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Let's talk about eating alone!

San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
Level Contributor
67,790 posts
71 reviews
Let's talk about eating alone!

Lots of folks seem to be asking questions about how to handle evening meals, eating in restaurants, etc. when you are traveling solo.

I am sure that all of us handle this differently so perhaps we should have a top question to address this issue??

When I travel, exploring local cuisine(food and drink)is an important part of my preparation and enjoyment!

I like to read about it and ask questions on the local forums and read foodie web sites like www.chowhound.com

I sometimes make restaurant reservations in advance either myself, or by asking my hotel to help me. IF I don't have a reservation I have at least some ideas of where I'd like to stop,especially for at night. During the day I may be less planned and might just have possible ideas.

I chat with other folks in the restaurants or with my servers or with the owners depending on the type of place I'm in.

I don't bring a book to read because then I am not in the moment of enjoying the meal.

I am sure others feel differently so perhaps we could all write our experiences and then have this thread added to the Top Questions?

103 replies to this topic
San Diego...
Level Contributor
5 posts
5 reviews
1. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

I love to buy food from a market or take away stand and sit in a park or other appropriate area & eat it. Someone almost always ends up chatting with me as I dine, usually locals or other tourists with great suggestions & "don't miss" destinations.

Adelaide, Australia
Level Contributor
2,061 posts
65 reviews
2. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

When I am solo I tend to eat a main meal in the daytime for lunch. Its keeps me going through the day. I like to be in my hotel room at night so I will grab something at a railway station or locally to take back to my hotel. I love exploring supermarkets in foreign countries. In America they have cheese in tubes and peanut butter cookies. In China they had yummy soy milk drinks and blue eggs in no cartons. I spend an hour or more in the local supermarket, getting snacks and drinks for my backpack. In Italy one night I ran back to my room very fast with a 2 litre tub of pistachio gelati. No I didnt eat it all.....well most of it. Its so much fun to be a grown up- now I can eat anything I want for dinner.

But its not all sugar for me...I do find little restaurants and ask them to make me something. I am gluten free so sometimes its a hassle finding something to eat anywhere. Often I cant find anything and have to settle on a tub of yogurt and some nuts. It doesnt bother me to eat in a dining room alone. But I prefer to go back to my room after a long day and write my blog do my washing and plan for tomorrow......

Ottawa, Canada
Level Contributor
12,232 posts
155 reviews
3. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

The foodie gene skipped from my mother to my kids :-) I actually have to take photos of food for them...but it is a challenge to remember to do this. So meals in restaurants are not a priority. Yes, I will check if there are local delicacies because that is part of what makes the culture; but I don't do a lot of planning for a meal. I might make the effort once on a trip, but I am more likely to cruise a market or grocery store for delicacies and eat in a park, on the run, or in my room (the reason why I like to rent apartments). I also have gluten issues, so another reason why choosing alternatives I can control work for me. If I decide to do a specific restaurant, like Astrid and Gaston in Lima, then I tend to go for late lunch. Cheaper, better suits my hunger schedule and less chance of looking obviously on my own.

I really rarely go out for evening meals, but then I don't eat out much at home either. I either have chosen a lodging with a restaurant and just eat there because I am lazy, or bring something in. If I use the restaurant, I have a book for waiting. When the meal comes, I do give it my attention as I make a point of having something local or unique. The focus on it means one enjoys it more and facing down means not feeling self conscious or awkward. If I do decide to eat out, then I will make the effort to accept the server's queries and ask for recommendations for meals and wine...because ideally they won't be overly busy. I hate not getting service, or being seated in a bad location and just ignored - whether on my own or with others - and would rather just avoid it all together than have to either suffer through it or leave and risk the same treatment.

london
Destination Expert
for Zambia, Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park
Level Contributor
5,860 posts
4. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

I go quite often to supper clubs in London, particularly one that my friend runs. I've noticed a fair few solo travellers at those, sometimes tourists, sometimes people in London on business. Lots of solo London residents too. If you want to meet people, I think that would be a great option.

There was an interesting article in the Evening Standard recently about eating at the counter- if you are a foodie and fancy eating at in demand restaurants, it seems like a good way to get a table without a booking-

standard.co.uk/goingout/restaurants/counter-…

I went to one of the restaurants in the Shard recently and noticed quite a few solo diners at the counter.

San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
Level Contributor
67,790 posts
71 reviews
5. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

In New York City it is also quite common to eat at the bar area of a restaurant.

You can usually get the full menu and there will be other solo travelers doing the same thing!

kent
Destination Expert
for Kent, Solo Travel
Level Contributor
14,658 posts
141 reviews
6. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

For me, one of the pleasures of a trip is the food. I'll eat pretty much anything ( except offal...shudder!!) .

So for some trips I take a cooking class, book supper clubs like stokeygirls has suggested, wine tours, tapas or other food tours, cream tea (had a cream tea in Bali once... sublime.. all those cakes and no one to watch my calories for me). Great for both good food and good company too.

Sharing food is a very hospitable activity, so I enjoy communal tables for street food. They may be a bit "rough and ready" but the food is hot, cooked to order and everyone gets scrunched up on benches to tuck in... leading to many an animated conversation... or just collective sighs of appreciation!

I try to eat seasonally or regionally too, and will do some research before I go. The local forums are great for recommendations, especially for local specialities, or Easter/Christmas/ festival foods.

On some longer trips, or in very hot climates, I do get weary, and can happily slump in a shaded garden/street pavement, and have a long leisurly lunch just watching the world go by.

If I'm out during the day, I generally have maps, books etc, and get these out during lunch, but in the evenings, I am aiming to unwind, so I'm happy to sit back, chat to staff and look at what other people are eating... which may (or may not....) be worth ordering. I also tend to eat later in the evenings, so staff don;t rush me, or I don't feel compelled to eat up and go.

I've got over that uncomfortable feeling of walking into a place and asking for a table for 1, but it does take confidence (and hunger) to ask for a good table and just relax.

Amsterdam, The...
Level Contributor
16,943 posts
7. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

It really depends on which country I am in and the hotel culture there. In Africa and Asia many hotels have restaurants inside them, in Malawi for example it's usually a very convivial place where people play games in the daytime, and strangers share tables and eat meals together in the evening and in the morning, getting to know eah other.

In Latin America lots of hotels also have dorm rooms and shared kitchens to use and a lounge/living room, I sometimes make my own meals there and it's easy to get chatting with other people. Or I eat out.

In Europe it's different, people keep to themselves a bit more. I tend to eat a big long lunch (or lots of tapas yummm), and a small dinner. Waiters / waitresses can be quite chatty when I eat alone.

Or I just eat some snacks for dinner in my apartment or hotel, depending on how early I got up / whether I'm tired from a long day of sightseeing.

Or I eat dinner with locals or other travelers I met.

I always have a book/e-reader with me, my holidays are times when I finally get to read a lot of books, which I love doing. While waiting for food to arrive it's a lovely way to spend some time, but I do also look up many times and people-watch... As always when reading.

Edited: 14 August 2015, 01:43
England, United...
Destination Expert
for Somerset, Solo Travel, Exmoor National Park
Level Contributor
34,513 posts
111 reviews
8. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

Like Susie (who described what I like to do perfectly) and Magpie too I like to find some good home cooked food in a market or deli and sit out with it so I can people watch.

When at a cafe or restaurant I will eat outside so I can people watch, look around at the architecture and surroundings to see if there's anything I should investigate, look at my map and plans, check through my photos, write in a journal if it's with me.

I find eating outside people are more inclined to chat among each other, swap ideas, plans or experiences. Even staff will stop a little longer to enjoy being outside in the middle of a hectic day.

I will usually ask for recommendations on the forums and eat my main meal at lunch time. Going out in the evening to eat is very low on my enjoyment list.

Being at an hotel is a luxury for me being able to lay on a bed and watch TV, read or listen to a play on my Mp3 and have coffee and tea to hand without feeling I should get up and do some chore or activity that needs doing which is what happens at home.

So I too take stuff back to my room for supper and by the time I've checked my photos, written my journal, had a bath/shower Its time to sleep. I'm away on a longed for trip and am keener to be up and off to the exciting places I;ve planned for a while and unexpected delights I hadn't planned.

Edited: 14 August 2015, 05:20
Milwaukee
Destination Expert
for Milwaukee
Level Contributor
11,938 posts
63 reviews
9. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

I frequently eat at the bar in restaurants in the USA. It often results in conversation. I find that many regulars are having a drink before or after dinner and often provide travel info or local color. Bartenders are often fun to talk with too.

Wales, United...
Destination Expert
for Bargain Travel, Cruises, Swansea, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Neath, Port Talbot
Level Contributor
72,954 posts
476 reviews
10. Re: Let's talk about eating alone!

I do all sorts of things when I'm away on my own. I may grab a bar meal, some kind of street or fast food, or even enjoy a three course evening meal in a restaurant by myself. It depends on my mood, where I am, and what's available. I seldom make any arrangements in advance, and luckily I'm quite comfortable eating on my own anywhere!

I do like eating outside in a warm climate, I do find people to be a bit more chatty outside, and if I don't feel sociable, i;ll take a magazine or even a tourist guide or brochure and read that. These days, a wifi capable device fullfils a lot of roles!

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