Dining Alone

I dine alone at least once a week. I have friends in most of the markets I visit, but invariably there’s at least one night during the week when either by choice or circumstance, I am at a restaurant, eating by myself. I’m fairly social, and I honestly don’t mind heading to a restaurant as my own plus one—I love sitting at the bar, ordering a couple of dishes and a glass of wine (or two), chatting with the other patrons and the bartender. I have had some of the best dishes of my life eating in my own company (the white asparagus at Daniel and the mini-birthday cake at Restaurant Eve are two of the singular dishes that stand out for me in recent memory…).

Hello tiny, personal non-birthday cake. You are delish.

On Saturday night, I had one of the weirdest experiences in my (nearly) ten years of solo-dining. Earlier in the day, I went to a fantastic yoga class and found that my teacher worked at a super-cool, mostly locals spot in the Garden District of New Orleans. I promised to visit her there later in the evening, which was a bright spot to look forward to in what would otherwise have been a lonely evening.

I only wish I was this stylish and chic while dining alone.

After spending a couple hours by the pool working on emails and spreadsheets, I headed back to my room, and by 6pm I was tired, bored and feeling totally unmotivated. A night in my hotel room with a movie on my iPad and a po-boy from down the street seemed to be singing me a siren-song, but I refused to let myself give into it. I forced myself to get ready and headed out to see my friend Molly, whom I’ve known since we both lived in Chicago, at an awesome new spot in the Quarter where she is the Somm.

I ended up having a great experience at Molly’s spot, R’Evolution—the bartender was hilarious and the service, food and wine list are unparalleled in New Orleans (seriously, if you are into food and wine and need a spot in the Big Easy, this is your joint). After a couple inventive and delicious cocktails I headed over to the Garden District restaurant Lillette and had 1) the most ridonk white crab legs with passionfruit butter (serious, serious foodgasm), and 2) the best fall cocktail of all time—I mean, honestly, this thing was like walking into your grandma’s kitchen full of apple pies and brown liquor (sorry—did I say your grandma? I meant mine—she loved her cocktails and she loved her baked goods).

This is my “hmpfh, I’m alone, with no one to talk to” face.

I finished up and had to check out Bouligny Tavern next door, which was as rad as everyone said it is. While enjoying my drink, a guy came and sat next to me, put an envelope in front of me at the bar and nervously asked, “you’re Jennifer, right?”

I smiled and shrugged, told him no, and took a sip of my drink. He slid the envelope a little closer and said, “It’s all there. Really!”

Thanks, but no thanks, MOFO!

At this point, I was feeling slightly confused and a little miffed that this random dude was interrupting my enjoyment of a delicious, handcrafted, artisanal cocktail.  “Sorry, wrong person…” I said, not with a little annoyance. He looked at me in desperation and proffered the envelope again. “If you want me to pay you more, I can! You are way classier and better looking in person than you were online anyway!!”

This exchange went on for a few more moments, while I insisted that I was not the Jennifer he was looking for, and he argued that he could pay me more. Finally, after slapping/pushing him away and getting some stern looks and words from other patrons and the bartender, he got the hint and took off.

Bitch, please. Let me enjoy my handcrafted artisanal cocktails in peace!

Luckily the bartender took pity on me (and of course recognized that I am not a woman of the night, but am in fact a classy, professional who happens to LOVE really good cocktails), and bought me a couple drinks. I randomly ended up talking to a bunch of MIT scientists in town for a Neurology conference, and later hit up both the phenomenal Spotted Cat for some jazz, and then Mimi’s in the Marigny for their 70s disco night (which was insane, and I HIGHLY recommend if you ever make it to town on a Saturday night).

So really, dining alone can result in both a great food and wine experience, and you just never know who you’ll meet. Have you had any weird solo-dining experiences, or have you met anyone “special” while eating out by yourself?

4 thoughts on “Dining Alone

  1. Hey Merritt…

    As a public figure, I have all sorts of interesting experiences with people. Most are nice, but some are…just…weird. Here’s one from way back in the 80s that I remember like it happened yesterday: I was working the 6 and 11pm newscasts, and ran out for a quick dinner in between shows. After ordering, an older woman walking by my table recognized me, and without asking just sat down. She wanted to meet me, and started talking. Not wanting to insult her (despite her being very rude to sit down at my table without asking), I was very polite and chatted. I figured that she’d talk until my salad came, and then leave. Well, the salad came, and she just kept on talking. I finally had to ask her to leave…made up some excuse about having to rush through dinner because I had to rush back to the station…and she left. That was the moment that I realized that when people watch you on the local news, they invite you into their homes day after day, and feel like they know you so well that they can just walk up to your table at a restaurant and sit down! OMG!

  2. I love this story (I’m a supplier too) and I miss NoLa since it’s not in my territory. I’m an old friend of Molly as well, happy to hear you had a great solo dining experience.

  3. My favorite part of this post: “I mean, honestly, this thing was like walking into your grandma’s kitchen full of apple pies and brown liquor (sorry—did I say your grandma? I meant mine—she loved her cocktails and she loved her baked goods).”

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