Contrary to the opening scenes of the movie Bridget Jones’s Diary, being all by oneself is not a tragedy worthy of consolation through lip-syncing easy listening hits of the '70s, wine chugging straight out the bottle and chain-smoking that would put Marge Simpson’s sisters to shame.
While I have been known to comfort myself with a bottle of red wine bearing the chicken label from and a marathon of movies starring Colin Firth as any version of a Darcy, I do not regularly count my years being single and sing into a rolled up magazine microphone about being all by myself. I’m pretty OK with being on my own; well, except for one little bit of life: going out to eat.
It’s not that I bore myself when I go out for a meal, but one of the best parts of the dining experience is sharing. I go out with friends plenty, and I date some, but with busy lives and my friends’ attachments to husbands, boyfriends, wives and the new girlfriend of my guy friend whose head would spin around if the boy dare take me out without her, I can’t always be guaranteed a buddy when I want one. And the simple fact is that I kind of stink at the cooking–well, unless it’s a microwave meal or salad in a bag requiring only dressing and a good shake.
The thing is, I really enjoy going out to restaurants, seeing the decor, being around happy people, trying something new and not having to clean up after myself. I feel part of the world when I’m out. I'd rather choose from a menu than my sparse cupboard or mold-hosting fridge. I prefer wine choices that exceed Two Buck Chuck or that pink stuff leftover from girl’s night. I like having someone clear my plates. I like going out to eat.
And so I go. All by myself.
What I’ve learned is that going out for a meal alone has its conditions for success. You don’t want to head out to a place that will be filled with couples, first dates and the risk of a diamond ring hidden in a tiramisu. Party spots and eateries good for big groups, like and , can induce a case of the sads for a single diner. So where in the Flint can you get your solo snack on even if you don’t have a book or an iPad?
. The reason: Toi Vanasin treats her dining room like it’s your home. Toi and her crew will fuss over you just the right amount to make you feel cared for but not embarrassed. Toi will get excited over any good news you have, and send you home with a special treat when you seem to be a bit down in the dumps. Perhaps because of Toi and her comrade’s hospitality, the dining room of Min’s Kitchen can take on a communal, social air for the solo eater. Without being intrusive, diners smile, chat and compliment one another’s meal choices. You can enjoy a quiet night at a corner table or a curry and conversation. Min’s let you choose and then makes you happy with your choice.
Bars can be a rushed and depressing meal location for a solo diner, but equally, a meal at the bar can be akin to having your own private dining room. Over at , the bartenders speak with a tone of camaraderie when I’m ordering for myself only. My popcorn is always full and my lemon drop quickly refreshed when I show up alone. Taylor’s bar offers the correct balance of being around others but not being with others. I can pretend to watch TV if some dude my dad’s age doesn’t get the hint that I’m not interested in his watch, car or awesome business card font, or I can just sit back and absorb the ambience and conversations around me. The bartenders make sure that I receive the same quality service I would at a table; in fact, I think it’s better.
s bar area also offers a haven for the solo diner, but not at the bar itself, where I was once hit on by a drunk former cop who thought it would be cool to put his gun in my lap and hand me his badge. Plus, there’s not much to look at other than the bottles of liquor behind the bar. But the bar tables and--when available--the booths welcome and enfold a solo diner, offering a private little nook to sink into and be alone without being alone.
Also appreciated, pizza by the slice at. Because sometimes you really want pizza but you’re alone, so you can’t eat a whole one, or at least you shouldn’t. Nor should you chomp a couple pieces and leave the rest of the pie in the car, where it's easily forgotten and found days later. Maybe that's just me. Point is, pizza by the slice is the solo diner’s high five.
And if you want a breakfast pastry and fancy coffee but still have on your morning grouch face, pop into . There are plenty of places to hide, cushy chairs to sink into and no one will talk to you unless you talk to them first.
There’s no need to stay at home and go all Bridget Jones because you can’t rally the peeps to go out. Take it from a single girl who lists eating as a hobby and has tried just about every place in town: dining alone in La Cañada can be pretty good. And who knows, you may meet another solo diner and you can start a dining Meet Up group. And if you’re on your own and you see me, pull up a chair, introduce yourself with a thoughtful detail, and join me – just don’t lip-sync.