Table for One: How to Make the Most of Eating Alone

Whether you're new to a city, newly single or a new empty nester, take note of these tips on how to luxuriate in a solo meal from someone who's more than happy to ask for a table for one.

Japanese ramen soup with chicken, egg, chives and sprout on dark wooden background.

Japanese Ramen Soup

Japanese ramen soup with chicken, egg, chives and sprout on dark wooden background.

Photo by: iStock/tbralnina

iStock/tbralnina

There are small luxuries in life that don't cost a fortune — a nice bubble bath, for example — and others that will break the bank. Dining alone at home or at a restaurant definitely falls on the less-of-an-investment side of the spectrum, so why not take the stigma out of solo eating and embrace the indulgence of doing just what you like at the table? Think of it as a luxury you're partaking in instead of just a meal to get through. Here's how:

Truly Make It a Meal Time

I'll be the first to admit that I've made a "meal" out of three crackers, some cheese, a folded up piece of salami and a spoonful of hummus. But if you eat this way regularly, mealtime will definitely get you down. Treat yourself and your meal with the respect that the French have for dining! Cook a meal with proportions that are easy to adjust or store for leftovers. Chicken, fish and pasta all fit the bill. Sit at a table that you've set for yourself and take your time eating. There's no need to rush or jump up from the table every thirty seconds to grab something for someone else.

Avoid the Unhealthy Pitfalls

The truth of the matter is, it's all too easy to make bad decisions when no one else is there to hold you accountable for your cheeses. I mean choices! People tend to ditch the fruits and vegetables when they're eating for one, so be conscious of what it is you're eating and how much of it. Salads are very easy to scale to a single portion, so if other veggies seem burdensome, fall back on fresh greens. You'll feel very proud of yourself. Promise.

Take Yourself Out to a Meal

Many people are intimidated by the thought of sitting at a table in a restaurant by themselves. But I promise you, no one else is paying as much attention to you as you are. Other diners are not going to pity you if you are enjoying yourself. There are loads of restaurant roundups that will tell you the best spots for solo dining. Do a search for "best restaurants for eating alone" in your area, and I guarantee your fellow singles have already scouted out the best spots.

Eat at the Bar

If you've done some research and still feel sheepish about eating at a restaurant by yourself, pick a place that has a nice bar. Sitting at the bar for dinner is inconspicuous and probably where you will meet some like-minded diners if you're interested in some conversation. One of my best restaurant "secrets" is that fancy restaurants often have bar menus that are much less expensive than their full menu, but since they're coming out of the same kitchen, they're just as delicious! Certain types of restaurants lend themselves to convivial bar-style dining like sushi spots, ramen noodle restaurants and tapas bars.

Ditch the Smartphone

Okay, I know this sounds like crazy-talk. What are you supposed to do with yourself if you're alone and you have no smartphone to scroll through?! Breathe. It's going to be fine. Give yourself your own personal tech time-out at the meal. Take a chance to disconnect from the electric world and embrace the physical one. Connect with yourself and others around you by people watching. It's one of the best mental sports you can play. If you don't know what else to do, indulge in a book that you've been meaning to read. The same advice stands if you're at home or at a restaurant. Paying attention to your phone means you're not paying attention to just how delicious the food in front of you is.

Bring a Pen and Paper

If you're a burgeoning foodie or just like to keep track of delicious dishes, bring along a pen and some paper. If you're inspired by what you've eaten, use your pad to take notes on the food. I like to make to-do lists when I'm eating alone. It's a time when my mind isn't being pulled in a million different directions and I can focus on what I need to get done. Organizing my brain clutter while I'm enjoying a meal makes me feel super productive. If you're a journal-er, this is the perfect time to write a few pages.

Make It a Date Night with Yourself

If you've gotten this far in the list and you're still not sold on flying solo, let me suggest you treat yourself to a date night for one. Cook something (or order something) that's just for you. There's no need to see if anyone else is up for Chinese or if there are any vetoes on your hankering for a Hawaiian pizza. Whatever your personal extravagance is, choose it for yourself. Set it up on the coffee table. Maybe add a candle and a glass of wine. Put on your comfy pants, and start binging your favorite show. A night like this will help you associate eating alone with something positive you're doing for yourself and may just change your point of view.

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