Dining alone does not have to be a harried, self-conscious affair. These days, people dine alone for all sorts of good reasons. One of the best is the opportunity to eat at your own pace and fully take in the experience of the food and atmosphere around you. And while I often enjoy a seat at the bar, there is no reason not to ask for a table where one can have a more intimate experience.
If you find yourself too embarrassed to dine alone, don’t be. As evidenced by OpenTable’s list of 25 top spots for solo diners in America, there are restaurants that are adept at creating a delicious meal just for you. So skip the bad takeout in your apartment and the lukewarm hotel room service. There are thousands of restaurants on OpenTable that are quite happy to reserve your table for one. Below are seven more standout spots for solo dining.
Barking Crab, Boston, Massachusetts
The Barking Crab is a South Boston landmark and one of my favorite summer hotspots. For 21 years, they’ve been serving up New England seafood and microbrews in a casual clam shack setting that makes me yearn for summer all year round. From crabs and lobsters to fresh fish brought in from the docks each day, this is a place to bucket up and chow down. The lively communal seating makes it easy to feel like you’re part of the crowd without feeling conspicuous.
Cipriani Dolci-Grand Central Terminal, New York, New York
There’s seemingly no end to the number of great destinations for solitary food and entertainment in New York. But, for me, one stands out among the others for its superb location and life-affirming people watching. Dining beneath the star-speckled ceiling of the Grand Central Terminal offers no end of fascination as you watch one of the most spectacular acts of daily human migration unfold before you. Nestled in an upper corner on the main concourse of Grand Central Station, Cipriani Dolci offers refreshing cocktails, eye-boggling appetizers (try the Prosciutto Crudo di Parma), and a birds-eye view of pure unbridled humanity. You will witness loves both found and lost, trains both caught and missed. You will make groundless assumptions about the lives, personalities, and aspirations of all before you. And you will leave feeling like the great American bluesman Taj Mahal — “satisfied and tickled, too.”
Cork, Washington, D.C.
With more than 50 wines by the glass, the D.C. wine bar Cork is a fine place to break bread and pay your respect to Dionysus, god of the grape harvest, in simple solitude. Sure, they have dishes to share, but no one says you have to! Prices at Cork are very reasonable, too, with plenty of small plates, cheeses, and charcuterie, and most hot offerings coming in at under $20. Food and wine pairings and wine flights just might make this casual Logan Circle joint your new local.
The Squeaky Bean, Denver, Colorado
Solitary game-seekers will want to head to the Squeaky Bean for their Bingo Brunch, held every Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 to 2:00 PM. As its name implies, the proprietors at the Squeaky Bean have a healthy sense of whimsy, but they take their food seriously, with flavor and presentation at the forefront. But it is the thought of turning my table over in an explosion of excitement as I yell, “BINGO!” with a mouth full of grits that has me excited. And if brunch isn’t your thing, don’t fret. Chef Theo Adley’s contemporary American (“progressive-seasonal”) fare will have you yelling “Bingo!” at lunch and dinner, too.
The Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis, Minnesota
You won’t want to leave the Twin Cities without first enjoying some contemporary Nordic cuisine. The farm-to-table experience at The Bachelor Farmer (actually, it’s more like roof-to-table, as their farm is located atop the historic brick-and-timber building) will surely root your greens. Paul Berglund’s highly seasonal menu changes daily but stays true to its Minnesotan origins with the likes of fresh organic salads, duck confit, fried shallots, baked eggs, market fish and pork wieninleike. Plus, their cozy seats at the bar are reserved specifically for walk-ins, making this an inviting destination just for you. [Photo by Hanna Voxland]
One Midtown Kitchen, Atlanta, Georgia
Whether you take your place at the bar, at the expansive open kitchen, or at a table on the charming patio, Atlanta’s One Midtown Kitchen will make your feel at ease. There is plenty to soak in here among the hustle and flow of this spacious room in a renovated warehouse across from Piedmont Park. The restaurant’s small and large plates feature the freshest seasonal ingredients and wood-fired cooking that has been delighting ATL foodies with hearty American cuisine for more than a decade. The splendor of deviled eggs, okra, steak frites, crispy pork belly, and an award-winning wine list await you. Plus, their “Bottomless Wine Glass” special, with three price tiers to choose from, is great for the solo diner and pairs perfectly with an Uber back home.
Au Cinquième Péché, Montreal, Canada
Chef Benoit Lenglet’s award-winning Au Cinquième Péché dishes up a modern take on classic French cuisine prepared from local and seasonal offerings — calf’s sweetbread, monkfish, deer liver . . . seal! — as well as an extensive wine list that will dazzle the tongue and surprise the senses. In fact, it’s a place that might just make you want to call a friend to join you. But save that for your second visit. Dining solo will afford you massive bragging rights and a brain full of flavor-memories to last a lifetime.
What are some of your favorite eateries when you’re eating on your own? Tell us here or over on Facebook, G+, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, and help your solo-dining brothers and sisters find their next best table for one.
Michael Rice is a New York-based writer, musician, and food enthusiast whose work has taken him to China, Japan, and throughout the United States. You can follow him on Twitter @mricenyc.