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By Laura Stec

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About this blog: I've been attracted to food for good and bad reasons for many years. From eating disorder to east coast culinary school, food has been my passion, profession & nemesis. I've been a sugar addict, a 17-year vegetarian, a food and en...  (More)

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Eat Out. Alone. In Public? NEVER!

Uploaded: Dec 10, 2013
I took myself out to dinner recently…. alone. It's nothing new; I eat alone often. I guess if I didn't, I'd be a whole lot skinnier from all the missed meals. Hmmmm…

I don't mind eating solo – kinda' like it. I catch up on work, write the blog, get thru pile o' magazines behind couch. I suffer no stigma saying, "one please," when the hostess asks how many. (I purposely avoid "just me"). If good feng shui, I sit at the bar (option to chat or not).

One recent evening, a man sits down next to me immediately after I sit. He's alone and I can tell by his energy he wants to talk. Opening line?

"So, what's a girl like you doing eating alone?"

OMG. My initial reaction is to blurt "what a stupid thing to say," but then I'd lose my exploratory connection to what this guy is really thinking. Does he have issues about eating alone? A lot of people do. Many of us will eat at home alone but never in public. I chat the guy up a bit, but then go back to my own world. I even move one seat over, but still feel him wanting to engage the entire meal.

Then my thoughts travel back to last week. Maybe this is what's "wrong" with the selfie?

One of the supposed "problems" with selfies is taking your own picture admits you are alone...which…we don't want people to know about because, well, being alone is… bad I guess, no matter if we are eating alone, or just having fun alone.

This past Sunday night some friends and I were post-birthday dancing at the Pioneer music jam in Woodside (4-8 PM every Sunday – stop by - I'm serious - it rocks). I was talking about the meal thing with my friend R and his girlfriend. Girlfriend (late 50's) stated firmly that she never eats in a restaurant by herself. The music is loud so I can't ask questions, but I think really…never?

Never-ever?

So what about you dear reader? Do you eat in restaurants by yourself?

If yes – how do you feel about it?
If no, why not?

Still hungry for more Food Party!? Join us this Thursday.
Feed the Farmers (and the market goers too)
Thursday, December 12th (3:30 PM - 5 PM)
Portola Valley Farmers Market (765 Portola Road)

It's Appy Hour at the market. Stop by for amazing local food and taste treats. The Food Party! and chef Laura Stec feed the farmers (and you) with seasonal appetizers while you shop!

Volunteers needed anytime 2-5 PM to assemble apps. Learn quick holiday appetizers to serve at your party, plus support the market. Contact me thru this blog.




Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Debbie F-S, a resident of another community,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 9:24 am

Laura, you rock - seriously - as does the Pioneer! Yes, I eat alone. I'm a woman of a certain age, and I always have. I prefer to do so @ breakfast or lunch rather than dinner, and to have reading material or a smart phone available. If I'm solo for dinner, I prefer the bar to the more formal dining area, as it's easier to chat with the bartender and other customers. Generally the less formal the restaurant, the easier it is to do so. Maybe I feel the single stigma less because I've been married a long time? Dining alone can be like flirting, it's an adventure putting yourself out there, and you may just end up meeting fun and interesting people. If not, your bouillabaisse and peau de creme are waiting just for you!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Mary, a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 10:33 am

If I am traveling by myself or my husband and I are not together at that particular meal time and I am not at home - of course, I eat out by myself. Sometimes I chat with folks nearby, but usually I catch up on email on my iPhone or read a book or magazine. I don't think I would go to a fancy gourmet place alone, somehow that seems like something I want to share with a companion.

I think people who will not eat out by themselves are a bit self-conscious. I figure no one is particularly looking at me unless they want my table!

I hope that the "what's a girl like you" guy finds a new pick up line.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm

It's perfectly fine to eat alone, as long as you can handle the occasional dude who feels entitled to chat.

As a guy, I don't have any problem with it, but I don't feel quite right going to a nicer restaurant; for that, I really want company.

All sorts of people don't feel comfortable eating alone, going to a movie, show, etc., etc. Sure, if you have company handy, take them, but when I hear about people complaining about not seeing a particular movie because they needed someone to go with them, I just shake my head. You're not socializing during the movie - why do you need someone else there?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by James, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 4:15 pm

If you want Alan Alda to make the first move (red meat on a fork), then be demure, pause...pause...then raise your fork with red meat on it! Then hope he brings over his coffee pot.

However, if you give off vapors of defensive independence, don't expect Alan to bring over the coffee.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm, a resident of East Palo Alto,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

I think eating out alone can be great! One's relationship status doesn't matter, nor should it. You never know who that lone diner is. Business traveler? Spy? Novelist? Harried parent enjoying some alone time? Star-crossed lover thinking about their adored one? Entrepreneur working on their business plan? Student from a far-flung country enjoying their first meal in the US?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by of course, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Dec 10, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Of course that was a pick up line. There is nothing wrong with eating alone, but women doing anything alone are going to get some of this. Is there anything you can do about it, besides quietly wishing it would stop? That would be a good subject for one of your columns.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura Stec, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 7:46 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Great comments everyone. So much fodder for another time. I don't mind a "pickup" attempt at a bar. I sit at the bar to check the scene out. With Mr. "What's a girl like you" however, I think it was more about him not wanting to eat alone, than it was about his interest in me. And Alan - funny you mention movie. That was one thing I never did alone...until recently when I thought how silly - I'm alone in the dark the whole movie anyway!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Rarely alone, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 8:52 am

Thinking about it, I rarely eat out alone in the evening, but feel quite happy about eating lunch solo. I don't like to read and eat, why spoil good food by not paying attention to it? I like to eat and look about and if someone starts a conversation I am quite happy to join in. The "girl like you" phrase, imo, is so corny it is possibly acceptable and funny rather than a serious pick up line. I would normally reply that my husband is at a business dinner and I was hungry and ask why a "guy like you" was eating alone too? By making fun of the comment and not taking it all seriously you are sending a message that it is fine to chat but that is all. After all, he may just be hungry while his wife is at a business dinner too.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Give the guy a break, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 10:54 am

All pick up lines sound stupid in the cold light of day, including "hi".


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Mountain View since1980, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 2:19 pm

I've started eating out alone since I was about 18. Started traveling solo around age 20. I still enjoy eating out alone esp in Japan and other parts of Asia. I have no qualms whatsoever. I've eaten alone here in the US too and have no problems esp for lunch. Since I've been married for over 25 years, eating out for dinner here in the US is less now, but sometimes I still do since my husband's and my taste is food is not the same.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Stu Soffer, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks,
on Dec 11, 2013 at 7:42 pm

Stu Soffer is a registered user.

Oren's Hummus on University Avenue has some group tables which are very amenable to starting out eating alone, but easy to strike up conversations with table-mates. The other guests are usually really quite interested in speaking, such as visitors looking for local information.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Pavithra, a resident of University South,
on Dec 12, 2013 at 3:07 am

Yay!I eat alone all the time in the public and get that look;)..Is she alone?waiting for someone?poor kid..Eating all alone:D:D:D:D....All i want to do that time is get up and say to them"Helloooooooooo,i love eating alone and spending time with myself":)Thanks for sharing it


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Singer, a resident of South of Midtown,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 1:14 am

I've been eating out alone every Monday night for a quarter of a century now. That tradition began because I had choir rehearsals on Monday nights that started earlier than we would normally eat dinner, so I would grab a quick bite at a restaurant on the way to rehearsal, and my husband would deal with the kids (our firstborn was only a baby when this started). For the first few years, a friend would bring a pizza over to our house and he and my husband would shoot the breeze while I sang.

I continued singing for 20 years, and this evolved into a chance not only for me to eat and sing, but also into valuable "guy time" for my husband and our (eventually) two boys, going out to restaurants the boys chose (burgers, pizza). Our sons still relish this (one still at home, the other when he's home from college on breaks).

Even after I left the choir a few years back, everyone still enjoyed this tradition. For me, it's a time to eat foods I love that no one else in the house will have anything to do with (Salmon! Eggplant! Asparagus!), so I end up ordering the same things at the same restaurants over and over, but I get my fixes of those foods I love and would not get as part of a meal at home. I also kick back with a magazine, and patronize modestly-priced restaurants that are well-enough lit to permit reading (a surprisingly small percentage, unfortunately).

I have also occasionally taken evening courses at Stanford (Continuing Studies) or Foothill, and also enjoy eating out by myself on those occasions, sometimes after class is over (though fewer restaurants are open then).


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Aj Crawdaddy, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:01 am

Ahem, please, we all dine alone form time to time. There is no shame in hangin' by ones self. This Sunday, Pizza and Cake will be on the fare at the pioneer as we celebrate Terry and Karen Hiatt's 30th wedding anniversary, so you will be dining and dancing with about 100 of your closest friends, should you decide to attend. We wil. shake you down for a donation, so be prepared... we ain't cheap, but we are easy! Ho Ho Ho!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Aj Crawdaddy, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:01 am

Ahem, please, we all dine alone from time to time. There is no shame in hangin' by ones self. This Sunday, Pizza and Cake will be on the fare at the pioneer as we celebrate Terry and Karen Hiatt's 30th wedding anniversary, so you will be dining and dancing with about 100 of your closest friends, should you decide to attend. We wil. shake you down for a donation, so be prepared... we ain't cheap, but we are easy! Ho Ho Ho!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Aj Crawdaddy, a resident of Woodside: Woodside Glens,
on Dec 13, 2013 at 11:01 am

Ahem, please, we all dine alone from time to time. There is no shame in hangin' by ones self. This Sunday, Pizza and Cake will be on the fare at the pioneer as we celebrate Terry and Karen Hiatt's 30th wedding anniversary, so you will be dining and dancing with about 100 of your closest friends, should you decide to attend. We wil. shake you down for a donation, so be prepared... we ain't cheap, but we are easy! Ho Ho Ho!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Me, a resident of Mountain View,
on Dec 16, 2013 at 10:30 am

I feel like an odd ball on this one. I REALLY wish I could eat alone and go to a movie but I feel so awkward, even just tinking about it.I truly wish I could. I have a couple of girl friends that do but I cannot get to doing this at all. I enjoyed reading all these comments and realized that many people are eating alone.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Laura Stec, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Dec 16, 2013 at 10:51 am

Laura Stec is a registered user.

Thanks "Me" for your thoughts. I think you are the first commenter to say you don't eat out in public much. However - from my "research," a majority of people do not go out and eat alone. It's a fascinating conversation piece at holiday parties! Ask around and please get back if you find differently.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Angela Hey, Mountain View Voice Blogger,
on Dec 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Angela Hey is a registered user.

I wish more restaurants would have group tables where you can go and chat to people. It seems a waste of a 4-person table to have one person on it. I think restaurants should designate social tables where solo diners can meet other diners and chat. A restaurant may even want to put comments in the menu to stimulate conversation - table topics or questions. For example, a restaurant could have a Travel table for people who want to discuss travel, a Business table for people who want to discuss business, a Techie table for people who want to discuss technology, etc. A table with a Techie card on it might say "What do you think of Google Glass or Who thinks node.js is great?".

Not everyone can write like Jamis of Bucks Woodside, who writes articles for his menu, but many restaurants could enhance the individual dining experience with creative ideas.

I was once traveling alone in the Blue Mountains of Australia and the dining room of my hotel had tables for 10. The owner put me with some very interesting doctors, all of whom had traveled out of Australia on terrific trips.



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