The Art of Dining Alone

March 27, 2015

The Art of Dining Alone - Sweet and Savoring

I almost forgot what it was like to eat in a restaurant by myself. Dining alone is a skill for all women to master, and it’s one we should practice with our heads held high. On my recent week-long solo vacation, I dined alone in a restaurant several times and each one was its own sort of sociological experiment on myself.

Sometimes, I’m a bit nervous and more self-conscious than I’d like to admit. It seems that this happens more if I am dining alone in my own country as opposed to a foreign one.

Sometimes I have a book to read. I almost always have a journal to write in. And recently, I’ve had a screen to swipe at, which takes me entirely out of the experience I’m trying to inhabit. Mindlessly checking social media is the antithesis of what I want to be doing as a solo traveler.

The Art of Dining Alone - Sweet and Savoring

The art of solo dining, then, is all about being in the present moment: sitting with oneself, having no one to interact with except your server. It’s about the chance to sit back and observe all that happens around you: fellow diners, the restaurant staff, the street life outside the window.

Dining alone is also about truly savoring your meal. Pay attention to each bite. Notice the textures and colors, or lack thereof, on your plate. Practice mindful chewing; don’t rush yourself. Take small sips of water, feel the coolness in your throat.

Remember to sit up straight, shoulder back, head up. You are a woman eating alone, and there is no shame in that. Others may look at you with pity: That poor woman, with no one to go out with. Or they may be envious: I wish I had the guts to eat out all alone. She’s so brave. They may be intrigued: Who is this woman who so unabashedly commands her own table, who smiles so warmly at the waitress, who emits no hint of self-consciousness?

(That last woman is you)

One more thing: definitely order dessert.

The Art of Dining Alone - Sweet and Savoring


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  • Sue March 27, 2015 at 9:16 am

    Full disclosure: I’ve never eaten alone in a restaurant. But I *have* thought of you on various occasions and admired your bravery. And please tell me what that dessert is because OMG.

    • Christy March 27, 2015 at 4:10 pm

      The dessert is a mango strudel, I think? At least that’s what I tagged it on Flickr. It’s not from Seattle, it’s from Costa Rica- I rushed myself too much this morning to look through recent pictures as well as Flickr ones!
      Thanks, sis 🙂

  • Linda March 27, 2015 at 10:23 am

    Love this post! What a great idea with lots of helpful tips.
    And even more, I’ve loved reading your blog!!! You are so conversational in your writing, it’s like you are sitting across my kitchen table telling me all your stories and I’m laughing or squirming right along with you. Love you cousin, you are so strong, wise, and brave. <3

    • Christy March 27, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      Aw thanks so much, Lin! I appreciate this so a lot and I’m glad my writing comes across that way! Also glad that we can connect across the miles 🙂

  • Farin Vazquez March 27, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    I always feel like there are two camps I fall in…. if it’s a warm sunny day and I’m in an outdoor cafe, I’m fine. But when it’s dinnertime and I happen to be going to dinner alone, I’ll grab it to go. Crazy how being out and about during the daytime is fine, but at night we feel so judged for being without an ‘escort’.

    • Christy March 27, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Outdoor cafes are great too! I know what you mean about the daytime/nighttime alone double standard- like lunch is so much more acceptable to see a woman alone, for some reason.

  • Jill March 27, 2015 at 3:44 pm

    I have done it before but I always feel kind of awkward and then end up burying myself in my phone!

    • Christy March 28, 2015 at 8:16 am

      I’ve definitely had those moments, too, at which point I realize what I’m doing (usually) and put my phone down. I try to play observation games with myself like ‘if I was questioned by the police later, who or what details would I remember from this place?’ and that helps me refocus to the present moment.

  • Kerry March 27, 2015 at 6:44 pm

    I agree on getting dessert. I have always felt awkward eating along but it is a good idea to master the skill.

    • Christy March 28, 2015 at 8:22 am

      I promise, the more you eat out alone, the easier it’ll get and the less awkward you’ll feel. You’ll start to feel empowered after awhile and that’s such a great feeling!

  • Becca March 27, 2015 at 8:58 pm

    I agree on getting dessert… savor the full experience. I enjoy “people watching” so an outdoor cafe is the way to go for me. I always have my eReader with me so if I do feel a little self-conscious, I have a good book to savor.

    • Christy April 1, 2015 at 11:41 pm

      I think as women we don’t treat ourselves to dessert often enough 🙂 And I hear you on the e-reader; I’ve often thought one of those would make a nice addition to my travel essentials!

  • Rea March 27, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    I AGREE. COMPLETELY. I’m proud to say that I’m always a solo-diner. And I’m not ashamed of it. Not even nervous or anxious when eating alone. I think everyone has to have that skill. I also actually wrote something about this before. One of my trainees said that he doesn’t like to eat alone because it’s so sad and that triggered me to write about it.
    Rea recently posted…SNAPSHOOTER: STREETMy Profile

    • Christy April 1, 2015 at 11:43 pm

      Yes! That’s awesome, Rea!

  • Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life March 27, 2015 at 10:05 pm

    I have eaten alone many times on business trips and I usually read or check my social media…and I kind of like the peace and solitude. Once though there was a table of really loud (but fun) women near me, and every once in a while I would look up and smile at something (you really couldn’t help but overhear). When I got up to leave I had to walk past their table and they all said to me “come have a drink with us, we know we were loud, we hope we weren’t bothering you” which was definitely not the case at all, as I have a group of friends who can get loud when we’re having fun too. I ended up joining them for a drink and it was fun. And on the other side of things, my group of friends have often had the same thing happen, where we invite someone who is sitting by themselves to join us at the end of the night. Anyway, I kind of got off track with that, didn’t I?! The real test is would I go out to eat by myself, here where I live, and I don’t think I would. Although I do go to the coffee shop and work sometimes and have lunch by myself…I don’t think that counts though…the place is full of people like me with their computers eating lunch. 🙂
    Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life recently posted…Gnocchi with Cabernet Cream Sauce and Braised Beef Short RibsMy Profile

    • Christy April 1, 2015 at 11:47 pm

      Ha, I love that you go off track! This is exactly what I hoped to read when I shared this post, so thank you, Michelle! It’s funny that it’s so much easier to eat out alone when we’re anonymous in a new city, but you’re totally right. I’ve been out to eat by myself once in my hometown, and it was a sit at the counter type of place, so almost doesn’t count 🙂 I love that you ended up joining those women for a drink! You never know what will come of going out alone!

  • Peggy Gilbey McMackin March 28, 2015 at 12:19 pm

    Wow Christy, your blog looks beautiful! I love the photos so sharp and clear. Eating alone as a woman. A very good topic and thoughtful tips, none of which I’ve ever consciously thought of when eating alone. I do however remember one occasion in Hong Kong where they set me dead center of the room surrounding a very busy restaurant. I admit worrying about dropping food from my chopsticks then.

    • Christy April 1, 2015 at 11:49 pm

      Thanks so much for your sweet words, Peggy! I admit that I’m always nervous about using chopsticks in a restaurant, and usually do mess up at one point. Ha. Not one of my best skills!

  • Keisha | The Girl Next Door is Black March 28, 2015 at 4:17 pm

    Great advice! I don’t hesitate to eat alone if I’m craving something and don’t have anyone to go with. I don’t like my choices to be limited by not having a sidekick. It’s interesting that mention feeling more self conscious at home vs while traveling. I’m the same.
    Keisha | The Girl Next Door is Black recently posted…Friday Five: Weekly Twitter Roundup 3/27/15My Profile

    • Christy April 1, 2015 at 11:53 pm

      Thanks, Keisha! I remember one of the first times I took myself out on a ‘date’, to dinner and a movie. I was in the East Village, all excited to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the second time, and so glad that I hadn’t waited around for someone to be available. I decided to just DO IT and that was really such a great turning point.

  • Katherine March 28, 2015 at 9:14 pm

    My mom and I were just talking about eating alone today! I think people tend to assume that eating alone coincides with no having friends or being a loner etc, but my mom was saying how it’s so important to be able to eat alone and to actually enjoy doing it! Dance classes have been taking over my life lately, so I’ve found myself eating alone ALL the time. At first I was really lonely, and I still am sometimes, but it’s actually something I’ve come to enjoy. Sometimes I do work, other times I people watch. I used to think I should be ashamed of eating alone, but I seriously LOVE doing it now. Dating yourself is very important 🙂

    Also, thank you so much for all your encouraging and terribly sweet comments on my blog. I’ve been SO busy these past few weeks, and I’ve only just caught up on your blog. Your comments ALWAYS bring a big smile to my face !!

    • Christy April 2, 2015 at 1:10 pm

      Sounds like your mom is an inspiring woman! People watching is one of my favorite things to do 🙂 You’re so welcome, Katherine! No worries about catching up, sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate!

  • Alex Hurst March 30, 2015 at 1:32 am

    I love eating alone at restaurants. It gives me a chance to fully enjoy the ambiance and people-watching without worrying if the person I’m with is enjoying their food or my choice of dining location. 🙂
    Alex Hurst recently posted…Archetypes: OutlawMy Profile

    • Christy April 2, 2015 at 1:13 pm

      Yes! I often find that I don’t pay enough attention to eating my food when I’m with someone else, since we’re caught up in, you know, interacting with each other 🙂

  • Charlotte March 30, 2015 at 12:37 pm

    I love this so much 🙂 I recently went on a trip alone to the Bahamas and enjoyed dinner each night alone. I also enjoyed breakfast and lunch solo, but something about eating alone at dinner felt… different. I was once called brave by a mother/daughter at the next table and I thought, “well, that’s weird. I’m just eating by myself!” but you’re right. Not everyone has the guts to do this, and it really does take guts AND confidence to walk into a dining hall and admit that it’s pretty awesome to spend as much time as we’d like and to read and write and experience whatever we’d like. How incredibly liberating that is 🙂 Hope you enjoyed your stay and dining 🙂


    • Christy April 2, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      It’s totally liberating! I love that you went to the Bahamas alone, and you enjoyed it! Awesome. It really is a totally different mindset, some women would never consider eating out alone and for others, it’s no big deal.

  • Jessica H. March 30, 2015 at 1:14 pm

    Every once in a while I take myself out to breakfast. I always bring a pen and notebook with me. I sip tea, enjoy the time alone and do some of the best writing when I’m sitting by myself over a meal. You’ve inspired me to take myself out for dessert next! A nice slice of cake or pie with a fancy cup of coffee! And I do agree – there’s absolutely nothing shameful about requesting a table for one. To me, it’s a form of pampering and self-love.
    Jessica H. recently posted…Home Office Update + Things To Do PrintableMy Profile

    • Christy April 2, 2015 at 7:04 pm

      I’ve done some great writing over a solo meal, too. I like dedicating that time to not letting any distractions get in the way! Especially if I’m using a pen and paper, because my laptop is distraction city! Glad I could inspire you about the dessert 🙂

  • Rabia @TheLiebers March 31, 2015 at 8:38 am

    I don’t often get the chance to eat alone. Heck, I rarely get the chance to BE alone!! When I do eat alone, I usually read a book. I’d like to try it your way some day. And don’t worry, I’ll order dessert!
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    • Christy April 2, 2015 at 7:18 pm

      You’ve been alone this week though, so that must be nice!

  • Kemya Scott April 15, 2015 at 1:39 pm

    I dine alone when I get a chance, and I ALWAYS order dessert. It is such a reflective time for me, and I usually read a book or have a journal and pen in hand. It is a wonderful experience to be present in the moment with your own thoughts. But your dessert pic… I need that on my plate today!
    Kemya Scott recently posted…5 Ways to Use Social Media to Build Your Email ListMy Profile

    • Christy April 15, 2015 at 5:26 pm

      I agree, I love having that reflective time, too. The dessert…I want to say it’s mango strudel?? I’m having a hard time remembering since it was nearly five years ago! I often take pictures of restaurant menus so I can accurately report on what I ate later, but that didn’t happen here 🙂

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