The Simply Luxurious Life®: Why Not . . . Dine Alone?  

February 13, 2013

Why Not . . . Dine Alone?


                                                                                                        Le Nemours cafe in Paris

I know, I know. Valentine’s Day is tomorrow. How could I possibly write about something that doesn’t involve the celebration of coupledom? Well, if you’ve been stopping by The Simply Luxurious Life long enough you know that building your own simply luxurious life involves living consciously.  And when we choose to live consciously, we are able to discern the difference between doing something because we want to and doing something because society nudges us to do so.

Whether you are single or not this Valentine’s Day, I’d like to talk to you today about the luxury of dining alone. Don’t get me wrong, one of my favorite things to do is engage in conversation with one or more people while gathered around a table enjoying food and drink. In fact, that is exactly what I was doing this weekend, and I couldn’t have asked for a more memorable evening.

However, similar to going to a movie you’ve been eagerly waiting to watch and wanting to just spend time lost in thought and curiosity, stopping into your favorite restaurant alone can be a wonderful experience as well, and I implore you to give it a try once and a while.

Every so often I will review a restaurant here on the blog. Once while in Portland and once in New York City, I took the opportunity while visiting two of my favorite cities to stop in for a meal by myself and was in both instances inspired to share my experience with you. These are just a few of the instances when I hear my stomach rumbling and decide to stop into a restaurant I am curious about.

I’ve been thinking about this particular topic for some time now, and it was over the past weekend while listening to NPR’s Weekend Edition in which a story was broadcast regarding this very topic (click here to have a look or listen) that I realized that while it may seem ironic in timing, it actually may be very timely to discuss this exact topic.

So why do it? Even if there are plenty of friends, colleagues or family you can invite, why choose to stop into a restaurant and dine alone or cook a delectable meal for yourself at home? Well, let me explain.

1. A Lovely Pairing.
Solitude is quite different from being alone. And when you find time after a busy day, or during the middle of it, or even in the morning before your schedule takes control, to collect your thoughts, catch your breath and and enjoy a delicious meal, it can be a very therapeutic and balancing activity.

2. Free Therapy.
During the work week or on Friday after a busy five days leaving me feeling exhausted, there are times when spending time in the kitchen cooking a meal from one of my favorite cookbooks (preferably simple and not too time consuming) is the most calming and stress-reducing activity. I am forced to focus on what I’m doing, allowing me to let go for the time being my day at work and put all of my energies into the meal that I am looking forward to enjoying. Perhaps I will pour a glass of wine while I dice and stir, and play a record on my record player as well. Knowing the preparation that went into the meal makes it so very enjoyable when I sit down to savor what I’ve created. And while there are some days I do wish to vent about my day to someone who will listen or listen to someone else talk about a different world from what I’ve experienced, sitting without chatter can be nice as well.

3. Appreciate and Learn More About the Food.
If you stop into a restaurant you are curious about or frequent a particular restaurant that you love, when you are seated by yourself, you demand a different attention from the wait staff. First of all, you've chosen this particular restaurant for a reason, that in itself reveals to the staff there is something about their food or service that you enjoy. Secondly, what I enjoy the most while dining alone is the conversation I can have with the staff. While they won’t pry, if I ask questions or engage in conversation, they are very accommodating. Too often when I’m dining with someone, I am focused (and deservedly so) on my company and forget to ask the waiter about the ingredients that caused me to fall in love with a particular dish.

4. Time to Relax and Read.

In the morning if you have time for a leisurely breakfast or an early dinner before an evening with plans, having a meal by yourself allows you to slow down and catch up on the opinion pieces you’ve been eager to read or lose track of time with a favorite book or magazine you been meaning to finish. Having stopped in for breakfast during the middle of the week at one of my favorite places in Portland – Mother’s Bistro – I love having a seat by the window watching people scurry to work while I wait for their sinful oatmeal to arrive all the while reading the Oregonian’s Food Day.

5. Meditative.
Deepak Chopra shares that dining by ourselves can offer a wonderful opportunity to show gratitude. While it can be easy to scarf food down without tasting it when we eat alone, he recommends we always eat mindfully, and especially while dining in solitude to give thanks for the abundance that infiltrates our entire lives and especially the food we are about to eat. Keeping in mind how fortunate we are to have choices when it comes to the food we eat puts into perspective the societal judgment of dining alone as utterly irrelevant and unworthy of our mind’s thoughts and worries.


Striking a balance of social time and time to ourselves is crucial to a rejuvenated well-being. Even if it is 30 minutes out of your day, if there is a restaurant you are curious to try and you can’t find anyone to go with you for whatever reason, don’t let that stop you. As I remember back to my time in Paris this summer I am reminded of how the chairs and tables are arranged at most cafes and bistros – all of the chairs face the same direction, none facing each other. On any given morning, afternoon or evening I would see people dining by themselves. This amazed and inspired me as I realized – whether alone or together, the best company we can bring to any table is our best selves. Bon appétit!

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Images: (1) source

14 Comments:

At February 13, 2013 at 5:59 AM , Blogger Talia said...

My friends are always amazed that I will dine alone. They simply aren't comfortable doing so. I very much enjoy my own company and am not at all self-conscious dining, seeing a show/movie, shopping, traveling alone. While I have a husband, at times he is either not available or not interested. Lovely post showing why it is so important to love your self and to be comfortable in your own skin!

 
At February 13, 2013 at 6:34 AM , Blogger The Simply Luxurious Life said...

Talia,

Thank you for sharing your experience. I too love traveling and prefer shopping alone. Better decisions are made. ;) And while others' company is lovely, when we are comfortable with our own company, we are able to have enjoyable experiences no matter who surrounds us. Thank you for your insights. xo

 
At February 13, 2013 at 7:19 AM , Blogger Champagne and Passports said...

I can always do this at coffee shops, lunch places, and while sitting at the bar of a restaurant - but for some reason I have a mental block on dining alone at a restaurant for dinner. I'm not sure what it is, but hopefully I'll overcome it some day! Great post.


champagne & passports

 
At February 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the restaurant photo from Paris? It looks absolutely lovely.

 
At February 13, 2013 at 11:53 AM , Blogger The Simply Luxurious Life said...

Wonderful question. Just outside of the Palais Royale is this cafe named Le Nemours - with an open square directly in front, it sits near the Lourve and Place Colette and is just two blocks from the Seine. I haven't dined there yet, but I will be visiting it this summer as the Palais Royale has many shops I want to visit.

 
At February 13, 2013 at 1:36 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you! Have never been to Paris, but ready to try and make it happen. What would you suggest for resources for a first timer? Love your writing.

 
At February 13, 2013 at 1:37 PM , Blogger Vannessa@Luxuria said...

I have no problem dashing into a coffee shop when I am alone (especially when I am at my home in Spain), but in London I find it much more difficult. I am ashamed to admit I have never eaten alone in a restaurant. It hasn't been a conscious decision, but just an opportunity that has never presented itself ;-)
However, I'm all for being alone, the practise of mindfulness and living in the moment; like you when I am cooking is when I can really get lost in the moment x

 
At February 13, 2013 at 3:53 PM , Anonymous Melody Thomas-Morgan said...

This was (another) wonderful post. Thanks!

 
At February 13, 2013 at 4:57 PM , Anonymous Jewel Yet to Find said...

Hi Shannon! Love your blog and todays topic no exclusion.
My best traveling buddy is my camera, hugging it all the way. Usually my husband keeps me company to get my WOWs! and LOOK! LOOOK! LOOK! which I have trouble to hold. Recently we introduced our pre teen to european escapes. Seeing and sharing his enthusiasm is a joy. And still I'd love occasionally to wander by myself, always do.

But I don't mind and love to have lunch alone. Can't say the same about dinner. To be dressed up and spend an evening alone in a restaurant surrounded with couples I'd rather find dreadful.

On you first photo is Le Cafe Zinc in St. Germain, one of the marvels of Art Nouveau by Hector Guimard . Beautiful place.

 
At February 13, 2013 at 5:17 PM , Blogger The Simply Luxurious Life said...

Thank you for letting us know the name of the cafe. I was quite curious. ;)

 
At February 13, 2013 at 8:20 PM , Anonymous Stephanie said...

Thanks for talking about this topic. I have to say that when I'm home in the city, I never consider the idea of venturing out for dinner alone. I'm not entirely sure that the idea appeals. I will however, sometimes make elaborate dinners for myself at home (I love to cook) even though it's just me eating it. However, I travelled to Europe by myself last summer and will be doing the same this summer so I will be dining out alone. I admit that there were most definitely moments that I wished I had company, someone to talk to because that's part of what makes dinner enjoyable - catching up with someone. But for the most part I just enjoyed the whole aspect of it...getting to look around and choose exactly where I want to go, it's easier to find a spot than if you're with a large group, and oftentimes there is alot to see just with people watching/scenery. There was one restaurant in Rome that I went to all 3 nights I was there because the spot/location was just gorgeous, I could not get over it, so I think I mainly just felt in awe that I could enjoy such a beautiful place. Maybe I would have noticed it a little bit less if I was engrossed with talking to someone. And yes, dining at the outdoor Paris cafes is pretty easy too - I had one really nice dinner with the table/chair facing the most lovely setting and it was so pretty to watch. I'm sure I will somewhat miss not having company this summer, but to focus on the enjoyment of the food, wine and beautiful scenery (home just doesn't even compare!) is a true gift so I'm just going to appreciate that. Also, there is always a sense of mystery/intrigue in the air when you're dining out alone while travelling, I often find you are most approachable to people when alone and you really never know when you're going to have the most interesting conversation or chance meeting. I like the idea of knowing that mystery always exists.

 
At February 13, 2013 at 8:28 PM , Blogger Joy said...

Thanks so much for the reassurance. People think I am so weird for enjoying a little quite solitude sometimes.

 
At February 13, 2013 at 8:39 PM , Blogger The Simply Luxurious Life said...

Oh, there are so many. As far as books are concerned, have a look at my bookstore (link on the toolbar above), websites/blogs - A Girl's Guide to Paris, Hip Paris, Tresor Parisien are a few I love. Also, have a look at my personal recommendations based on my trip there (click on recommendations and scroll down to Paris).

In the next month or so I will be creating a page for my fellow Francophiles that will contain a long list of resources, so do stay tuned.

 
At February 17, 2013 at 5:21 PM , Blogger Karen Curtis said...

Great post! I stayed in a hotel with my husband last weekend for his birthday. I was actually excited that he dis not get up early and I was able to dine alone in the hotel restaurant. The waiters were friendly but not pushy and I was able to relax and prepare for the day. I also went to the movies by myself today. My husband was there too, just in a different theater. Some folks would think that is strange but we both left satisfied.

-Karen
www.yourstylistkaren.com

 

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