When you travel (and especially travelling alone) it’s really easy to fall into the trap of eating in familiar places and not venturing out to find some local cuisine!
Eating alone in a restaurant is definitely a weird experience at first. It can be uncomfortable to see people with their friends + family and you are…alone. Don’t let that tempt you to get fast food and eat in your hotel room. You must explore + experience the local food!
Bring a book, magazine, iPad or laptop. You’ll feel more uncomfortable if you have to sit in silence with no purpose. Sometimes I bring things and never touch them because I caught up people watching (read: people staring). It can be surprisingly refreshing to sit in silence.
Ask to sit a table. Sure plenty of places serve a full menu at the bar, but unless you want to feel pressured to talk to the bartender or fellow barmates, ask for a table and don’t feel bad about it. I felt bad about it up until recently because I could be taking up a table that a larger party could be seated at…you don’t have to apologize for being a paying patron, just tip appropriately!
Feel comfortable to ask your waiter questions about the menu or local area. Waiters are a wealth of knowledge and I find they are generally more talkative when I’m by myself. Don’t ask me why, but I feel like they recoginize you might be on business and want to show you the best of the area. Just because you might be the only “party of one” in a restaurant doesn’t mean that they don’t see that everyday.
It’s one of the best ways to learn about the culture. Whether you are in New York City or Mexico City – it’s a great way to see the culture and what’s important to the people there. Do they sit in silence? Do they have long conversations over coffee and dessert? How do the children at the restaurant behave? Do the other diners speak softly or do they speak loud and animated? You can learn a ton as a restaurant observer.
A few of my favorite ways to find new restaurants are the Yelp app and exploring The Food Network online. I do have to say I’m a sucker for pictures so I like to know what the atmosphere is like and can have a real feel for where I’m going and to see if I’d feel comfortable going alone. Nothing like going to a romantic restaurant by YOURSELF to make you feel homesick. I also love checking in on Foursquare so I can get tips from past diners and keep track of where I have been. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite restaurants here.
Have you gone to a restaurant by yourself? Did you feel confident or uncomfortable?