Whether you’re traveling solo and want to explore the local food scene but are too nervous to do it alone, or you’re simply looking to enjoy the occasional dinner out in your own city when friends and family aren’t around, here are my 9 tips for eating out alone:
1. Stick to your favourite restaurant
When traveling alone it is so nice to feel recognized. While traveling solo throughout Greece, I was in Athens for about a week. Just down the street from my hotel was a nice little restaurant with the most friendly staff. The owner would stand out front and warmly welcome me inside. Each night when I would venture out for dinner, I could never resist his friendliness and allowed myself to be ushered inside (or outside) each evening.
I was treated like Royalty. The owner would provide me with extra of everything I ordered and also surprise me with additional yummy food I didn’t order, free of charge. Delicious Greek salad, feta cheese, spanakopita, dolmades, and baklava was thrust upon me and it was heavenly sampling such a variety of Greek cuisine.
2. Stay present. Ditch your phone or laptop.
I recommend not spending your whole dinner with your nose in your phone or laptop. I realize that it would be the easiest way to appear occupied and engaged, but you’d miss out on all the fun and I think it looks a bit sad. One of the pleasures of eating out alone is having the opportunity to appreciate the sensory elements of the restaurant (sights, sounds, and smells) without any of the usual distractions. It would be a shame to dull the experience by mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, something you could do digesting on the couch later on. Stay present, just as you would if you were dining with a friend.
3. Sit by the window
Gaze out the window at the scenery before you and avoid staring at another table. Having other people sitting directly in front of you can be quite awkward if there is nothing else to occupy your gaze.
4. Have lots of cash and change
If you have cash on you as you dine alone, you will avoid waiting awkwardly for the waiter to bring back your card or make change right in front of you. Plus, the feeling of having cash is so much more satisfying then sheepishly handing over a debit card and hoping they accept it. I once used my debit card to pay and the waiter ended up dropping the debit machine and breaking it. He stood there and tried to piece it back together as I sat there and watched him uselessly. With enough cash and change, you can settle the bill on your own and still have enough to leave a tip. You are then free to get up and leave on your own accord.
5. Bring a book or journal
Having something to flip through or write on can be a great tool to put you at ease as it is something to place your focus and attention on. It’s an excellent time to catch up on writing some postcards or writing in your travel journal.
6. Order a glass of wine/beer
I can hear those cynics who suggest that you should never consume alcohol for the purpose of boosting confidence. But I think otherwise. Ordering a drink right from the gate to take any possible edge off is a fantastic idea, in my opinion. Wine can be the most perfect compliment to a delicious meal and it will also give you something to do and to focus on while waiting for your food. A single, delicious, confidence boosting glass of wine is not the same of downing vodka before you head out, just for courage. (I did that once with wine and ended up barfing all over my date. Needless to say I never heard from him again).
7. People watch
Whether you’re sitting indoors or outdoors, you can almost always be guaranteed someone is doing something amusing, confusing, or interesting nearby. Needless to say, it’s always entertaining to observe the many peculiar traits of others.
8. Remember that people are much too self-absorbed to notice.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in our society, nobody cares about much except their own agenda and daily musings. As you eat alone, everyone else in the restaurant probably won’t give you a second glance, unless of course you are one of those people I mentioned earlier who are “people watch worthy,” behaving in such a fashion that draws attention from others. But forget everyone else. Own it!
9. Enjoy yourself!
There is no shame in a table for one! Reflecting back on my travels while eating alone has made me really miss those experiences – I found them to be really fulfilling and fun. I now have a massive craving for spanakopita and am wishing to re-visit Greece for the third time.