Author Marya Charles Alexander enjoys a glass of wine at a counter.
Spooked by the idea of a table for one? Fear not, says Marya Charles Alexander, editor and publisher of SoloDining.com, which celebrates the joy of having dessert all to yourself.
Q: Why are so many people scared to eat at a restaurant alone?
A: They're concerned about the reception they'll receive. Will they be ignored? What will others think?
Q: Seating: bar or table?
A: Depends upon your mood. Say you had a stressful day—the last thing you want is to chat. But if you're visiting a new city, the counter could be fun.
Q: Any solo dining nightmares?
A: At one restaurant, the server hovered around me, projecting on me the horror he would have felt if he were dining alone. Finally I said, "You're doing a fabulous job. I'm happy to be here." This gave him permission to leave me alone.
Q: How does a restaurant make your solo-friendly list?
A: Having servers who "read" solo diners, to tell whether or not they want to be chatted up. Some restaurants bump up solo diners in line, ahead of groups. Some will comp solo diners a drink or dessert, to let them know how much the restaurant values their business.
Q: How much should a solo diner tip?
A: If you'd like to cultivate a relationship with the restaurant, you may want to consider leaving a larger tip, maybe even 25 percent or more. Some solo diners leave a large tip along with their business card, so the staff will remember them.
Photography courtesy of Marya Charles Alexander
This article was first published in November 2002. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.