Truth be told, I really enjoy dining out all by myself especially when I'm on vacation. Of course, it does take a lot of moxie to eat out on a Saturday night in a fancy restaurant among couples on dates. If you are a family of one, here are some tips to make sure the experience is enjoyable as possible.
- If you are new to solo dining try going out for a snack before committing to a meal out on your own. Grab a scone, a pretzel, a cupcake or a frozen yogurt. There are plenty of options to chose from: Starbucks, Argo Tea, Borders, Kim & Scott's (and they have a gluten free pretzel), Yogen Fruz, and nearly every neighborhood has a local mom and pop cafe
- Opt for breakfast or lunch. Eating out during daylight seems more supportive to single dinners. Nighttime eating is viewed as "romantic" especially at really upscale locations, although it can be done solo if you hang at bars that happen to serve food or if you happen to know a friendly bartender who has time to visit with you.
- Go veggie. For some reason I've noticed that vegetarian restaurants are more open to single dinners, there at least seems to be less social stigma.
- Avoid restaurants with family style seating and eating such as Italian, Indian, Spanish, and Ethiopian cuisines.
- Be entertained. Take a journal or book with you. Or chose a location that has music such as an Irish pub with live music and good comfort food (like the Grafton).
- Don't worry about it. Believe it or not, most people are too busy thinking about themselves than they are you.
Remember there are some advantages to solo-style eating:
- There is no one (but yourself) to judge your order. "Are you really going to eat all that"? Em, maybe!
- Do you ever have those friends that eat all your food, "I wish I ordered that"! Then your plate suddenly disappears.
- You don't feel like you have to order exactly what/quantity your friend orders. "I'll have what she's having" becomes "I'll have what I'm having".
- This point is sort of the opposite of my first point, you may be able to stick to your diet without having someone tempt you.
- You can savor each bite without interruption or someone "harshing your mellow" while you bite into your favorite food. How often have you thought, "I wish my he/she would shut up so I can enjoy this food in peace."
A few great Chicago places to try out solo dining:
- The Book Cellar in Lincoln Square is great for a light meal or when you want to have a drink without being bothered or prefer to do so sans loud music.
- Karyn's Raw Café has a seating area within its retail side. Karyn's is open 7 days a week till 10:00 pm. The raw salad bar is a good bargain and yeah to no social stigma! Karyn's has some amazing desserts and smoothies. One of my favorite smoothies is the Protein Buddha (coconut water, apple juice, lemon, tahini, and raw honey).
- Whole Foods at 1550 N. Kingsbury where you can shop, eat and drink. I love to multi-task. There are two bars and plenty of places to eat upstairs. I love to grab something from the salad bar and eat outside with a view of the River.