To me, one of the most fascinating aspects of interviewing lots of people is seeing the different stories people tell themselves about the way the world works. I’m sure I have my narratives. I know other people do too, but often these are completely different.
Which brings me to my topic for this post. I have long eaten out by myself while traveling. This seems simple enough. I like to eat. I especially like to eat at very fancy restaurants, and so it’s always a treat to me to find a highly rated restaurant in a new city and explore the cuisine and wine list. I’ll chat with the waiter about what’s good, and about a satisfying beverage pairing, and enjoy eating exactly where I want without taking anyone else’s desires into consideration. If I am attending a conference where I know people, or my speech sponsors want to take me to dinner, I’m perfectly happy to eat with other people, but if I don’t know anyone, I’m still eating out.
Then I had a conversation the other day where someone mentioned generally just ordering room service. Not because she viewed work travel as an opportunity to put on her PJs as soon as the last meeting was done and watch movies all night — which is totally cool! — but because she felt weird about eating in a restaurant by herself.
It turns out that there is some sort of stigma out there about eating in restaurants solo. Who knew? I didn’t. As I think back, I can’t recall any hosts giving me any looks about asking for a table for one. No one’s said anything when I ask for a table rather than the bar (if the restaurant was busy I’d take the bar but I’m generally traveling during the week, so non-peak times, and I feel people are more likely to talk with me at the bar, and I enjoy my solitude). I’ve read books and magazines, although in this day and age, a lot of people eating with companions are looking at their phones, so doing so on my own fits right in.
Room service always strikes me as one of those things that is better in theory than practice. The food is often lukewarm by the time it shows up, and the scenery is seldom as interesting as, say, a sidewalk cafe.
So I guess I just don’t see what the stigma is about. Sometimes I’ve eaten solo even while not traveling. Back in the day, before we routinely had evening childcare, I’d sometimes get a sitter in the evening when my husband was traveling and go eat at a local sushi restaurant solo. None of my kids will eat fish and none of the restaurants seemed to deliver to our house, so this was a practical way of getting my fix. Enjoy a nice glass of sauvignon blanc, look at the fish tank (a bit strange in a sushi restaurant, but whatever) and chill.
Do you dine out solo?
Photo: Hot asparagus soup with cold creme fraiche – one of those temperature combos that’s hard to pull off with room service.