Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Day 9: Table For One - The Solo Dining Experience

Eating alone can quality time with yourself (Photo credit)
The routine is simple. You go to a restaurant. Ask for a table for X number and are shown to one. Menus are passed on and your order taken. The game really changes when you are the "table for one" category. I have dined by myself millions of times - in india and many cities abroad. Initially, I said it apologetically but soon, the lack of choice made me confident. Solo dining is still not something people commonly do in India although a recent study by OpenTable suggests that it is on the rise in the US.

I did a bit of a research for this post. Let me share that with you before I come down to my own experiences. Eating out alone is mostly something people are conscious about. Unless you live in a busy city like New York which makes it easier since most others do the same too. It is interesting to note that there are people who've experimented with eating out alone and thankfully documented them as, what else, blog posts! Layla ate out alone for a week minus hiding behind a book or a phone and shares her adventure story in quite a detail - and I recommend you savour reading all the posts (pun unintended!) Laura Silver, the news reporter at Buzzfeed, UK took her own trip of eating alone. Sushi bars or a seat at the bar is a great option. It is a bit of a challenge at proper sit down restaurants.
It really depends on how you think of solo dining (photo credit)
Coming to my experiences of eating out by myself, I am still the minority. I have had lunch at a sushi bar in Hong Kong and cafes in Amsterdam and it turned out to be fine. Even in India, I haven't faced awkwardness or judgement from the staff like Anasuya Basu did - maybe because I never tried eating alone in Delhi. But there are a lot of things to be improved in our country before dining alone becomes a norm. Here are a few things:

1. We have no seating arrangement for solo diners. Best case, take a table for two. In cafes, it's ok. Fine dine restaurants, not so much
2. There are no one person meals. You can skip the starters and order only main course so you can finish what arrives at your table
3. There are no one person portions. And going to an Indian restaurant is out of question since the portion of curry is definitely for two people. (There's always the option to box it up for dinner)

When I ate at the Kingdom of Dreams, a theme park in Gurgaon (India), I hardly made a dent in the huge portion that their signature dish came in. It broke my heart to send it back. But I'm just me and can't finish all of it. That's the problem with proper sit down restaurants. I prefer cafes. My favourite haunt of late is Aromas. I get great service even at Le Pain Quotidian in Powai. They have portions good for one person - a sandwich, chicken breast with mash or veggies on the side, a portion of pasta - works well for me!

We really need some work done in this area. Maybe some dishes/portions meant for solo diners. A decent sitting area where we feel welcome and not stick out like a sore thumb sitting by ourselves. Maybe, restaurants meant solely for solo diners! Why not!

Eating out by yourself is quite a nice thing to do. Pick a restaurant of your choice, order what you like and eat as much as you like. It is a great way to have quality 'me' time with your favourite food and some nice coffee to round it off. It can feel awkward in the beginning but then who cares! You are as much a paying customer as as two people.

If you've never tried eating by yourself, make that the project of the week and go ahead! It starts with your super confidence in saying, "Table for one, please" and that's it! If you need tips, here are a few tips on how to rock it as a solo diner!

This post is a part of #NaBloPoMo which stands for National Blog Posting Month hosted by BlogHer.

10 comments:

  1. I rarely eat out, but I do know people without a partner who do and know, from their stories, that it can be a daunting experience.

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    1. It's about being comfortable in our skin. The staff take on our attitude. You should try sometime :)

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  2. Since I travel a lot, I usually eat out alone too and I have no consciousness whatsoever. Incidentally, have never faced any issue neither from the staff or fellow diners. Yes, food portion is an issue, so cafes are my first choice.

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    1. I am glad you agree! Eating alone rocks! :)

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  3. Once I went to a cafe and I was hungry after some shopping. I sat down, the waiter came to me and I asked for a pasta after looking at the menu. In sometime, a packed chicken pasta was handed over to me. I was shocked. I went to the manager and told him that I ordered a pasta and never asked for it to be packed. He had no answer and I was annoyed so I paid and walked home to eat in solace. This was in Bangalore last year so you are right that India needs a lot of work in this area.

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    1. That is so rude! Eating alone is only recently picking up! Hopefully we will see better days!

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  4. I wonder what it says about me, that I could eat a portion intended to be shared with a whole table. ;) I never thought of it from the perspective of eating at a restaurant that only serves in this style, however. I've eaten by myself, for sure, but only in places that did have single portions.

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  5. I very occasionally eat out by myself. It's usually when I am taking a long walk and I get hungry so I stop off somewhere and eat. I tend to look like a hiker so I get a lot of curiosity from the people at the restaurant. They give me good service just for having walked all of that distance!

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  6. I think I have not really eaten out much, but I think if this is the case, then there should be some changes. Single seats or less portion sizes should be made available.

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  7. I haven't eaten out much, but yes. Those few times I did, I've noticed people staring and sympathizing with me. :/

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