Rule #4: Take your time.
Normally, you’d have spirited discussion on obscure topics with a well-educated companion to occupy your mouth between bites of lasagna. Not so here.
You’ll need to remain disciplined in your eating so as not to make this a grab-and-go affair. The whole point here is to treat yourself as you’d treat your date. Which means to chew slowly, relax and take your time.
Rule #5: Keep an open-door policy.
Such confidence in loneliness is likely to inspire curiosity among others. Embrace this. Wear your lack of company like a badge of honor—but don’t think of this as an exercise in solitary confinement. And if your instincts feel right, feel free to ask the dame at the bar if she’d like to share dessert.
Although at that point, you’re truly on your own.
- — Jason Wire