Here are 20 + tips To master eating alone, especially as a solo traveler!
Eating alone often elicits the same bewildered response as traveling solo.
“Isn’t it lonely? boring? EMBARRASSING?”
“I could NEVER!!!!”
“Are your friends busy? They must be busy.”
Right. Because who in their right mind would EVER choose to eat alone? After all, eating is a shared experience…no, a shared ritual in most corners of the world. Meals were made to be enjoyed amongst family, conversations, and laughter. So what sense would it make to eat alone, especially in public?
Admittedly, I’ve lost count of how many restaurants I’ve dined in alone. I’ve sat on romantic balconies in the highlands of Guatemala and French brasseries in central Paris…alone. Just me. Table for one. Despite the many meals I’ve enjoyed alone, I still get a twinge of anxiety every time I enter a crowded restaurant one deep. A string of fearful thoughts flood through my mind.
“I SWEAR I HAVE FRIENDS!”
“Here come the stares.”
“Should I just ,ummm…walk back outside?”
“Maybe room service will be better, easier, less awkward.”
But those fears quickly subside, because I’ll be damned if I miss out on a good meal because of what other people think of me. I actually like eating alone, traveling alone, and simply being alone. The truth is that there’s nothing weird about it. While it may be different than eating with others, it’s certainly not worse. In many ways, it can be better.
So, I’ve learned to look forward to eating alone. It’s a form of self-care and a gift to myself. It’s my time to unwind and reflect. It’s an opportunity to savor every bite of my food without distraction. It’s truly an art.
Here are my biggest tips to master the art of eating alone if you’re nervous about giving it a try:
This is the ultimate time to people watch. If you’re in Paris, sit outside of a cafe and watch chic Parisians stroll by. If you’re in Morocco, watch local families interact between meals. You can learn so much about a culture by simply sitting and observing the people. Be careful not to stare, while admiring the life that’s happening all around you. Request a seat in the back of the restaurant or against a wall, if you don’t feel comfortable being watched by others.
This is prime time for you to catch up on your travel journal. I’ve sat in many restaurants journaling my heart away. This will help you keep your mind off of the thought that people might be staring at you. Write about how you’re feeling, lessons you’ve learned, what you did, your goals, or whatever you desire.
It might seem unusual to pull out a book at the dinner table, but it’s the perfect way to distract yourself from what others may be thinking. It’s also the best time for you to start or finish any books that you’ve been reading. All of your worries about dining solo will subside once you really get into the book.
It’s perfectly acceptable to contact family and friends if you feel more comfortable doing so. You hardly get any down time when you’re traveling, so this is the perfect time to catch up with them! Call your parents or respond to those unanswered texts. Tell them about your meal, your day, or even how nervous yet proud you are to be eating alone.
The restaurant bar is one of the best places to meet other people, if that’s what you’re looking for. By sitting at the bar, you also avoid being seated in the middle of the restaurant on display. You can strike up a conversation with the bar tender or you can just sip on your margarita in silence. You might even be able to focus on the TV if there is one. For me, sitting at the bar has led to everything from new travel partners to free drinks!
Dining alone can be a radical form of self care if you embrace it. Instead of waiting for someone to take you out, do it yourself. It may seem counterproductive at first, but there’s no shame in treating yourself to a delicious meal. Treat yo’ self to an appetizer AND a desert!
Honestly, people are a distraction – a good one, but a distraction nonetheless. From personal experience, my food is usually cold by the time I finish talking to my friend over a meal. This is an opportunity to truly savor the moment and the food you’re eating. This is a way for you to eat mindfully and truly enjoy the food restaurant experience from start to finish.
No need to put on your Sunday’s best, but we all naturally feel good when we look good – whatever that may mean to you. There’s nothing worse than feeling underdressed and it’s ten times worse when you’re alone. Throw on something that makes you feel good about yourself. Search Instagram or Google Maps restaurant photos for common outfits in the restaurant you plan to visit.
Sure, people may stare, but you’ll never know if you can’t see them.
I know how awkward it can feel when others might be staring at you or making odd faces, but it’s crucial that you ignore them. “Whatever people think of you is none of your business.” People might snicker or stare for a few moments, then they’ll get back to eating their meals. Think about it this way – you’ll never see these strangers again, so why concern yourself with what they think of you? DO YOU, BOO! Savor that croissant, Revel in every drop of that red wine. Relax and enjoy the moment!
To avoid twiddling your thumbs as you wait for the server, preview the menu online(especially helpful with language barriers – use google translate) before hand so that you can order once the server comes. Ask for the bill before you finish eating to avoid waiting for the check.
If a glass of wine or beer will ease your nerves, then order one as soon as you plop down.
Let me tell you, there have been plenty of times when I looked around the restaurant and thanked GOD that I wasn’t sitting at some of the tables I saw. There’s always the girl who’s pissed at her boyfriend, the friends that haven’t spoken to each-other the whole time, the family with their heads buried in cell phones, etc. Remember that eating alone is alot better than suffering through a meal with terrible company.
The biggest benefit of dining alone is a shorter wait time. As a party of one, you’ll spend less time waiting and more time eating. You’re also more likely to score tables without a reservation. Here are a few tips for choosing a restaurant when you dine solo:
If you’re already nervous, the last thing you want to do is wander around aimlessly looking for a suitable restaurant. Do some research beforehand to ease the pressure in real time. Use Google maps to look at pictures of the restaurant and review opening times. You can also click on ‘About’ in Google Maps to see the atmosphere(i.e. casual, fancy, etc) and if it’s popular for ‘solo dining’!
Search for ‘The best restaurants in ‘X location’ for dining solo. For example, Here’s a list of the best restaurants for dining solo in NYC.
Waltzing into a buzzing restaurant at happy hour is hella intimidating. Start small and go for lunch or breakfast. The restaurant will be less crowded, so that means less eyes on you.
In general, it’s best to avoid peak dining teams in the beginning. You’re unlikely to see couples on dates or large birthday celebrations at at 9am or 2pm. It also helps to avoid weekends aka the busiest time of day if you can. You can check for the busiest dining times using Google Maps.
Let’s be real, it’s pretty awkward to sit in a fancy restaurant alone. If you aren’t ready to dive all the way off the deep end, then visit fancier restaurants during lunchtime. You’ll save money because you’ll get to eat off the lunch menu AND you’ll avoid being surrounded by couples & families. If you want to keep it more low-key around dinnertime, then visit a cafe or restaurant with bar seating.
If you’re comfortable dining with others, then choose a small restaurant. For starters, they’re much more cozy and intimate. There’s also a chance that you’ll be seated at a table with others. For example, many restaurants in San Fransisco simply don’t have the space for private tables. You’ll likely be rubbing elbows with the people next to you and this is a great way to feel less alone. Try a food-truck park or visit a coffee shop to dip your feet in the water.
Here are some ways you can join a group of travelers, if you’re not ready to eat completely alone or if you’d simply like to meet people. This is an incredible way to curate unforgettable food experiences, learn more about authentic cuisine directly from local hosts, and meet like-minded people along the way.
I absolutely LOVE Airbnb experiences because you can sign up for unique experiences hosted by locals. It’s one of the best ways to get off the beaten path and tailor your travel experiences to your specific interests.
Last year I signed up for a Traditional Three Course Tuscan Lunch in Tuscany, Italy and it absolutely blew my mind. There is no way I could have organically created this experience for myself. Two friendly Italians welcomed myself and a group of strangers into their Tuscan farm house for the best meal of my life. I had a blast learning more about Italian food, stuffing my face, and getting to know the other travelers from around the world.
You can search for food related experiences like cooking classes or locally hosted dinners like this Paella cooking class in Barcelona, this Mexico City taco tour, and this best croissants in Paris tour.
From dining on a houseboat in Amsterdam to making pasta from scratch in Chicago, you can use Eat With to feast with local hosts from around the world.
You also can use meal sharing to enjoy home-cooked meals around the world!
Hey, I'm Ciara. I’m a global citizen and lover of travel. Want to know more?
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