If I ever own a restaurant, I’m going to name it ‘Table for One’.
I love eating alone. I also love going to the movies alone, sitting alone in a bar with a good book, going on walks, sitting on park benches, riding my bike lazily down the street, and any number of activities that many enjoy doing with company.
The difference between eating out and these other things, however, is that no one frowns when I go for a walk alone. No one sighs and thinks of the money they’re losing by my buying only one movie ticket, one small popcorn, and one small Dr. Pepper. I get no pitying looks when sitting alone on a park bench.
When I walk into a restaurant and say the fated words “just one,” I can read the quickly-masked expression that crosses the pretty face of the hostess in a flash. She’s calculating how long I’ll be camping at the table – am I empty-handed? Do I appear to be in a hurry? Did I bring a book with me? Do I have a certain softness in my eyes that says it’s the first beautiful day of Springtime and I’m going to sit and enjoy a salad with a glass of wine and linger in the sunshine? She’s wondering, in a bit of a panic, which server is in the best mood and will therefore go easiest on her for seating me in their section. She’s preparing her words carefully to make it clear that I’ll be needing to leave in a certain amount of time to make space for larger groups of people.
It never feels good to know that you’re an annoyance, especially when you’re putting down money. Hence my restaurant, Table for One.
It will only have two-top tables, set for one person. The tables can’t be smaller because the solo diners will need space to spread out all of their things – like water, appetizer, main dish, newspaper or book, glass of wine or iced tea. Maybe their cell phone, turned upside down so as not to appear rude, but close enough to turn over and discreetly check for texts now and then. Texts that may never come, and if they don’t, it’s okay.
The menu and portion sizes will be catered to one person dining, period. How many times have I eaten alone at a nice restaurant, immediately ordering more than I need, at too high of a price, just to show that I’m worthy of the table I’m occupying? It’s one of the hazards of the luxury that we lovers of mixing solace and dining have to endure.
At Table for One, occasionally two individual guests will know each other – maybe from the the gym, maybe their husbands are partners in the same firm, maybe they went to high school together. If these people choose to join each other during their meal, that will be perfectly fine. We won’t discriminate against unplanned two-tops.
It’s possible that a person is alone because they were in the mood for a cocktail but couldn’t find someone to go out with, or they just got dumped or stood up at the place next door, so they’re out, alone, because who wants to go home after that? But they also kind of don’t want to be alone. So to want to join up with another person from time to time, it’s understandable.
Most often, people are dining solo by choice – some alone time, a much-needed break from family or work, a way to kill time between appointments. The desire to eat a delicious meal that someone else cooks while reading an exciting new book with as few interruptions as possible. Or, they need so desperately to get out of their own space, even for just an hour, because the repetition of it all is close to dragging them under. And they don’t want to feel guilty for needing that time to sit in the dim light, contemplating it all; they want to feel completely comfortable and content walking in the door.
They don’t want to have to explain. To make up excuses as to why they’re alone. To look around at the three empty chairs surrounding them, knowing that with each passing of the table, the staff are looking at those empty chairs, too.
Realistically, the chances of me ever opening a restaurant in which to accommodate my intentionally unaccompanied brethren are
slim none. For this reason, I implore all servers, hostesses, bussers and bartenders to stop giving us that fucking look, and just let us sit in peace – reading, writing, playing solitaire, doing the crossword or just staring off into space.
We would be ever so grateful. Thank you.