Table For One?
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Tell the truth: If you frequently travel alone, do you know your favorite hotel's room-service menu by heart? Does the thought of entering a restaurant and uttering the words "table for one" make you shudder? If so, you're probably afflicted with DDS (dread-of-dining-solo syndrome), which is common among solitary travelers.
"Sooner or later, everyone faces the challenge of dining out alone," says Marya Charles Alexander, editor and publisher of Solo Dining Savvy, a newsletter devoted to "taking the bite out of eating alone." "Dining out should be something you look forward to, to revive your spirits."
But the truth is, many travelers dread eating out alone and will forego the chance to explore new restaurants, taste new flavors and meet new people because of their fear.
Through her newsletter and public appearances, Alexander gives business travelers tips for dining out on their own and finding restaurants that are receptive to solos (see "Sole Food" below). If you find yourself stuck in your hotel, for example, Alexander recommends asking the concierge which local restaurants are solo-friendly.
Wendy Levy, co-owner of Autumn Moon Cafe in Oakland, California, remembers the first time she ate out by herself: "I was nervous, but it turned out just fine," she says. "Nowadays, I don't even think twice about it."
That is, unless it's her customers who are dining alone. Today, she and partner Kerry Heffernan make a point of greeting solitary diners with the same enthusiasm given to couples and large parties. "Our [policy] is to make sure everybody feels welcome," says Levy. "A single diner should never feel out of place."
When dining alone on a business trip, community seating can be a great way to network. More and more restaurants are offering community-seating options that enable diners to mingle:
1.?/b>Networking tables. Some restaurants and hotels have tables where solo diners can eat with both locals and other visitors.
2.?/b>Cluster seating. "This is a variation of networking tables, except everyone has their own turf," says Alexander. These are small tables clustered together; you can be as social or antisocial as you like.
3.?/b>Table seating for two. Smaller restaurants may not have room for a stationary networking table, so they'll often ask single diners wishing to network if they'd be willing to share a table with another diner.
By Catharine Brockman Kuchar
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The following restaurants cater to or have special programs for solo diners, according to Marya Charles Alexander, editor and publisher of Solo Dining Savvy:
- City Cafe, 5757 Lovers Ln., Dallas, (214) 351-2233
- Durgin Park, 340 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, (617) 227-2038
- Emeril's, 800 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, (504) 528-9393
- Gordon, 500 N. Clark St., Chicago, (312) 467-9780
- The Library at the Regency Hotel, 540 Park Ave., New York City, (212) 759-4100
- One Market Restaurant, 1 Market St., San Francisco, (415) 777-5577
- Pacific Dining Car, 1310 W. Sixth St., Los Angeles, (213) 483-6000
- Red Sage, 605 14th St. N.W., Washington, DC, (202) 638-4444
- Union Square Grill, 621 Union St., Seattle, (206) 224-4321
Autumn Moon Cafe, 3909 Grand Ave., Oakland, CA 94610, (510) 595-3200
Delta Air Lines, http://www.delta-air.com
ITT Sheraton Corp., http://www.ittsheraton.com
Marriott International Inc., (800) USA-WKND, http://www.marriott.com
Solo Dining Savvy, P.O. Box 1025, South Pasadena, CA 91031-1025, (800) 299-1079