If you have a fear or anxiety about dining out alone, it is way more common than you may think. In my last blog post, I discussed the 7 Reasons Solo Travel is Good for You and, well, dining out alone counts as a mini form of solo travel, even if you are staying close to home. Below are my tips for overcoming your fear of dining solo whether you are staying local or traveling.
Bring some body armor.
People tell me all the time that they would never have a meal alone because
they are too self-conscious. They fear that everyone is judging them. I am willing to bet that is not true Most people are caught up in their own thoughts, issues, and work. However, I do not want to discount your fear of dining out alone, That said, bringing some reading or writing material to a restaurant or cafe may make the experience of eating solo a lot easier. The photo below is from a day trip I took to Sitges which is a small town outside of Barcelona where I spent my birthday.
Personally, I always carry a small travel journal with me wherever I go. Since I love to travel and explore new food destinations, I want to capture a few notes about my experience. If I am in a new city for business or vacation, I may have some reading material about that city in my day bag. I suggest that you find a great spot to grab a meal and slowly calm yourself down with a drink (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) while you enjoy some reading and journaling. Before you know it, you will feel more comfortable owning the space you occupy. This is a great tip for the beginner who wants to enjoy a meal out whether in your own hometown or elsewhere. You will become more aware of your surroundings and the food that is flying by your table as you are documenting your experience in your journal or planning your next day.
Choose a table away from the center with a view of the entire room.
In the movie, Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze’s character proclaimed that “No one puts Baby in a corner.” When dining out alone, request a great table away from the center of the room. If you are self-conscious about being at a restaurant solo, you probably don’t want all eyes on you. However, make certain you don’t accept a table near the bathroom or in a dark corner. Your goal is to have a beautiful view of the entire space. You’re spending your hard earned money!
I have a wonderful memory of dining out alone at an iconic restaurant in Verona, Italy a few years ago. A lovely older man invited me to join him and his friends for a birthday celebration. It would never have happened if I had been sitting in a dark corner away from his view. Read more about that wonderful experience on my blog, Who Goes to Venice Alone?.
Eat at the bar.
When you are a newbie to dining out alone, eating at the restaurant bar is a fabulous idea. Bartenders are more than happy to talk to you and get to know your travel plans, etc. Also, you can check out the great menu items your fellow barflies ordered. You are more likely to strike up a conversation with them. It is not like eating alone at all.
PRO TIP: Read my article about how to spend 48 Hours in Chicago Alone.
On my last night in Venice, I stopped by the famous Hotel Danieli for a light snack. After chatting up the bartender about the memorabilia behind the bar, he invited me on a rare hotel tour. That would never have happened if I had been sitting in a dark corner of the hotel lobby. Read more about my experience in Who Goes to Venice Alone?
Choose a restaurant with communal tables.
During the last decade or so, restaurants have been embracing communal tables as a way of bringing people together. As a solo diner, sit at one of these tables and enjoy the company of other people. For the most part, I have found foodies, whether visitors to a city or locals, to be very friendly. Don’t be afraid or self-conscious. Just dive into the experience. Just as bed and breakfast spots offer communal dining, regular restaurants are making communal tables an option. You can get some great travel tips in this environment!
I have been living in Chicago for the last twelve years. The Purple Pig on the Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) is one of my favorite spots to enjoy some solo dining for lunch, dinner or late night snacks. The staff is friendly, and the patrons are always welcoming and engaged in fun conversation.
Osteria Langhe is another great restaurant in Chicago which specializes in Italian cuisine from the Piemonte region. They, too, have a lovely communal table up front by the window which is cozy and inviting.
The next time you are feeling apprehensive about dining out alone, I hope you will consider my advice. I would hate for you to miss out on an exceptional meal just because of an irrational fear or anxiety.
ROAM. REVEL. REPEAT.