The Subtle Art of Dining Alone and 7 Tips To Try It it For the First Time

Travelista Contributor Emily Hope has mastered the subtle art of dining alone and is ready to pass this relatively untapped joy on to the wider Travelista community. Read on to find out why dining alone may just give you a slice of the escapism, headspace and independence you’re craving.

I remember the first time I took myself out for dinner. I had just gone through my first break-up. And what do most people on the receiving end of a breakup do? They live a little more fearlessly.

Of course, there were the classic phases like getting a tattoo, dying and chopping my hair and booking a solo holiday. But to complete the new me, there was to be the take-myself-out-wherever-the-heck-I-wanted phase. I taught myself how to dine alone. 

My first experience of dining out alone was genuinely lovely. I sat on the balcony of a local Italian restaurant, listening to some music and sipping on a glass of wine. I felt a few people looking at me, but the freedom I felt dining alone was so much stronger than the worry of being pitied.

It’s interesting that we still feel a stigma about dining out alone. Throughout history, from Ancient Greece right through to the 21st Century, the ritual of dining has always played an important part in society. It has always been traditionally seen as a social activity, but the modern world does not always allow for this to be an option. But is it about being sat on our own that is out of the ordinary?

I know that solo dining isn’t for everyone and that’s totally okay. But, if you’re the person who is curious yet intimidated, I want to share with you a few tips about how to dine alone. They may just give you the boost of confidence you’ve been looking for.

How to Dine Alone - The Subtle Art of Dining Alone by Emily Hope

How To Dine Alone For The First Time – 7 Tips

1. Pick a Venue That You Like

Have you walked past a restaurant recently that you like the look of? Or have you spotted a place on Instagram that looks utterly delicious and you’re dying to try it out? Well, let this be your excuse. If you don’t have anywhere particular on your shortlist, you could always go to an old favourite that feels familiar to you. If it’s your first-time solo dining, then maybe look for places with a relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and positive reviews. You could always pre-book and request to sit at the bar or for a table that is window-facing.

2. Confidence is Key

Remember that dining alone is an opportunity for self-care, head space and enjoying your own company. Think of this precious time as a treat to yourself. Enjoy what you came here to eat and try not to worry about what everyone else may or may not be thinking. They will be busy having their own experience anyway.

3. Bring Something With You

Here’s a little story for you. When I was new to the city of York, I made it my mission to explore a new venue each week. Not only would it be a nice little exercise to get to know the city, but it also meant sussing out the spots I knew I’d love to return to. After some aimless wandering, I ended up in a lovely restaurant which was offering 2-4-1 cocktails.

When I got sat down, I got out my book that I brought along with me, and I had a leisurely hour reading and sipping on delicious cocktails. The book I was reading caught the attention of the manager of the restaurant and they struck up a conversation with me which led to further chat about the city of York and their other recommendations. 

Not only was this conversation unexpected but it also made the whole experience so much more worth it. Whether it’s a book, a journal, or a magazine, if you’re nervous about dining alone, bringing something to read is a great distraction as well as a potential conversation starter if you don’t want to just sit in silence. 

4. Be Mindful

Admittedly, I struggle to be ‘mindful’ for more than a hot minute. But mindfulness is a good skill to develop, especially if you’re an overthinker. Bringing your thoughts and attention to what flavours and textures of the food you’re eating helps you to refocus your thoughts. You might just find that you eat a little slower as you’re not rushing mouthfuls to finish a conversation If you end up bringing a notebook or journal with you, just write down a couple of questions to yourself to go back to whenever you’re feeling consumed in your thoughts. Something like, ‘How are you feeling now?’, ‘What can you taste?’ ‘What can you smell?’… this might all sound excessive, but it’s a small exercise that will help you to disconnect from overthinking about how you look and allow yourself to be present in the moment.

5. Experiment, Experiment, Experiment

Eating solo gives you the freedom to explore different types of cuisine without having to consider someone else’s choices. It also makes the concept of solo travel a lot less daunting, something Travelista is a big advocate of. Whilst dining out with friends can be fun, you won’t always share the same opinion of where to eat out, so this is a good chance to go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. Take advantage of this and try new dishes. This is your chance to be adventurous with your choices.

6. Have a Chat

Some of my favourite solo dining experiences have come out of having conversations with staff. I’ve always said small talk is like the most awkward thing ever. I am actually the queen of awkward comments about the weather. But if you’re up for a conversation, it can be a good idea to ask a staff member for recommendations. Not everyone will have the time of day to stop and chat with you, but a minute or two of their time can help you to feel your confidence grow in approaching new people.

7. Start Small

I’m not saying that you need to dive head-first into a solo, eight-course fine dining experience (If you do though, consider me very impressed!) If you’re new to dining solo, try and focus on the small things you can do to build your confidence. Maybe if you’ve never been out for coffee on your own, try a coffee and ask for a takeaway cup so you can sit in the solace knowing that you can leave if you like. Or, if you want to head out in the evening, find a pub with live music. That way, you can enjoy just sitting, having a drink, and soaking in the tunes-there’s no reason to engage with anyone or look awkward when you’re lost in the music. Once you’ve experienced your own company a few times, you might just be ready to take yourself to a restaurant.

So, if you’re THAT person who is dying to take themselves out for their first solo dinner date, just remember that growth comes from discomfort. Doing something that tests you helps you to adapt and change. By challenging your fears and stepping out into the world independently, you can experience self-discovery, confidence-building, and most of all, create a closer relationship with yourself. As they say, THE single most important relationship you can have in life is with yourself, so cherish it.

Bon appetite!

Has this article inspired you or given you a better idea about how to dine alone? We’d love to see your feedback in the comments below.

Check out our Solo Travel category for more articles like this.

Born and raised in Northumberland, and having lived in various other beautiful regions of the UK, including the Lake District and her current base in the city of York. Emily. Inspired by communities, Emily loves to travel and is always keen to meet new people. Emily has a degree in English Literature, and a professional background in Journalism, Content Creating, and Radio Presenting.

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