Dining for Only the Lonely: How to Eat Out Alone

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So has the social stigma of eating alone in restaurants subsided yet? I'd like to think it has, and I'd like to think that I don’t have any second thoughts when I eat out alone, but I definitely do. My husband and I (adorably) try to have lunch together on weekdays. Some days our schedules don’t line up and we are on our own for lunch.

I am staunchly anti-sack lunch. I think it sounds gross and is gross. Driving home for lunch takes so long that I only have about 15 minutes to eat. So when I can’t meet my husband, friend, or drag along a co-worker, I bite the bullet and eat at a restaurant alone.

There are obviously some easy ways to do this while avoiding sympathetic/concerned looks from strangers, like grabbing takeout and taking it to the park (which I never think to do), or picking up a sandwich and a bag or three of Miss Vickie’s Salt & Vinegar chips at Jersey Mike's and eating them alone in your car (which I never do!!!). I have found a few other places/situations where I usually feel really comfortable eating alone.

Here are some of my suggestions. Most are obvious, but I like to consider myself an expert, as I have had a lot of time alone to strategize:

1. Avoid places with waiters, unless it is a place that you frequent so much already that you already know the servers and they will chat you up and make you feel less lonely. Otherwise, there is always that awkward time when the host has to doublecheck and make sure you really said “one” when he asked you how many were in your "party." Not to mention the minute when they have to clear off the place settings for all the other empty seats. Awkwaaaard!

2. If you can choose between bar or table, choose bar. This is especially preferable because usually the bartender/sushi chef will either talk to you or at least give you something to watch while you wait alone for your food, in complete silence. In my experience, service is usually faster at the bar too.

3. Plan an activity. Pick up your favorite local weekly! Bring a book. If the place has wi-fi, bring your laptop. Spend the entire hour frantically typing on your cell phone so that it looks like you have lots of friends However, don’t call your friends — people in the restaurant will (rightly) hate you.

4. Unless there is open seating, like at a coffee shop, try to avoid really busy sitdown restaurants. Both out of courtesy for the restaurant to not take up a whole table with your sorry ass, but also to avoid the embarrassment of having to stand around and wait for your sad, sad table for one.

5. Go crazy! Eat whatever you want! Three courses? Sure! Cocktail? Do it! Extra bag(s) o’ chips? Why not? No one is watching!

I have already mentioned a lot of my favorite places for lunch (Fido, Marché, Samurai), and most of them are very suitable for eating alone. I would also add Panera (no whippings for frequenting a chain — I like their tomato and mozzarella panini, OK?) for its free wi-fi and small two-top booths where you can kind of hide your face, as well as the Nashville Farmers' Market, where you can sit at the bar at AM@FM, or grab a tray, sit outside and act like you are just enjoying the weather.

Where am I missing? Anyone have any other places they default to when dining all alone?

P.S. I also found this NOT SAD AT ALL website with more tips: solodining.com!

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