Lesson #15: How to Eat at a Restaurant Alone

by Rachel on August 16, 2010

I’ve been making a major point to jump right into life in Houston, and start discovering the city through my eyes, not Eric’s. And really, that means discovering the city through my mouth. So on Friday I did what I do best and made some friends via the Internet! I started following as many #Houston #foodies as I could find and then tweeted, “Where do I want to have my first Houston foodgasm?” The foodies responded and before I knew it, I had a restaurant recommendation!

What I didn’t have was a dinner date! Eric had already eaten and was meeting up with his friends for a drink. So…I decided that I’d take myself on a hot date. I know a lot of people think eating alone is crazy/terrifying, but really, it’s not. Let me show you how it’s done.

Step One: Want it? Then get it.

When you decide to eat alone, do it because you must have that food right now. My motivation on Friday was hunger plus craving, plain and simple. When you’re going to eat alone, you have to do it because you want that restaurant so badly that you can’t settle for staying in. My restaurant of choice Friday night was Beavers Houston.

The BBQ looked good and the double entendres (“We’re just south of Hooters”) weren’t half bad.

Step Two: Confidence!

I’m sure you knew this was coming, but going out to dinner alone is all about confidence. It’s completely a “fake it till ya make it” activity. You just have to act like you go out to eat alone all the time. “But what will people think of me?” I don’t know, when I see someone eating alone, I think she got hungry. Maybe she is in town on business and doesn’t want to eat in her hotel room. Maybe she is just taking a break during the work day. Oh wait…it must be that she is a total loser with no friends/a huge fattie. (Seriously, no one thinks that. And if you think that, then stop thinking like such a jerk.)

When I got to Beavers, I told the hostess I wanted a table for one and didn’t bat an eye…and neither did she. I had to wait for about 40 minutes by myself, and I never felt weird or awkward for being alone. When I was seated at my table for one, I didn’t act uncomfortable. I read the menu, checked my phone in appropriate amounts, and just took it all in. I mean, it was a Friday night. There was good people watching.

Step Three: Impress your date.

When you are taking yourself on a date, you have to treat yourself right! I started off by asking my date if she wanted a drink. She did. She ordered the El Diablo (tequila, black currant liqueur, lime, and the house ginger beer). I told her she could get an appetizer if  she wanted, so she went for the fried pickles, as she’d never had them before.

(I know…not a cheap date.)

When you’re out alone, get what you want.

Step Four: Whip it out (your camera that is).

You don’t have to, but if you can whip out a big black camera and start snapping shots your food, people will make up a back story for you, and then suddenly your confidence becomes clear to the other diners. Of course she’s eating alone. She’s important. We don’t know how or why or for what exactly, but she just looks…important.

But, I’m not really. Or I guess what I’m trying to say is, everyone has the right to eat alone. So act like you have the right to eat alone — or make yourself feel like you have that right with the help of some hefty props.

When I got my camera out to photograph my entree, the three fratty dudes on a bro date at the table next to me just sort of stared in awe. Had I been intimidated by anyone in the restaurant, it would have been three fratty dudes on a bro date. But they just sort of gaped in shock and then one said, “Is it that good?” I just batted my eyelashes and said, “I write about food…I really love food.” (Girls, if you’re ever afraid to eat in front of guys, don’t be! I think any of them would have joined me at that point, they were so delighted/turned on by the fact that a woman could actually love food enough to eat it alone and in public.)

Step Five: Don’t worry about what you’ll do.

Oh my goodness, that meal was good! You know, before I went, I was kinda wondering if I should take something to do like a book. But then I realized what I’d be doing was eating. I spent a lot of time looking over the menu (it was long and it was really hard to decide what I wanted). And when my food came, I spent a lot of time eating it.

I mean, really, how often do we eat really good food alone with no distractions? Even when we eat really good food at a restaurant, we usually have a slightly distracting companion. But to eat in a restaurant alone means you really taste your food.

And this was some good food to taste! The house potato chips were my favorite part, but the shredded pork was really great too. The whole plate was just foodgasmic, and I think being alone made it even better. I didn’t have anything to think about except how delicious it was, and whether or not I should order Beaver Balls for dessert.

Ultimately, I didn’t order the Balls, because I was full enough. But really, I was just so satisfied. I was so happy and also really pleased that I had pushed myself outside my comfort zone a little. I mean, not only did I find my way to a new place without getting too lost, but I also jumped right in to this new city and started tasting everything it has to offer, all by myself.

So if you’ve been too afraid to do it thus far, trust me when I say you should most definitely eat alone sometime. It’s good food with an awesome date; what more could you ask for?

{ 22 comments }

1 whit August 16, 2010 at 7:47 am

eating alone is one of those activities, much like going to the movies alone, that I used to think I would be a terrible loser if I did, when in fact it is quite enjoyable.

how is that for a run on sentence?

2 Rachel August 16, 2010 at 7:56 am

It’s true! I’ve done the movies alone before, kind of in the same case — I wanted to see that movie SO BADLY. And really, it’s not a big deal!

3 Carly August 16, 2010 at 9:54 am

i actually prefer going to the movies alone… no one else to worry about (“is she annoyed she let me pick?” “does he think this part is as funny as i do?” “are they going to think i’m lame for thinking that this is seriously deep?”) and it’s much easier to find a seat (i’m a middle of the theater kind of girl).

you would know, rachel! i would disappear for hours on end from the sorority house, seeing those double features!

4 Rachel August 16, 2010 at 9:56 am

Well hello there, old friend!

I agree on the movie thing. I feel like that’s the reason I never see movies…I can never find someone with the same taste in movies as me! I need to just suck it up and go when I want to see something. Why bother waiting for the DVD?

But not gonna lie, Carly, I thought when you disappeared for hours on end from SK it was doing something far more illicit than seeing double features.

5 Bridget@PavementandPlants August 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

I go out to eat by myself a lot and didn’t realize it was odd until my mother was horrified when I told her. It’s true-if you look confident people don’t even think twice. If you look nervous and self-conscious, people are going to stare.

I never had fried pickles until TX either. Some places I love them, others not so much.

6 Di August 16, 2010 at 8:44 am

A few years ago I’d never be caught eating out by myself because I thought it was a total loser thing to do (emphasis on the past tense there). I still don’t do it too often, mostly because I try not to spend a ton of money going out, but I did it. For breakfast. On my way to the airport. And — *gasp* — it was no big deal. I’ve also conquered my fear of going to the movies alone. Hello, it’s a movie, who talks during it anyway?

Great tips!
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7 Rachel's Mom August 16, 2010 at 8:46 am

Dare I ask what “Beaver Balls” are?

8 gretchen August 16, 2010 at 9:48 am

I am considering a move to a new city where I’ve never lived before and where I know absolutely no one, and although I’ve done this before I’m still kind of nervous! But it’s exactly this kind of attitude that allowed me to thrive in a new place before and that’s what will help me do it again. It’s all about attitude–if people see confidence in you (even if it’s just bravado), they believe it. Once you get past the initial freaking out, taking a walk and exploring a new place or eating by yourself or seeing a movie or WHATEVER, it is just not a big deal at all! Thank you for the reminder!

9 Rachel August 16, 2010 at 9:49 am

Awww that makes me happy to read!! I hope you absolutely go for it in your new city!

10 Jaclyn August 16, 2010 at 10:00 am

There’s a vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Orlando that I take myself to whenever I want to have a private celebration or when I want to have one of those glorious days where I’m just nice to myself. I’m not even a fan of Chinese food, but that particular place does it SO WELL, and it’s hard to get my carnivorous friends to go there, so when I go, it’s all about me! I love it every time and I don’t even worry about what people think. It’s liberating!

Also, I love fried pickles within every inch of my soul. It’s a real southern thing. You have to try fried pickle chips (slices) when you get a chance. They’re always way better than the fried pickle quarters, although the ones in your picture do look awesome!

11 Rachel Marlena August 16, 2010 at 10:59 am

Jaclyn I was just about to tell her the SAME thing — fried pickles in general are divine but fried pickle SLICES are heaven in your mouth.

I find going to movies alone much easier than eating alone, because what I love about eating out is part food but more socialization. I do it, but I usually bring a book because I find myself looking for something to do besides just EAT (I’m such a damn multi-tasker…it’s ridic).

Glad you are having a blast in the new city!

12 Jess-The Semi Abnormal Gal August 16, 2010 at 9:50 pm

I’m an only child who isn’t afraid to visit/move to cities by herself, so I eat out alone frequently. I enjoy it to be honest, it gives me time with my thoughts and my food and I don’t have to worry about getting sauce on my lip. The important things in life, ya know?

13 Laryssa August 18, 2010 at 10:48 am

This post made me smile big. As much as I love sharing meals with family and friends, sometimes I absolutely want/need a certain meal and can’t be bothered to wait for a companion. There’s a certain voyeuristic quality to eating alone too, especially in a crowded restaurant on a Friday night. You are part of the crowd but somehow floating above it. When I’m with a friend, sometimes I find it hard to concentrate because I just want to people watch or savor every bite of my meal. Alone, I can spy on the other diners as much as I want!

14 Sheena Olivia August 19, 2010 at 11:02 pm

It’s funny you wrote this! I’ve been eating (as well as doing a number of other fun things) alone for a couple years now! I’ve even wrote a chapter in a book I’ve been working on all about learning to do things on your own. I love that you did it!

15 Girly Guns n Cannons January 20, 2011 at 2:34 am

I thought this poem was pretty awesome..

I love the last line: “Be a testament”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs

16 van025 May 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm

Great tips
I am usually lack of self-confident to go to restaurant alone and I’m so afraid og meeting my close friends or my collegues here.But These tips can motivate me to go to restaurant alone and enjoy which dishes I like there
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17 Caroline July 31, 2011 at 10:08 am

Inspired! I’m going to get dressed up, put on actual make-up, and take myself out tonight! :)

18 Angel Bonin October 13, 2011 at 11:20 am

Thank you so much for this!!! I am single and going to Houston next month and do not want to miss out on all the fantastic restaurants while I am there.

I always travel alone and tend to eat in my room or on the road and I’m a pro at doing movies alone but this is the next big step! Might have to check out Beavers!!!

19 Vanessa July 3, 2012 at 11:15 am

I travel to Houston weekly and have done this for years now. I eat out alone often. For the most part, depending on the restaurant, it’s a nice experience. I love to people watch anyway and I’m sure others do as well. I could write a funny book on the things I see people do in a restaurant.

20 Anirudh Bahadur February 17, 2013 at 7:15 am

Awesome read this was. I live in New Delhi, India and I go out alone to quite expensive restaurants all by myself, all the time. I am kind of a loner so I like the experience. But I mostly do that when I am feeling extremely low about myself. By taking myself to a good place to eat, it does elevate my mood at times.
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21 John July 26, 2013 at 10:46 pm

I notice many of the people posting are female.Is it any different for a guy to eat alone? Not being sexist, I am just wondering.

22 Margo September 27, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Did it just tonight. All my friends told me I’d be weird and I should just go to Chipotle. Nope, instead I dressed to the nines and went to an Italian restaurant and ate all by myself and it was one of the most amazing, liberating experiences I’ve ever had. And no one made a comment, no one gave me a second glance.
If you want to, do it. There’s nothing stopping you besides yourself.

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