Dining Alone

I went out to eat alone earlier this week. I was craving my favorite dessert, butter cake, so I decided to head over to Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House in downtown D.C. for dinner. Having spent most of my day at a work conference, the introvert in me was exhausted; I decided not to invite a friend out with me. 

I had just woken up from a nap. Feeling lazy, I pulled my hair back into a high ponytail and decided on going to dinner sans-makeup. I was wearing a cute (but cheap) athletic co-ord from Fashionnova and the blue tint Yeezy Boost 350 shoes that I went to great lengths to "cop". Approaching the hostess stand, I had only a copy of GQ magazine and a small crossbody bag on my person. 

"Welcome to Del Frisco's!" the hostess said to me, smiling and looking just past my shoulder at the two gentlemen behind me. She looked back at me with a bit of uncertainty before politely asking how many I would like a table for. 

"One. It's just me this evening," I quietly replied. 

"Just one?"

"Yes, just me."

"Would you like to sit at the bar? Or did you want a table?" she asked.

I was beginning to feel a little embarrassed at holding up the line with this exchange, so I tried to anticipate her next question.

"I'd like a table downstairs, please."

"Would you like to be in a booth by the window, or at a high top table?"

"Anywhere is fine," I replied, shifting nervously and glancing behind me at the pair who were waiting patiently for their turn at inquisition. My bag fell off my shoulder as my phone slid out of its magazine cradle and onto the floor. "I think I'd prefer a booth by the window." I quickly picked up my things and stepped to the side, hoping she would come out from behind the hostess stand with a menu and seat me.

With that, the questions concluded and she prompted me to follow her to my seat assignment. We passed a very lively bar, which looked to be hosting a corporate happy hour, and I was seated across from a set of tables occupied by couples on dinner dates. On the far end of the dining room was a large group with a huge bouquet of balloons to celebrate someone's birthday. I was the only person currently in the restaurant who was (clearly and visibly) dining alone this evening.

When my waiter came over to the table, he began to remove two of the plate settings. He paused for a second in thought. Second guessing himself, he inquired about whether or not I was expecting a guest.

I told him I would be dining alone, and asked for his suggestion on a drink and an appetizer. After the order was placed, I began skimming the pages of GQ while taking in the sounds and scenes of the evening: one of the gentlemen in the corporate party got too drunk and had to be asked to refrain from banging on the counter to emphasize his objections in a spirited discussion; the birthday group asked their waiter to take no less than 10 photos of them, 5 horizontal and 5 vertical; one of the couples began arguing over the appropriateness of sending back a medium steak to be cooked again; another couple spoke maybe 5 words to one another over the course of an hour, while the man looked at the TV and the woman invested her attention into whatever conversation she was carrying on via text.

The waiter came and checked on me fairly often to ensure I was okay. I ordered a dinner entree of filet medallions. He suggested I order the bar version, which is cheaper but without green beans. I'm not sure why the price difference was so much, but I decided on the entree anyway. I could feel the eyes of a few people looking over at me when the food was brought out. 

As a treat for myself, I ordered dessert. The scent of butter cake floated past the other tables, the eyes of the dining room following it to its final destination. The gazes came to rest upon me, the solo diner. As I took my third bite, a woman from the third couple approached to inquire about what I was eating. I happily obliged her with the relevant details, appropriately emphasizing how addictive the butter cake is, and we had a brief conversation about how a good dessert can make or break a dining experience.

"Thank you, I hope you enjoy your butter cake. We noticed you eating over here alone. You are so brave!" she commented.

Admittedly, the start of this particular experience with dining alone had left me feeling a bit insecure, which is not normally how I feel. Hearing the compliment of a kind stranger brightened my mood. Confidence restored, I sat up a little straighter and felt my lips curling into a demure smile. I went back to enjoying my magazine, lingering for a bit in the dining room of the crowded restaurant before paying for my meal and departing. 

Since I travel for work often, I have gotten used to eating in restaurants by myself. I love to enjoy dinner with a friend, and certainly cherish dinner dates with clients, but I also feel like dining alone is quite fulfilling. It is a method of self care that I enjoy because it gives you a great opportunity to practice self indulgence. You choose the time, date, cuisine, and budget. No need to worry about having to compromise, share, or calculate how to split the check. There's no one to feel the need to impress. And no one to explain your weird eating habits to.

I have sometimes been asked by other people how to dine solo. Here are some tips:

  • You are your own entertainment. Being by yourself will never be boring, unless you think you are a boring person to spend time with. Use this time to unplug from your phone and Twitter by bringing a book, magazine, or newspaper with you. You could also journal. At some point, you'll probably just want to sit at the table and do nothing but people watch or think. All perfectly good ways to dine alone.
  • Practice makes perfect. It may be intimidating at first to go to the trendy hot spot during happy hour, when everyone is paired up or in groups. You can increase your comfort in dining alone by visiting coffee shops, ice cream parlors, or low key restaurants first. Visit at off-peak times. 
  • Go confidently. No one is going to think you are a lonely weirdo for dining alone. At most, some people will be pleasantly surprised. Observers often find it intriguing to see a person who is comfortable enough with themselves to go out solo. People are more likely to strike up conversation with you out of curiosity, other diners who take notice of you will send drinks or small plates, and waiters feel more generous with freebies.

Treat yo' self! You deserve it.