Half Baked: Ten Tips for Dining Alone


Photo by hey mr glen
Table For One

Patty Canedo is a chef in Palm Beach.  She writes frequently about her kitchen exploits in this column, Half Baked.

As for the mother of all Hallmark holidays rapidly approaches to wreak havoc on the line and the tickets begin to roll in, one two-top at a time, I can't help but wonder: where are all the singled out tickets?

As a cook, you enjoy the quick ticket time and one-plate pickup of a single top. As a service industry widow who is not afraid to dine out solo when the schedule gods grant me a Friday night off, I say enjoy your meal alone and bask in your own company. In fact, without my occasional lone seating I wouldn't be a happy chef working the hotline; but rather just another angry, knife-wielding bitch in a dark coat. 

Don't be embarrassed by the thought of dining solo. Keep a steady reservation for one at your favorite establishment! Here are some tips I've collected as a service industry widow.  

1) DO take a table, a booth, or wherever you want to sit; bar seating is not a given. In this gorgeous weather, there's nothing like a warm cocktail on a cool night at a patio table at my favorite pub.

2) DON'T pay any attention to the "just one?" question from your host and/or server. It's nothing more than an observation that echoes in your head, not theirs. In fact, at said pub, the hostess has a weirder reaction when I dine as part of a duo.

3) DO expect (unfortunately) slow service, especially on the weekends. Servers are bombarded with tables so it can be easy to lose track of a one-top. They don't mean to, but that needy party of six two tables down from you is running them ragged. Trick to dealing with it is to be prepared with your drink and food order, as well as anything else you may need or want when they come check on you. I always find the more understanding I am with the server they tend to overcompensate, even if it means enlisting co-workers to pitch in. Of course that applies for dining out in general.

4) DON'T forget your table manners. You wouldn't break out with a loud phone call over dinner with friends or on a date would you? So pay yourself (and the rest of the dining room) the same courtesy -- after all, you are important and deserve your undivided attention.

5) DO expect your food to come up quickly...99% of the time. Like I said, I love one-tops on a busy night. When the board is full and I'm just trying to clear tickets, I can always sell that one-top and feel like I'm making some headway through the mess. Conversely, sometimes a small ticket can get lost in the rush. So that 1% is the chance the kitchen may drop your ticket. But then again that can easily happen to any table at any restaurant on a busy night.  

6) DON'T feel like you can't indulge. Order that cocktail, try the dessert, enjoy your meal! My joy of dining alone is having the app all to myself.

7) DO go to the latest hot spot, that place you've been hearing so much about, or any where else you've wanted to try. What I love about going out alone: you don't have to satisfy several cravings, simply your own.

8) DON'T feel rushed because you wanted a table on a Friday night in a busy place; no one else does.  

9) DO expect to make friends. I find when I'm enjoying my evening that the security with myself radiates attention, attracts a conversation with a friendly server or another patron. My choice to engage or not. 

10) DON'T let that insecure voice in your head keep you from a night out. After all, South Florida is filled with so many great places and I, personally, feel like I just scratched the surface of my culinary journey.


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