#122 Eat a Fancy Meal Alone

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I’ve eaten alone plenty of times.  I’ve done it alot when I’ve traveled solo to Europe and Australia.  It’s nothing new to me.  No matter how many times I do it though, there’s a level of fear, awkwardness and embarrassment that goes along with it.  I always feel a bit out of place, kind of like a loser.

Normally since I was in Vegas, alone, I would just eat at a casual spot.  Somewhere with a counter or lots of people like a café where nobody would really notice some guy eating by himself, playing words with friends on his iPhone.

But tonight I decided I was going to eat a fancy meal by myself and do it with grace and dignity.

I once saw a woman eating at a fancy restaurant in LA when I was with my girlfriend at the time.  She was a middle aged, happily eating alone.  She didn’t have a book or anything to occupy herself.  But she didn’t look uncomfortable or fidgety at all.  Just perfectly at ease.  I was going to be her.  Except a dude.

I was originally going to just go to dinner wearing what I had on which was a decent pair of gray pants and a nice t-shirt.  That would’ve been fine in Vegas, even in a fancy place.  But then I stopped myself because I figured I should go all the way with this.  So I went back to my hotel room and changed into a shirt and tie that I had brought along in case Clara was able to meet me out here.  (She wasn’t, by the way, because plane ticket prices were out of control).  And off I went.

I tried to go to STK but there were no tables available.  I could eat in an open bar type area but that would’ve been too easy.  Lots of people can eat alone comfortable in that kind of casual setting.  I wanted a real, honest to goodness table.

So I went over to Scarpetta, an Italian restaurant across the way.  I asked the maitre’d for a table for one.  He led me into the main dining room and seated me at a table, kind of in the back at the end of a row of tables.  I notice that when you eat alone, this is how you tend to be seated.  I think it’s good for the most part.  You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of full tables if you’re by yourself.  But part of me wondered if he thought it would look bad to other customers to see a guy dining alone.

The waiter came over and greeted me.  “You’re expecting another person, yes?”  Nope, just me.  The waiter nodded and removed the other place setting.  There it was.  Like the scarlet letter, there was no denying my Aloneness with only one place setting on the table.  Otherwise it could’ve looked like my companion was just late.  But no, I was alone for the world to see.

The dining room was about half-full.  There was a large group next to me, a few couples scattered about and some families at various tables.  And if they were worried about the guy in a tie eating alone looking bad, they obviously didn’t see the overweight family in tank tops, board shorts and flip flops at the table by the window.  You gotta love Vegas sometimes.

I went all out and ordered the scallop appetizer and halibut main course.  I started out with a martini and switched to wine with the meal.  It was pretty good food.  I did point out to the waiter there was some sand in my scallops to which he didn’t apologize but nodded quietly, as if he had heard that before.  Later when I got the bill, I noticed he didn’t charge me for them.  The halibut was pretty perfect.  Velvety and buttery.  But the execution and presentation were pretty straightforward.  And for a hundred dollar meal for one, it should have been better.  But it was still very good food.

I also got dessert which was nutella filled zeppoli with creme anglaise.  Delicious.  And I don’t even like dessert.  I finished it off with a nice espresso.

I found it really, really easy to sit there and people watch.  Surprisingly so.  I felt totally at ease.  Maybe because I made up my mind before I went into it that I was going to be.  Visualization and all of that.  Maybe it was because the waiter and the staff in general seemed so at ease with a solo diner as well.  I only checked my phone a couple of times and I did not, I repeat, did NOT play words with friends.  I thought that would’ve been extremely tacky and a cop out.

The waiter was very nice.  He came by and chatted me up a couple of times.  When you dine by yourself, you really appreciate it when the server takes the time to do that.  It makes you feel more relaxed and at ease.

I never caught anybody even looking at me.  It’s probably like dancing.  If you look awkward and uncomfortable on the dance floor, people will probably look at you.  If you don’t give a shit, nobody else does either.

Another thing I noticed was how much more I paid attention to the food.  There was no talking to distract me.  That’s probably why food critics dine alone.

It was a really nice dinner.  I took my time and didn’t sprint through the meal.  I spent almost two hours there.  And I enjoyed every minute of it.

2 Comments to “#122 Eat a Fancy Meal Alone”

  1. Tim 6 July 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    Greg,
    Some of recent posts have been kind of mediocre and hard to identify with. But you have brought them back from the edge with #120-122. Your writing in those was very well done and enjoyable, he poker tournament was honestly riveting to read! I’ve traveled alone a few times (out of state, not out of country yet) and I can definitely identify with the feelings you mentioned. I agree though, your mindset before hand makes a huge difference in reducing the anxiety you experience during the event. Keep up the great work! Don’t get discouraged by the lack of comments, look up the 90-9-1 rule. 90% lurk, 9% contribute occasionally (like me), 1% contribute often. I read your blog almost daily as I’m sure many others do as well!

    • Greg 7 July 2011 at 10:15 am #

      Thanks Tim (I think). Yeah, I try to present a wide variety of different things so some will speak to some people and some will speak to others. I’m glad you found some posts recently that you can relate to. Honestly, I’m human and I know I just don’t put the energy into some posts. But comments like this help keep me on my toes and striving to put the best quality stuff out there I can. Thanks.