Saturday, May 14, 2011

Solitary Banquet Reviews

Dining alone can be an awkward event; wouldn’t it be nice to know ahead of time if a certain dining establishment will be a comfortable place to eat for one?  Well, yes!  Of course it would.

One of the goals of Solitary Banquet is to provide reviews of restaurants with the solitary diner in mind.  While reviews will have mention of all of the things you would expect, such as the quality and type of food served, the general atmosphere, price range, etc. the main purpose will be to share how the experience of dining solo went. 

For instance, how attentive was the service?  Was the diner made to feel rushed in any way? Is the general atmosphere comfortable and welcoming?  Is there a bar or counter that might be more comfortable?  These questions are of course important to any restaurant patron but, they are even more important to someone who is partaking of their meal alone.

Each review will include answers to the above questions and, in addition, each restaurant will receive a rating on how welcoming they are to solitary customers.   I’ve come up with a scale that I hope informative as well as amusing:

Bring a book – This place does not cater to solitary diners.  You will likely be seated in a dark corner or near the bathroom and then promptly ignored.

I love my smartphone – This place is okay, for instance it has a cozy bar or counter, but may be a bit hit or miss in the dining room.  In other words, come prepared.

Noooooorm! – You will be comfortable here.  It might not be the most high class place in town, but the food is good, service is decent, and like Norm from Cheers, you could be a regular here.

It’s all about me. – This place is all about service.  A customer, solitary or not, is a customer.   The food is good, the staff is attentive and you never feel rushed.  

Finally, there will be a separate category of reviews for places I call “Favorite Haunts.”  These are restaurants and coffee houses which one already frequents often enough that to attempt to give an impartial review would be nearly impossible.  And besides, you already know you like it there!

The Reviewers

That’s right, your favorite spinster will not be the only reviewer on this blog.  People dine alone for a variety of reasons (enjoyment, travel, sorrow drowning…) and I’d like to have reviews from all perspectives.  Plus, I’d like to see reviews from all over the country (the world?) because while I do love the city I live in, not all of you live here and it would be terribly crowded if you did.**
So stay tuned my hungry readers.  There is so much more to come!! 

**If you are interested in writing some reviews for Solitary Banquet, then get in touch.  We’ll chat.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I'll talk to anyone...

Last night I was dining with a friend at the restaurant that is, coincidentally, also my favorite place to dine solo.  I'm not revealing it yet as I plan do a write up of it in the very near future.

We were at the bar and seated near us was a man of over 40 (?) who was by himself.  My friend and I chatted, trying to determine why he was eating alone.  My guess was that he was on business.  He looked rather comfortable eating by himself.  He'd come prepared with a magazine and didn't appear to be in any particular hurry.  He wasn't watching the door as someone who was meeting anyone would.  Maybe it was the wine, or perhaps I was just feeling particularly outgoing, but I decided to find out.

I walked up to him, introduced myself and explained that I was starting this project (yes, This project, this blog...) and said I was asking people I saw dining alone what their reason was for doing so.  He quite readily responded and said that he was in the area on business, that this restaurant was his favorite place to eat when he was here and also one of the most comfortable to eat in should one find themselves needing or wanting to dine alone.  I thanked him, I returned to my seat and gloated just a tiny bit about being right.

I think I may ask others I see, should they seem approachable, what their reason is for dining out alone.  Perhaps I will even do a more formal interview of Solitary Banquet Superstars who eat out alone with some frequency and who can share their tips and tricks for doing so.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Table for One

Solitary Banquet is a project idea that was born out of my own love of taking myself out to dinner.  I have always enjoyed the solo dining experience for many reasons.  The air of mystery that I am convinced surrounds any woman seen dining alone, the satisfaction that comes from being able to fully enjoy a meal without the distraction of conversation, and the joy that comes from treating myself well.

I've found that among my friends their feelings about a table for one range from feelings similar to mine to being rather close to fear.  Most seem to fall in the middle.  Eating out alone makes most people at least a little uncomfortable.

I admit that at first I felt the same way.  It was something I rarely did unless I had to due to travel or had someplace to be and taking the time to fix a meal at home wasn't feasible.   I would sit at a table and think that surely everyone was staring at me.  I couldn't do it without a book or a pad of paper to write on (because writers can get away with dining solo...they are after all creating ART!).   I would eat as fast as I possibly could and then get out.

Somewhere along the way though I got over it.  I can't say exactly when but one day I just had the realization that I deserved to enjoy my meal out as much as anyone who had dining companions.  I just made the decision to enjoy myself and have done so ever since.  Now I love it to the point that I actually have to hold myself back or I will surely end up in the poor house.

The intent of this blog is to cover all aspects of the solitary dining experience.  I am sure there will be many personal anecdotes, tips on how to make the experience more enjoyable, how to scout out restaurants when traveling, but I also hope to include a fair amount of reviews written from the perspective of the solo diner.  Some establishments are more welcoming of those eating alone than others and I'd like to support those places.  I plan to enlist the assistance of friends who also nosh alone on occasion to write these reviews.

I hope this blog will be an exploration of the experience and also prove helpful to those who find, by necessity or by choice, that they are sitting at a table with one set of silverware and a solitary water glass,  The dining alone experience does not need to be an anxiety producing one, but can be enjoyable and even fun.

Nom on.