Does dining alone make you nervous?
I for sure understand if it does! I’ve been dining around Austin and writing about it for years now (it’s literally a huge part of my job!) and I only recently discovered how to master the art of solo dining.
I’ve been blogging for 6 years. I run three different websites and I’ve written a book and I’ve been to hundreds of restaurants and bars and coffee shops and food trucks in Texas…
…and I’ll be honest with you: for the first 5 of those 6 years, I never ate alone.
Crazy, right? Even if there was a restaurant I desperately wanted to check out, I would rather just not go out to eat than suffer through the awkwardness of dining solo.
But in the past year, things have changed and I’ve embraced dining solo. In fact, I absolutely love it and I do it as often as possible.
Here's what changed to help me love solo dining
1. I’ve stopped giving a f*%& about what people think. Is this part of turning thirty, perhaps? I simply don’t care if someone watches me eat alone and thinks it’s sad or lonely or weird. I. Don’t. Care.
2. I’ve also realized that people aren’t actually thinking about me. Ahhh, a blissful thing to realize! Why do we all assume everyone is obsessed with us? When I’m dining at a restaurant with Nate, I’m not looking around the room at everyone else and wondering why there’s that lone 45-year-old woman eating by herself at the bar. Of course not! I’m enjoying my meal with Nate and talking to him! Why did I always assume anyone gave a rat’s ass what I was doing as a solo person at a restaurant? People just don’t think about me as much as my brain tells me they do, and that’s a wonderful thing to know.
3. My own personal world has gotten a lot…louder. Two toddler boys are loud. Our house is loud. The car is loud with children and the Peppa Pig soundtrack. My. Life. Is. Loud. Sometimes, I just don’t want to talk. I want silence, and I want to think and taste and listen. Solo dining is perfect for that.
4. Dining with someone else takes longer, and my time is more limited now than it was a few years ago. I looove eating with other people, obviously! I go on dates with my closest friends, I dine out with Nate all the time, and I meet up for happy hour drinks and networking coffees. But if I’m dining with someone, I typically have to plan ahead, find a free night, yada yada.. Dining alone can be spontaneous, quick, and very rewarding.
Practical tips to help you enjoy going out to eat by yourself
How to dine solo: you go to a restaurant by yourself, and you eat the food. That’s it.
Ok, but all cheekiness aside, here are a few things that have helped me get rid of the awkwardness of solo dining:
1. If it’s your first time, feel free to bring a crutch. A book, a kindle, or some airpods can help you look and feel busy. I think that the best solo dining is when I keep my phone out of sight and I don’t bring any crutches like my kindle, but it honestly took me a while to get to that point.
2. If you feel weird at a table alone, eat at the bar. Eating at the bar is a FABULOUS way to dine at a great restaurant! There’s typically a single bar stool available, so you can squeeze in at a booked-out restaurant without a reservation. If you’re craving a fantastic dinner on a random Wednesday night but you have 1) no one to eat with and 2) no reservations, just head to a popular restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, ask if they have space for a party of 1 at the bar, and enjoy a fantastic meal and a glass of wine. Speaking of…
3. If you’re nervous, start with something to drink. Liquid courage works for first dates, whether it’s a date with someone else or a date with yourself. If you’re not used to spending that much time in your own company, start with a fun mocktail or a delicious glass of wine. Bonus: it gives you something to do (hold it in your hand, sniff it, swirl it, photograph it), and you don’t have to wait long for it to be delivered.
4. Chat with people if you feel like it! Dining at a table? Chat with your server every time he comes over to check on you. Eating at the bar? Get to know the person sitting next to you, or if it’s a quiet night, strike up a conversation with the bartender.
5. People watch. If you have a few minutes of time to spend between perusing the menu and waiting for your food to arrive, spend it by sitting, listening, and watching. (I KNOWWWW I know, some of you just cringed from the awkwardness of it all! I promise that it’s not that bad!) People watching in a busy restaurant has a meditative sense to it. It’s actually a really lovely way to find presence and stillness. (If you’ve ever tried meditating at home, you might know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t explored meditation, give it a try as a sort of “trial run” to solo dining.)
Eating at the bar is a FABULOUS way to dine at a great restaurant! There’s typically a single bar stool available, so you can squeeze in at a booked-out restaurant without a reservation.
I’m telling you: dining out solo is where it’s at. And I’m not talking about going to bars to intentionally meet people to date. I’m a happily married mom of two, and I can promise you that when I’m dining at a bar I’m mostly just hoping to sit alone in my own thoughts and appreciate the food and drinks.
(But if you want to pursue this as a way to meet someone…it definitely works for that, too!)
Those are my most practical tips for dining solo. If you’ve been hesitant to try it but you really want to, I hope this gives you the courage to go for it! I promise…nothing truly bad will happen. Literally the worst thing that will happen is feeling a little bit awkward, and we all have a 100% perfect record of feeling awkward and getting through it anyway. 😉 XO. You got this.
PS: the best restaurants in Austin for solo dining, and a list of new Austin restaurants you might want to try.