Dining With Myself

chopsticks.jpgA friend of mine just got back from Chicago, and when I asked her where she ate, she said that she ordered room service and just stayed in the hotel. The reason was that she didn’t like to eat by herself.

I’m like many people in that I can feel uncomfortable when I eat at a restaurant by myself — particularly when I do it in my home of Raleigh. When I’m on the road, however, I’ve long gotten over the insecurities of solo dining. I explore new places. I take the time to get to know a restaurant, chatting with the waitstaff or bartenders.

Here in Raleigh, however, I’m much less likely to go out by myself. Part of that is that I usually can find someone to go with me, whether it’s a family member, a co-worker, or a friend. Another part is that I’m insecure enough that I don’t really want to be “caught” eating alone by someone I know. It does sort of look pathetic, but again, that’s my own insecurities shining through. If I don’t have a lunch date, I usually go home, as I have the luxury of living 4 minutes from my office.

Every once in awhile, I want to go out to eat, and just like Greta Garbo, I want to be left alone. I’m seeking solitude. When I do this, I have a routine, a routine of guilty pleasures. First, I pick up a USA Today at the convenience store. I know that USA Today is hardly a journalistic masterpiece — it’s mostly fluff, and that’s what I want. I then continue to my restaurant of choice, the decidedly un-foodie Neo-China on Glenwood Avenue. I order the same thing every time: Sha Cha Chicken, medium spicy, steamed brown rice, no eggroll and two hot and sour soups. Water, please. I spread out my paper and start into my soup. I crumble the full allotment of crunchy noodles in my soups, and I don’t care how unhealthy it is. I’m in my own world, where I forget about the office, the soccer games, and contemporary gastronomic concerns. I don’t worry about whether the food I’m eating is hip or exciting. This is all about me and my comfort. And as awful as it sounds, my only concern is that someone I know will show up and ask if they can join me. I love company, and my favorite thing in the world is dining with others, but sometimes, rarely, I just want my own space, my own food, my paper, and no rules. Selfish? Guilty as charged, but that’s all right with me.

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8 Responses to Dining With Myself

  1. Joe says:

    This sounds like a good ritual. Maybe that’s why you don’t have a “go-to drink”? 🙂

    I don’t have any problem with dining by myself if I can’t get anyone to go with me. I started doing it as an undergraduate, and have continued doing it. But it’s still nice to have companionship when you want it.

  2. rooswife says:

    I travel a lot for work and know a lot of people who do so also. I eat by myself. I am not going to miss out on an opportunity to try a new place because I don’t want to eat by myself.

  3. VaNC says:

    When I used to travel by myself for business, I always sought out the best sushi bar in town. You never feel like you are eating alone at a sushi bar and there is always conversation with the chefs and people around you. Hey, and the food is usually great too, which is a bonus.

    Although I will admit to one indulgence when traveling alone. If you are staying in a decent hotel that should have a decent room service menu, stay in your room and order the messiest thing on the menu that you love….I always ordered ribs or bbq chicken or the like. I would usually also order two beers to go with it (don’t want to have to reorder!) Then just sit on the bed, watch bad TV, and don’t worry about how much you get on your hands, face, whatever, just eat and enjoy. Ahhh…it doesn’t get much better!

  4. Varmint says:

    When I’m traveling, I don’t mind going out by myself. My irrational insecurity with dining alone is being seen by someone I know, who will wonder why I’m alone. Silly, I know, but I did say it’s irrational.

    One of my most memorable meals was in Cambridge, Mass, where I was attending a conference. I ended up walking about 15 blocks in a downpour to this Portuguese restaurant (based on the numbering of the street, I thought it would only be about 2 blocks — wrong!!). Anyhow, I walked in, completely soaked and cold, and they quickly sat me down, brought me some bread and olives and a glass of vinho verde. I then had one of the most delightful rustic meals I’ve ever had, spending lots of time chatting with the owners. I’ll find that place again some time, and it won’t be the same. But on that day, eating by myself, it was perfect.

  5. Joe says:

    V: Your restaurant in Cambridge wouldn’t happen to have been named the “Midwest Grill,” would it? One of those churrascaria/brazilian steakhouses? Or was it really a Portuguese place?

  6. Varmint says:

    Damn you, Joe! Now I had to search for it. It’s called Atasca, and I’m majorly bummed, because it looks as if it’s closed. Wow, that’s sad.

    Anyhow, I had this awesome shrimp dish — sort of a casserole with tomatoes and goat cheese. Lots of bread, too. And then I had a custard baked in puff pastry, drizzled with an orange liqueur. This was something like 10 years ago, and I still have those flavor memories.

  7. Joe says:

    I’ve only been to Cambridge once, but I ate at the Midwest Grill one evening. It was my introduction to Brazilian steakhouses, and it was fun. The best place I went in Cambridge was The Elephant Walk, a Cambodian/French place. it was yummy when I went, but that was almost ten years ago. [I know I’m way OT here, but it’s just electrons, right? 🙂 ]

  8. Craving “your own space, your own food, your paper and no rules. Selfish?” Hardly, instead, heathy and socially accepted craving. You have lots of company. An astounding number of people believe pampering themselves with a solo meal is cheaper than therapy.

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