20 Tips for Eating Out Alone – From A Seasoned Solo Diner

Eating out aloneEating out alone can be an incredibly daunting prospect and it took me a very long time (I’m talking years not days weeks or months) to become fully comfortable with the act. Read on for my tips that helped me get comfortable with regularly eating out alone.

Update for 2020: strange times, huh? I have recently moved home and area in the UK. While borders remain closed, I’m not doing much travel which leaves me facing the idea of solo dining in my home country. I’ll be honest, it’s not something I’ve done that much – usually it’s something I do overseas. However, since I’m currently restricted from meeting other people indoors, I have no choice if I want to eat out (and I do because there are so many nice restaurants in my new neighbourhood).

The good news, what better excuse: ‘Table for one, because I live alone and I’m not allowed to dine with other people right now’. If the fear of being deemed a sad, loser, loner is stopping you from eating out alone, 2020, for all its many faults, has just given you the perfect excuse to try it. Go forth and dine. Safely. ‘Sanitiser and fries for one, please’. 

20 Tips For Eating out Alone

After strolling up to a packed restaurant on a Saturday night in the middle of Dublin last year and practically forcing the reluctant waiter to give up a table for two to this lone diner, I realised I’d finally arrived – I’d learned the art of solo restaurant going.

But it was a slow and painful process that involved four years of full-time travel and many nights walking back and forth past places I wanted to eat before skulking back to my room to dine on packaged goods from the local 7 Eleven.

Whether you’re a solo traveller who wants to explore the local food scene but are too nervous to go it alone, or you’ve just moved to a new part of the world, or you’re simply looking to enjoy the occasional dinner out in your own city when friends and family aren’t around, here are my 20 tips for eating out alone.

Try A Food Tour

Want a fun dinner with a ready-made group of people? Try taking a food tour. Usually, you get to try several eateries, learn about the local foods and meet new friends in the process. I regularly do this when I’m new to a city but also in my home city when I don’t want to eat out alone.

I usually book online through either Get Your Guide or Viator. Just type in ‘food tour’ and search in your city of interest.

1. Do your restaurant research before you go

I would estimate that doing your research and choosing a restaurant in advance more than triples your chances of having a successful night eating out alone.

Why? When it comes to dining alone, choosing a restaurant off the cuff is just another daunting task to add to an already intimidating activity. Wandering around the streets promising yourself that you’ll just eat at whichever place looks nice/ is least busy/ takes your fancy is most likely going to involve you walking the streets for a long time before finally getting frustrated with yourself and heading home.

Choose the restaurant in advance and not only do you remove one decision from the equation, you’ve made the first step in committing to a night out alone.

2. Start small

We’ve all heard the phrase “don’t run before you can walk”. Well, don’t try dinner before you’ve tried lunch…or breakfast or a coffee.

For some reason that escapes me, dinner seems to be the one meal a day where it is more taboo to dine alone. Breakfast, lunch and sitting in a cafe, on the other hand, you’re much more likely to find solo diners – from mum’s with babies to workers catching a moment of alone time to sightseers to writers (yep, I’m that person who sits in the corner of a bar/cafe sipping one coffee for hours as I graft off the free wi-fi and a/c).

If you’re new to eating out alone, find a popular coffee shop or bar and take yourself on a day time eating out experiment. You’d be surprised the confidence boost it will give you.

3. Time your dining well

Despite me turning up solo at one of the most popular restaurants in Dublin at 8pm on a Saturday night last year, on the whole I’d recommend trying to dine a little before or after peak time. Why? While restaurants may still (sadly) prefer to take the money of two diners over one, especially during peak times, I personally couldn’t give a crap about that. I’m advising you dine out of peak time for your own comfort…at least at first.

If you’re already paranoid about eating out alone, you can quadruple that paranoia if you hit a restaurant at peak dining time on a weekend when the place is ram-packed and the tables are sparse. Going a little earlier or later will be far less stressful.

4. Study the menu beforehand

Chances are that the very act of getting across the threshold of the restaurant and taking a seat as a solo diner, will have your head racing, and although you may look like you’re studying the menu thoughtfully, your mind is probably elsewhere…

Is that couple over there watching me?
(Turn menu page)
Oh, God, even that kid thinks he has more friends than I do and he’s only 6.
(Pick up, flick through and put down wine list)
Arggghhh. I want to leave.
(Return to menu as though making a final decision).
Should I leave…

“Are you ready to order?”

If there is any chance you can study the menu before you sit down, do it and make a decision or at least a shortlist of three things that you want to eat. Not only will it make your first 10 minutes in the restaurant less stressful, it avoids the problem of panic ordering. And, the bonus is that if you eat something delicious, you’re much more likely to want to return for another adventure eating out alone.

Tip: A lot of menus are online these days. Otherwise, visit the restaurant at lunchtime just to look at the menu.

Just me…and I’m enough.

5. Visualise your alternative dining options

If you’re a foodie (or simply tired of your current eating routine) then the most motivating thing you can do is to visualise the alternative. When I’m feeling a bit emotionally vulnerable (happens at least once a month!) and I’m not so keen on venturing out, I force myself to really think about what my other option is – that thought usually leads me to a vile pre-packaged sandwich with nasty white stale bread, a bottle of diet coke and some edible but far from fulfilling chips (crisps). And the worst part, I’d still be eating alone except I’d be in the quiet desperation of my room while quietly chastising myself for not being bold enough to go out.

6. Dress comfortably

We all have clothes that makes us feel more comfortable and confident and I’d highly recommend wearing them for your eating out adventure. That new, experimental outfit can surely wait for another time?

And on comfort, you’re going out to eat. There is little point wearing those “I used to be able to get into these when I was 19” jeans and spending the entire night breathing in. Actually, this applies to all eating out experiences – solo or not. But from an eating alone perspective, there is nothing to be gained from increasing your discomfort!

7. Promise yourself a low-stress reward

Eating out alone can, sadly, be a pretty stressful activity, particularly if you’re not accustomed to it. So, in return for your bravery, think up a nice, low-stress reward for yourself. Whether it’s a favourite movie alone in your room after dinner or a few hours reading a book in the park the next day, knowing you’ll have some stress-free de-compression time after your night out alone, you can remind yourself that dinner will not last forever and you already have some stress-free time scheduled in.

8. Map your route

If you’ve made the decision to eat out alone, you’ve researched the menu and picked a restaurant, the last thing you want to do is back out…but it’s easy to seize even the slightest opportunity to cancel your solo dining plans.

And not being able to find your chosen restaurant is one of those very common “get out of eating alone” excuses that can be hard to resist. So, prepare. Don’t let the opportunity arise – either research the exact route you’re going to take or, better yet, get a taxi to take you straight there.

9. Eat within your comfort zone

My Travel Amiga Karen once ventured out to dinner alone in Hong Kong and ended up with a platter of seafood to serve six. It was a bold move and one that embarrassed the hell out of her.

When you’re not confident eating out alone, the very idea of being put under the microscope any further can be terrifying. For that reason, start off by eating in your comfort zone. First time solo dining probably isn’t the time to learn to use chopsticks or get to grips with the dynamics of a Korean Barbecue. Pizza and pug grub are usually pretty safe bets for new solo diners.

10. Make a reservation

You’ve picked a restaurant, you’ve studied the menu, you’ve planned your route, you’ve picked a non-peak time and still you’re turned away at the door. Don’t leave your dinner plans to chance – if you can, book ahead.

Something you’re going to have to get used to: “JUST for one?”

As well as securing a table, making a reservation is a good way of notifying the restaurant that you’re a solo diner. Like it or not (I hate it), you’re probably going to be met with a fair bit of surprise by eating out alone, particularly in the evening (although – good news, times are changing according to this BBC article).

Until solo dining become more mainstream, you’re probably going to repeatedly be asked, “Just one?” or “Only one”. Not something you’ll ever hear as a couple or group.

When I’m asked, I meekly say “yes, just one”. But one day…one day soon I promise I’m going to scream out, “I’m not JUST one. I am one and I am enough.” Still working on that. In the meantime, I gloss over the ignorance as my waiters show me to my table “JUST for one”.

11. Stand your ground on seating

Following on from the above, this “just one” attitude can have a pretty unfortunate impact when it comes to seating. Although it has happened only a handful of times – I repeat, only a handful out of hundreds of dining times – there have been occasions when my rather inconsiderate waiter has tried to plonk me in the most unattractive part of the restaurant.

“Singles corner” I can kind of cope with but I have also been asked more than once to sit with strangers. Absent dining in China Town in London (where you’re commonly dumped in a random seat whether you’re dining alone or not), I simply won’t stand for it and you shouldn’t either.

Sure, I get that restaurants prefer to take two people’s money from a table but on the flip side, as a solo diner you’re much more likely to complete your meal quicker than a couple or group. So, I say stand your ground. If the restaurant won’t give you a decent table that makes you comfortable, then walk away – there are plenty of restaurants that will.

12. Take props

Eating out alone take props

Photo by: Stefan Tarnell.

Even as a seasoned solo diner, there are moments when my single status haunts me in restaurants – and those moments are usually the long waits after I’ve ordered my meal and when I ask for the bill/cheque. With no food to play with and no menu to read, I find myself either drinking a glass of wine (way to fast) or twiddling my fingers awkwardly and desperately wishing I could evaporate (like my wine appears to have done).

Solution: these days I take props. A whole heap of props, in fact, all of which are designed to keep me occupied. My go to distraction devices include my Kindle, a travel guidebook, my iPhone (complete with games, stuff to read, and access to wi-fi – yay, dining friends at a distance!). In addition, I often take my camera and notebook – even if I’m not reviewing the restaurant, taking pictures and notes helps me practice my craft and keeps my mind off my singleness at the same time.

If you’re looking for something good to read, check out my posts on the 50 best travel books as well as my 52 tips for how to read more.

Tip: I’m not suggesting that you dupe a restaurant into thinking you’re a food journalist, but if you feel the need for a “cover story” i.e. you want people to believe you have a reason to be dining alone, consider taking a small note book and take some snaps of your food. I don’t think there’s any real harm in a bit of play acting if nobody is misled and it helps boost your confidence for eating out alone.

13. Go as an alter-ego

One of my favourite motivational books is called Focus by Jurgen Wolff. In that book he shares a powerful concept of using alter egos to get you through tasks that daunt you. And I’m going to suggest taking a similar approach when eating out alone.

How does the alter ego work? I used to hate doing my accounts and that was usually because I’d send my teenage alter ego in to do the job. Before long I would find myself on YouTube watching videos of cats playing Jenga. These days I step into my ex-lawyer alter ego and this much more organised version of me is way more efficient for the job at hand.

We all have times when we are more confident, outgoing and daring – find that alter ego within you and take that version of you out for dinner. Don’t have one? Make one up! Or try stepping into the shoes of your more confident best friend for the night – imagine what he or she would do if they were eating out alone.

14. Have a beer or a glass of wine

Ah, I can hear the naysayers – you shouldn’t need alcohol to boost your confidence. Yeah? Screw that – sometimes it can help. Plus, you’re a grown up, and wine and beer are actually a great accompaniment to food. As long as you’re not downing a fifth of vodka before you go out, just for courage, ordering a glass or wine or beer when you sit down might just take the edge of your nerves.

15. Take something to “save your seat”

Eating out alone reserved sign

Photo by: .reserveD

Unless you’re a camel or capable of eating spinach without getting it in your teeth (I’m neither), there’s probably going to be a point when you want to pop to the bathroom. And you’re probably not going to want to do this mid-meal. Which raises the slight trickery of “saving your seat”. If you’ve literally just ordered, there won’t be any dinner debris (plates, glasses etc.) to indicate that the table is your spot, and even if you have finished eating, an empty seat could leave the waiter wondering if you’ve scarpered.

Leaving your bag or valuables at your table isn’t ideal so I usually ensure I have something non-valuable on me – a scarf or a book – to indicate that I’ve just popped away and to serve as a gentle reminder to my waiter – “don’t you damn well dare dispense of my half glass of wine or hand my table over to the couple at the door keenly coveting my spot.”

16. Practice with a friend

One of the biggest fears about eating out alone is the paranoia that other people think you are some sort of reject of society. And mostly that fear exists only in your head. But what if you knew that you had a friend close by – would that make you more confident?

If so, give it a try. Arrange to go to dinner at a restaurant with a friend, but pledge to dine separately. Turn up alone, sit alone, but know that there is a friendly face in the restaurant who is sharing your discomfort. You might be surprised how much this alters your perspective and confidence to eat alone.

When you do decide to go solo, just pretend that your friend is in the back somewhere.

17. Remind yourself that people are self absorbed

As I’ve already mentioned, one of the biggest barriers that stops many people eating out alone is the worry that they are being judged and stigmatised by…pretty much everybody in the restaurant.

The reality, on the other hand, is that the vast majority of people (myself included) are super self-absorbed. Beyond a cursory glance and perhaps a nano-second of though in your direction, most people will barely register that you’re there – let alone notice that fact that you’re there alone. This raises a whole heap of issues about modern day society and humanity in general, but for the purposes of solo dining, it’s great news.

18. Enjoy some people watching

Having just said that people are self absorbed, dining alone is a great excuse to buck that trend. Do it discretely, but watching people in restaurants is such good fun. I like to play a bit of table bingo to see if I can get a full house of the following diners:

  • the couple on a first date
  • the “I’m with this person but actually wish I was alone” couple
  • the birthday group
  • the affair
  • the “it’s our anniversary and we’re still deeply in love” couple
  • the business colleagues
  • the “it’s our anniversary and I’m so uncomfortable in our marriage, I’ve invited the kids for dinner too.”
  • the girl’s night out
  • the boy’s night out

and you get bonus points for spotting:

  • another solo diner
  • anyone famous
  • the most drunk person in the restaurant

quadruple points if you spot a solo, famous diner who also happens to be the most drunk person in the restaurant.

19. Take cash and have change

Eating out alone can be a bit of an ordeal, especially those first few times, and by the end of dinner you’re probably going to want to retreat to your home or hotel at speed. Waiting for the bill, when you’ve played with all your props and are a bit snoozy from the food can feel like an eternity.

Ask for the bill early – I usually ask when I still have a fifth of my drink left – and try to pay with cash using the right money, if possible. This can avoid the prolonged process of paying by credit card or waiting for change (especially in “more relaxed” places like Latin America).

20. Know your exit strategy

You may feel deliriously high or distractedly keen to get home when you leave the restaurant and if you’re in a strange town, the last thing you want to do is have to recall where you are and where you go.

When you’re planning your night out, also plan your exit strategy so you know the route to get home and public transport options.

And there you have it. My best tips for eating out alone. The first few…dozen…hundred times you go solo dining might make you wince but trust me, develop this skill and you’ll never have to settle for a crappy 7 Eleven sandwich for dinner ever again.

Have you ever eaten out alone? Any other tips to share? I’d especially love to her from anyone who reads this, gives it a go and conquers their fears.

A quick word about the comments section: this article recently got featured on Google news and while I should be shouting ‘woo hoo, look at me’, I’m a bit peed off because it’s attracted the trolls.

I don’t censor or edit the comments on my site. I usually publish and reply.

Not this time.

This article is intended as a resource to help people venture out, push their boundaries and dine solo when it’s otherwise seems like a challenge. In the spirit of keeping this a ‘safe space’ for people to share their stories, I will – with delight – be deleting all comments that are critical or negative towards solo diners.

Ergo: don’t waste your keystrokes, trolls.

<That’s all>

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Main photo by: Jim Pennucci

188 thoughts on “20 Tips for Eating Out Alone – From A Seasoned Solo Diner”

  1. Hi Jo, as a long time solo diner I loved the blog. Your comment on people being self absorbed rang a bell, but a bit different one than you mentioned. A restaurant where I’m a regular had a seasonal celebration recently and I found myself there on a Saturday. I went late as you wisely note, there being no reservations taken Friday and Saturday. But I wasn’t able to secure a seat at the bar for all the couples seated there. I saw that the hostess was seating couples arriving after me where singles might be seated, so they could await a table while having a drink and appetizer.

    I spoke with the owner and he said, “well, we are busy. Why don’t you come back on a weeknight?”

    I suppose I’m fortunate that it doesn’t happen more often, but it’s difficult to accept the indifference.

    Reply
    • Hi Sid, this kind of thing really bugs me. We are each of us humans and we’re all customers whether we’re one person or not. I have walked out of restaurants that treat me differently because I’m a solo diner. Ive also had the opposite, where I’m, give just a little more attention or service because I’m on my own. They’re the places I go back to. It’s not difficult, why can’t people get that?!

      Reply
  2. I’ve been a solo diner for many years and comfortably so. I always sit at the bar. Doesn’t bother me in the least no matter the venue or time of day!

    Reply
  3. When I was in my 20’s, I was so embarrassed to dine alone because I thought people would look down on me, but now in my 40’s what stops me, is fear of my food being tampered with. As a Hispanic American with a brown complexion, the looks I get when I’m traveling through predominantly white states like Vermont or Tennessee is astonishing. It feels like I’m living in the Jim Crow laws of yesteryear.

    Reply
    • Hi Victor, I’m so sorry you’re having that experience. A practical suggestion: have you tried eating in restaurants where you can see the food being prepared?

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  4. I’ve just got to say that this is totally an article for extroverts. As an introvert, I cherish going out alone (and yes, I’m married). This goes back to my days in college when is just need some me time and slip out of the dorm and sit alone at McDonalds and read my book or the campus/local newspaper. When I worked at summer camp, 4 out of 5 times, my days and nights off were solo ventures.

    It would be easy for me to comment that this article is silly, because it read like that to me.
    Then I realized the talent of us introverts to be alone and for that to be quality, rejuvenating time, I can’t imagine alone time being anxiety provoking. It clearly is for some, so these tips are likely great for those who need them.

    Reply
    • I don’t think people’s worries can quite so easily be put into the binary categories of introverted and extroverted but thanks for sharing your experience.

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  5. While I prefer dining with others, I dine alone frequently. It’s usually a good experience, as I love trying new restaurants and can’t always get someone to go with me. However, I do feel lonely and uncomfortable sometimes. Usually, I’ll bring earphones and watch movies on my phone or iPad while I’m eating. Is that weird? It’s kind of awkward when a waiter comes by and I have to take my earphones out. Also, should I tip more if I’m dining alone? I always tip 15-20%, but the dollar amount can be kind of low if I just ordered one entree. Thanks for your post!

    Reply
    • Hi Brittany, not weird to watch TV and eat at all – that’s pretty much how most people eat at home. I still tip based on service. Admittedly, I do have extra gratitude sometimes for being a good seat when I dine solo so that might factor in but I don’t feel compelled to. Hope that helps and keep on solo dining!

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  6. My husband passed in August and I will probably never go to anything but fast food drive thrus. I always was the type of person to love my alone time but now its just to much. I am always by myself. Its depressing and sad.

    Reply
    • Hi Brenda, I’m sorry to hear about the passing of your husband. You are going through a challenging time and adding extra pressure about things like eating out alone can seem overwhelming. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself but also don’t rule out the idea. Start small – my local cafe is full of ladies chatting across the tables at each other. They all visit separately, read their books, do their knitting and go home alone but they chat in between. Grief is depressing and sad. So is being lonely but know that it’s a common feeling (even with some people who don’t live alone). Try to connect with some local groups and you might find a dining companion. If not, take a book and ignore everyone else. The external noise can be company enough some time. Message me if you ever want to chat.

      Reply
  7. I used to be horrified by the simple thought of solo dining. Like a lot of others here, I was worried people would be staring at me, judging as I munched alone. Then, about seven and a half years ago, I met my husband, who happened to be a seasoned solo diner, and also lived half a continent away. He helped me gain courage to dine alone, giving me the realization that people are more focused on their own delicious (or not!) meals than they were in me, but also bringing a new perspective: If I had no one to go with, I was missing out on trying something new, which could possibly become a new favorite!

    I especially liked your advice of going out as an alter ego. While I don’t necessarily need that for dining anymore, it could certainly be handy in other aspects of my life!

    Kudos on a wonderful article, and thank you for taking the time to reach out to those who aren’t comfortable in the experience of dining alone.

    Reply
    • Thanks Kayla and thanks to your husband for encouraging you. The more people who do it, the more normalised it will become. And yes, people are definitely fixated on their own immediate surroundings. I’m back travelling solo at the moment. I may go for dinner as an alter ego myself. Just for fun.

      Reply
  8. Love the tips. Saw the article in my feed and just had to check it out. Might just be a late 20-somethings guy thing, but I’ve always been quite comfortable dining alone. My significant other is always mortified when I tell her about it afterward, though. Maybe I’ll run into another article soon. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Ha ha. It’s great that you’ve always been happy to dine solo. Now to confidence your other half to try and do the same!

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  9. Jo,
    In all due respect, I believe your lack of confidence regarding dining alone is highly correlated to self confidence in general. I have traveled extensively abroad and domestically and it has never crossed my mind that dining alone would create fear and anxiety. When I’m hungry I search for nearby restaurants, check reviews, if possible, and go with the expectation that it will be a positive experience.
    I can see that others my harbor some degree of anxiety regarding dining alone but I truly believe that it is primarily a mindset issue. We cannot solve a problem with the same mindset that created it. Once the mental paradigm shift takes place the self confidence level rises and one will look back and wonder why dining alone seemed like such an insurmountable task. Hope this helps.

    Reply
    • I’m actually a very confident person. I was a lawyer for year. I’ve started 2 successful business. I put my life online for over 2.5 million people to read each year (warts and all). I’ve visited over 60 countries alone, including many potentially dangerous destinations. I regularly approach strangers and strike up a conversations. I’ve lived in several countries, including where I don’t speak the language. I enjoy extreme sports. We all have areas where we are less confident that other areas. To assume one simple demonstration of ‘yikes, can I do this’ means that a person is totally lacking in confidence is a very narrow-minded view. But thanks for your ‘due respect’ ;p

      Reply
  10. I didn’t realize so many people had this phobia. I spent two years dining alone sometimes multiple times a day and never gave it a second thought. I just found it easier than cooking for one. My favorite tip you gave is that people are self absorbed. This is true on so many levels nobody is paying attention to you. One of my favorite things to do while dining alone is pull out my tarot cards (it started out as a way to hopefully attract potential clients)and that is the ONLY time I get noticed and even that is rare. But if I am with someone and whip my cards out I am 10 times more likely to get noticed. In my opinion the bigger the group the more you should be self concious… Not the other way around. Go out and do you! This should be a reward in itself. Nobody is going to notice or care.

    Reply
    • That is fascinating about the reaction of people (or no reaction!) when you’re doing tarot reading. Yes, definitely people are self absorbed. A lady approached me to chat in Puerto Rico the other day – just asking why I was there dining in a local village (I was driving past and got hungry) and she spent the whole 5 minutes talking to me but admiring herself in the mirror. Kind of amusing and awkward to witness!

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  11. I live away from home for work so I eat out alone alot..dont mind but hate it when you get ignored and I’ve gone to the bar to pay my bill..also if you eat at The bar you’ll. Get better service

    Reply
    • I might be making this up but I think in one of the Scandinavian countries if you ask for the bill more than 3 times and it doesn’t come, you’re allowed to leave..I think that might be urban legend now I type it but it should be a rule!

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  12. Handy article. Usually if i find someone looking at me I just smile. It really eases up the tension. If i dont get a smile back it kinda make it easier to ignore them.

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  13. Another option is to ask if you can order food at the bar. When sitting at the bar as a single is a typical occurence. Theres no condemnation stares there. Plus the bar tender is use to single orderers and can provide a occasional small talk to help time pass waiting for food.

    Reply
    • Hi Paul, a few people have suggested the same. It’s a good tip but not for me personally (short legs/limited menu/creeps seem to think I’m there to be picked up).

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  14. I’ve dined solo exactly once and I felt so awkward. It was a spur of the moment thing because I was by a Mexican restaurant that my brother recommended and I had an hour to kill. I ordered the enchilada plate and remember sitting there awkwardly wondering what I was supposed to do; it was my first time eating dinner anywhere without some kind of conversation to go with my meal. Even at home I could talk to my family.

    The enchiladas were really good though.

    Reply
  15. I started dining solo in my senior year of college — it was uncomfortable at first but I also love having time to myself as much as I love going out with friends, I need both. I at first would only ask for bar seating but got more comfortable asking for tables. That was in Florida, I just moved to Denver though and honestly it’s way easier to do here because a lot of others are doing the same.

    Reply
    • Hi Macey, interesting that it has differed between states for you. I’m in Miami at the mo and very happily dine out solo here but I suppose there are a lot of tourists as I’m in the tourist centre. It does help feeling like a ‘foreign’ person. I always feel like they just chalk me up as a curious visitor. I do find solo dining much harder at home.

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  16. I mastered the art of solo dining while living in New York in the mid ’90s. You offer some great advice in this article but some suggestions you missed were sitting at a “community table” that some restaurants offer and sitting at the bar. The former affords the opportunity of meeting like minded solo diners and striking up interesting conversations. The latter does the same but as people in groups of 2 or more tend to wait for tablets at the bar there is a constant rotation of new people to meet and engage with. Although sometimes the menu offered at the bar differs from the full menu after a drink or two one can politely ask a bartender if food can be ordered from the full menu. I’ve almost never been denied this request. A final thought on pairing up at a table for two. While in New York this option had me dining with Yoko Ono. We still follow each other on Twitter and it was one of the most memorable meals of my life!

    Reply
    • I only saw a community table once and that was at spa resort. I sat there and connected with a lady I’m still in contact with. I think it’s a great idea that should be more commonly used! But, hang on – lunch with Yoko Ono. Flipperty jig! Now that is a story and a half. To anyone reading these comments wondering if solo dining is worth the initial pain…this answers it 🙂

      Reply
    • Troll from Google (?!) ha ha – yes, that is a great tip. I suppose I excluded it because I have short legs and find bar dining more of a yoga workout but great if you’re more than 5ft tall ;p

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  17. Thanks Jo!

    I just experimented with solo dining a gastronomic restaurant. I wish I had read this article first. I detected a generational difference among the staff. The young servers and sommelière were very comfortable with me. The middle-aged owner however seems to flip her lid.

    Reply
    • Hi Paris, that’s a shame about the owner. Some people just don’t get it…but my suspicion is it’s a direct reflection of their now fears. Let’s just hope they never have to face a solo dining situation because I bet they’ll be sat snacking on chips in their pants in their hotel room! Glad the young servers were up to scratch and well done taking on a gastro scene!

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    • Well, I did find #15 useful, having once returned to my table to find my waiter remove 1/3 of my lobster dinner. But the other suggestions- I don’t know. I would suggest single diners sit at the bar (assuming there is one). By the end of your meal you will know your waiter/bartender well and you may make a few friends dining at the bar as well.

      Reply
      • Well, I’d be furious about the 1/3 lobster. I hope the waiter at least threw some free shrimps your way 🙂 I’m not a bar dining person. First of all I find it uncomfortable (short legs, here). But also, as a solo female diner, it can be frustrating having to deal with men hitting on you when all you want to do is get up close and personal with a burger. If there was a bar area for people ‘just wanting to eat and chat’, I’d be more likely to use the bar!

        Reply
    • I dine alone in New York City fairly often. I have dined alone at very expensive restaurants. No problem! It is a great way to eavesdrop on other people’s conversations. The waiters have always been very kind to me. Yes, you can feel self conscious, especially after you have paid the bill and have a few minutes to sit quietly before leaving. I may then take out my phone and be busy with it, or I may just go to the ladies room and then leave. Perhaps, in Manhattan dining alone is less awkward than in other cities, but I have no choice. My husband does not like opera, so I go by myself. I have to fine alone before the performance.

      Reply
      • Dinner and the opera alone – sounds like a great night out to me! Good to hear about New York. That’s one city that intimidates me for dining solo. I tend to have a big lunch and eat the leftovers for dinner. I’m going to be braver next time!

        Reply
    • I eat without a human partner all the time. My furry best friend Tobi and me enjoy dining all the time. If no outdoor dining I go myself. I enjoy dining out and I’m single and most people I know don’t like going out or to the places I like. I fly solo. Enjoy meeting other single diners. If the wait staff doesn’t like it…..oh well. I eat well. Drink well. And tip well. I’ve worked in restaurants all my life. Some of the best tippers and customers…were one tops. 😋

      Reply
      • Thanks for sharing your experience, Colette. I think I need me a furry friend (just generally but also as a dining buddy!)

        Reply
  18. I have never had an issue with dining alone or going anywhere else by myself. I am paying for food, service, entertainment, goods, etc. just like anyone else. Since good tippers are always appreciated, I am confident that my presence is welcome, although I have also been known to answer that question, “Just you?” with a variety of responses designed to evoke reconsideration of the query. 😉

    Reply
    • Hi Jan, I’d love to hear what ‘just you’ responses you have up your sleeve so a few of us here can take them with us on our next solo dining adventures 🙂

      Reply
  19. The closest I get to dining alone is to order carryout from the restraunt and go home to eat with my dog. I still can’t grasp this idea and I’m a 60 year old woman with a year or 2 left from a upper management career of 20 + years. Your article was a facinating read. I will try again and again until I am sitting at my favorite restaurant at a table and not just sitting waiting for my carryout. Hmmm, I shall put this on my “Bucket List.”

    Reply
    • Put it on your bucket list!!!! Start small. Go for a fancy lunch somewhere and build the confidence. You can do it. It’s hard at first but you will get there if you keep trying. Maybe find somewhere you can dine with your doggie…and then you’re not alone!

      Reply
  20. I’m a terrible cook—despite having successfully completed several cooking classes. It’s just not my forte. Because of this, I end up eating out several times per week. I’ve seen all the bad things described in your article and by your commenters. I’ve been turned away even when I can see open tables—even open seats at the bar when there are only two left. I’ve been hurried by staff to expedite my meal. I’ve received curious and disapproving looks from other diners. I’ve been seated in the absolute worst place in the restaurant—i was even seated in a literal closet once (I’m too polite to leave after being seated). What I’ve found works for me is to become a “regular” at a few local places, so that the staff comes to recognize and know you. People are usually much more friendly and welcoming when you are familiar to them and present yourself amicably. I almost never done at other restaurants, because I know the experience will be excruciating, my presence clearly unwelcome.

    Reply
    • Hi Jonathan, it staggers me that servers can be so unaccommodating and rude! Especially when it’s not their personal business/the money doesn’t make a difference to their pay. Good idea on getting a regular place. I’m going to challenge you to go and find another regular place this year. If a restaurant doesn’t make you feel welcome, let me know and I’ll happily name and shame them on here!

      Reply
  21. Great article! I travel a lot for work and hated wasting my per diem on bad food, so I started dining alone. It took awhile to get comfortable, still doesn’t sometimes, but it’s so worth it. I have a great meal and am not on someone else’s time. My favorite are restaurants where I can people watch the area, like outdoor seating or a balcony. I usually make a reservation but have found a lot of restaurants are not allowing single reservations anymore. My trick, book for two then tell them my friend couldn’t make it when I get there.

    Reply
    • Hi JB, I’m glad you like my post. People watching is such a fun solo dining activity. It’s interesting about not allowing solo diners to book. I say ‘interesting’, I mean horrible. I’d also book for 2! I do that in hotels – it’s the same price and the rooms are bigger/not the cupboard under the stairs.

      Reply
  22. Maybe at some time in my life this is been a problem, but if it was, I long ago got over it. I have traveled much of the world and cannot really recall giving much thought to dining alone. But I am sure some do , and if so, I’m certain this article could be helpful.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Robert. It’s amazing what we learn to get used to. Hopefully one day many of the people reading this article will look back and wonder what they were worried about.

      Reply
  23. Love your tips. Used to dine solo when I lived in NYC. Before meeting up with art group in France, dined alone in Toulouse last year. I love the freedom and it is character building! Now I live in a small city in Virginia and meet girlfriends a lot downtown.
    Another tip- bring a sketchbook. I joined an urban sketch group and it is lots of fun! Solo dining is perfect for whipping out a little sketch book and enjoying the moment. It is good for the brain and shows others that I am definitely occupied and content being alone😊

    Reply
  24. I traveled for work for 35 years and ate out alone a lot of times. I never had any issues or concerns doing so. A couple of rules that I always followed were to bring a newspaper and/or my iPad.

    Reply
  25. Great post and all good comments following.
    For me, I started out with restaurants near my home. Felt comfortable in my own neighborhood. Also makes you feel like you belong and are supporting local businesses. Starting with fast food places is good too. Lots of people eat alone there. Fun to graduate to the next level .

    Reply
  26. What a wonderful article. I go back and forth about eating alone. The first time I tried it was when I went on a trip alone!! It was with a tour group and thought all meals would be with them but nope… so I sat in a restaurant and tried the trick of a notepad, asking questions about the menu, and then writing answers done there. I was sure they thought I had a food blog. What fun that was. As I said, I go back and forth on my courage and am tired of eating alone at home so, here I go! Out again to take in the sites (and other diners). Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Hi Susan, you’re not alone – there are many of us out there, dining solo! Ok, so you are technically alone at the table sometimes. What I’m trying to say is that you are not the only one doing this so keep on! It helps all of us the more we can normalise ‘table for one’. Go forth and dine 🙂

      Reply
  27. This is a great post and I’m glad I found it now ore than ever.

    Unfortunately the last time I tried dining alone the waitress bustled me out as soon as it looked like I was close to done, despite any of my protests or the fact that I was there before peak time. It made me feel like I wasn’t wanted at all and I haven’t been back to the restaurant since. Though I may try again at a different place soon thanks to this! ^.^

    Reply
    • Oh that annoys me, Stellar. I’m sorry you had such a bad experience. I’d have withheld my tip – even in the USA (gasp!). Some people just don’t get it. Keep trying. And why not leave a review on TripAdvisor – there is a solo diner filter and other solo diners can give the place a miss!

      Reply
    • I agree with many things you said, but the bottom line is that you have to not care what people think. I have been a shy person all my life and I have just gotten to the point where I just don’t care. You can’t control how people think. Even if you are with someone, people can still judge you. I think going to a restaurant with a friend and sitting at separate tables is kinda crazy. It’s pretty common for people to eat alone these days so I myself don’t judge. People watching makes YOU form an opinion of other people eating. And the one thing about eating alone, is that you have nobody to disagree with you

      Reply
      • Hi Tim, I agree that “the bottom line is that you have to not care what people think”. Slight snag is that’s often much easier to say than do. You’d be surprised what people find helpful and any tip or tool – including dining separately with a friend – that helps someone dine out, is going on the list 🙂 Well done conquering your own shyness.

        Reply
  28. Found this article while working myself up to go eat out alone. I travel alone all the time and still have problems with sitting down alone in a restaurant for diner

    I really saw myself in your writing, so i stood up and went to the place i was planing on going , only to stumble on a closed door on a Sunday evening .

    Had myself some gelato instead , better luck tomorrow

    Reply
    • Oh no – don’t you hate it when you’re brave and then that happens?! Gelato was a brilliant alternative. Keep trying! It’s hardest the first time and I’d definitely recommend booking, at least for the first trip, so you don’t have the closed door next time.

      Reply
    • I also travel a lot alone..I’m able to cope with it, but still feel self – conscious when eating solo..think I always will..currently in Athens, Greece having just dined alone!

      Reply
  29. I’m reading this as I dine at a nice, family friendly restaurant. As a recently divorced man the first few times dining alone blew chunks. Couples, families, groups… daunting. Additionally, I like to put on a sport coat and tie to ramp up my appearance… so I often stand out in the much more casually dressed crowd.

    I’ve reached the point where it is now a non-issue. I get to eat good food that I didn’t prepare (I’m not a cook by any means), dress up a bit and just enjoy my solo life. My phone keeps me company. Plus the people watching is entertaining.

    Good article. Wish I had found it months ago.

    Reply
    • Thanks Dwayne. And well done on being brave and going out despite your fears! It is intimidating but I also use the lure of the food to push me out of my comfort zone. If we solo diners keep doing it, hopefully it will normalise the whole thing!

      Reply
  30. So glad I found your post. I’m absolutely the guy who ends up walking home with a bag of “food” from a convenience store. I’ll be on a business trip in Cleveland in a few weeks, and had already reserved a table for one in Little Italy. I was considering canceling, but after reading this, I’m going to keep my reservation – thank you!

    Reply
    • Don’t cancel! Cleveland is a fun and vibrant city and I’ve eaten out alone more than once there. You have to be brave and Cleveland is a brilliant city to do it. Enjoy Little Italy! Think of the pasta versus that disgusting ‘food’ from 7Eleven!

      Reply
  31. I not only eat out alone I go clubbing all night alone, I’m always alone I travel alone, I do everything alone because I’m autistic and have no friends and no girlfirned, occasionally I have dinner with my mother but she is elderly and doesn’t leave the house much, for me the hardest part is walking in and asking for a seat, after that I’m fine ! But for me everything social is very difficult so it’s no harder for me to go out alone than it is to buy a pair of shoes or to ask a stranger for the time, when everything is hard and your constantly embarrassed you don’t sweat the big stuff like dining alone clubbing alone or asking women out.

    Reply
    • Hi, thanks so much for stopping by to share your experience. I don’t have any friends who are autistic – your comment make me see why this might be – so I have no real idea of what it’s like to live with autism. And I don’t want to insult you by pretending I ‘get it’, though your comments have definitely opened my mind to how difficult it must be. I did write some tips about what to do when you’re lonely travelling alone and some suggestions for how to connect with people. Hopefully something in there might help/spark an idea. I’m here any time you want an online friend 🙂

      Reply
  32. “Just one” happens less often than it used to. But when it does, I give the waitperson a huge smile and say energetically, “No, it’s not ‘just’ one: it’s me! I’m THE one!”
    After we both laugh, I will sometimes gently say, “Some single diners dislike being called ‘just one.’ They might tip less!” And I giggle again, becomingly.

    Reply
  33. I eat out alone A LOT!! And the truth is.. I may have gotten TOO comfortable with it lol. It used to be something I feared and then one day I jumped in, feet first and I never looked back.. I became my very own favorite date. I take something to read and completely enjoy myself. I recommend that everyone eat alone from time to time..and indulge.

    Reply
    • I personally don’t think there’s any such thing as being too comfortable with eating out alone 🙂 just keep enjoying yourself and it sounds like you are!

      Reply
  34. I do it quite a bit and I must say I have found myself using most of your tips. I Googled the topic because I was dining in a really upscale restaurant this time. Hahaha. The main problem I have with dining alone is I find myself spending more than I normally will when I a dining with others. Lord! Who am I trying to impress.

    Reply
    • Well done on tackling an upscale market, May. I think you deserve to treat yourself – let’s just say that you’re trying to impress yourself. Now go and have that extra lobster 😉

      Reply
  35. So glad I found your blog, I’m planning my first solo trip, in many years, to Poland in a couple of months time. I have booked an apartment with kitchen as the thought of eating out alone in the evening makes me nervous. After reading your tips and the comments I have decided to be brave a try a solo dinner in a nice restaurant and I shall sure I plan ahead for it. I feel comfortable eating alone during the day and have done many times but in the evening, well, that’s another thing although. I feel inspired now, so thank you very much

    Reply
    • Hi Jan, I’m glad I’ve inspired you. Be brave – you can do it! And once you’ve done it once, you’ll open up a whole new world of dining…

      Reply
  36. Loved the article! I’m heading to South Africa for three weeks on my own soon and I even though I’ve done a fair amount of solo eating before this is going to be a challenge! The dinners are hardest as you’ve pointed out. I also find that I need to plan extra around the fact that you need to drive around more than I’m used to (compared to travel in Europe with lots of public transport which means no wine with my food.

    Reply
    • Hi Ann-Christin, you do have the advantage that the food in South Africa is wonderful so that should lure you out to dine alone. If you do want to indulge in a glass of wine, why not take an Uber? I found it really safe to get around that way in the city. Have a great trip and eat lots of BBQ for me.

      Reply
  37. Eating out alone might appear to be a bit of a challenge, but in all actuality, it’s just a mindset that people can get themselves looped into when it comes to dealing with having to dine out alone. While it does takes some time to be able to eat out alone comfortably without having the eyes of the entire world judge you simply because you want to eat alone, when you do get over the experience of having to sit alone in a crowded public place the feeling is almost liberating–especially if you have some anxiety issues and you figured out that conquering them yourself would be a good way to get started. If I had the chance to eat alone, I’d want to make sure that I at least have something on-hand to help keep my mind busy while enjoying the food.

    Reply
  38. This is a great article. I am a person with a visual disability who loves to try new restaurants. I had always thought eating solo was some kind of taboo especially at dinner time. Once at a hotel I decided I would do it and not order room service but actually go to the hotel restaurant and sit and have a nice dinner. It was so awkward at first but soon it grew more comfortable. I ordered my food took out my phone and had a pleasant evening. I called a friend and basically had a conversation with him throughout my dinner During dessert I started to listen to the various conversations around me and they were quite amusing. I found the complaints people were making to their waiters quite funny.

    Reply
    • Hi George – for some reason it is still a bit of a taboo eating alone so well done for braving it and I’m pleased you had a good experience – the phone call with a friend is an excellent tip but my favourite is listening to the complaints to waiters. I’ll be doing that next time!!

      Reply
  39. Jo,

    Thank you for the amazing article!!

    Do you have any tips or an article on what to do WHILE eating? Some how I’m finding it hard to get the hang of reading while eating.; If I focus on doing one well then the other suffers. Any tips on that, or others ideas?

    Thanks so much,
    Phil

    Reply
    • Hi Phil, good question! It may sounds a bit strange but have you tried listening to audio e.g. books, podcasts etc? Some headphones are subtle if you don’t want to appear disconnected or just one pod in one ear might work? Otherwise, I’m pretty into meditation and one of the greatest ways to experience food is actually focusing on eating it. Really pay attention to every mouthful – the flavours, the textures. People watching is another good task otherwise just general daydreaming – what you plan to do tomorrow, what were the highlights of your day. I hope that gives you some food for thought, ha ha.

      Reply
  40. Researching is the key as it should be done before organizing the party or going for restaurant as it lets you know some positive and negative points of the restaurants gathering all the information would be an extra advantage for you to know about that place.

    Reply
    • Hi Robert, thanks for your comment. (On a side note, please don’t try to add spammy promotional links in your comment. I will take the time to remove them. Also, as SEO goes, they’re pretty ineffective in 2019).

      Reply
  41. Many times the pace of life we ​​have makes it almost impossible to eat better, things get complicated because we have the impression that “eating alone” is synonymous with “expensive and difficult”.

    Saludos

    Reply
    • I’m becoming quite amused at the number of people stopping by and commenting on this post just to add a spammy promo link for their restaurant. I mean, as well as being underhand (this post is for my wonderful readers, not for you to try and get some free advertising), the statistical likelihood of one of my readers being in the same small town spot that you’re trying to promote is so slim as to make these efforts as close to pointless as you can get. And if you’re after a ‘bump’ in google, SEO doesn’t work that way in 2019. Sigh.

      Reply
  42. I’m a solo traveler and diner as well.
    I didn’t realise how many of these tips I actually do.
    I used to be the 7/11 or fast food eater but I’ve gotten more confident and think “stuff it”, I’ll eat pretty much where I please now and obviously the food is much better in a restaurant.
    Except.
    I found a restaurant that I want to go to. They only have a 25 course degustation menu though.
    I was wondering if that was a step too far and thought I’d Google and came across your site.
    It hasn’t empowered me to book it. Yet.
    I’ll definitely be looking at your site again.

    Reply
    • Hi Melita, a 25 course degustation menu sounds both wonderful and terrifying alone but it seems to me like you’re up to the occasion. Do come back and let me know how you get on!

      Reply
  43. Thank you for making my solo dinner great tonight.

    Shifting my focus to the people around me (“people watching”) made such a difference.

    Thinking about it, its much easier to sit alone than to sit with a silent spouse who is mad at me (yet again) at another valium-times date.

    I love travelling and have the feeling that I might dine alone a lot in future. I’ll keep this article bookedmarked for when I need courage to enjoy dining out alone in future.

    Thanks again! Made my night.

    Reply
    • Hi Babba, I completely agree. A table alone is better than bad company. It can be hard to do the ‘step over the threshold’ first move but once you’re sat down and settled, it definitely gets easier. Good food helps. Here’s to many more solo dinners!

      Reply
  44. Great article. I recently separated from my wife of ten years, and I’ve pledged to learn to enjoy dating myself before I date anyone else. I’ve gone to dinner solo several times over the past few months. I do feel self-conscious (it’s easy to imagine everyone is looking at you askance and thinking “what a loser!”), but mostly I’m really enjoying being by myself. I can get there and leave whenever I feel like it. I don’t need to think up topics to make small talk. I don’t have to feel guilty if I want to read or check out something on my phone. It’s actually a pretty neat experience.

    Reply
    • Hi Bob, it sounds like you’re really embracing the freedom of solo dining – thanks for sharing your very positive experience 🙂

      Reply
  45. Hi Jo! Thank you so much for your article. I occasionally travel with my husband on business trips but he frequently has dinner meetings. He goes so many interesting places so I don’t mind sightseeing by day by myself but dinner by myself is always hard. I was going to do 7-11 but since it was pouring rain I decided to do a buffet in the hotel which is delicious!! I dressed up a little, held my head up and read this article!! Just the encouragement I needed! Thank you!

    Reply
  46. Hi Jo!
    Loved your article!As it happens, I’m dining solo tonight. The first time eating out in the city where I also live in. Almost laughed out loud at #18 and started scanning the room to get some points.. Haha. I can say I’m quite experienced in dining solo as I’m traveling a lot for work all over the world and most of the time I’m alone. This year I even spent my birthday dinner alone, but I had my kindle and I was in Bali, so that was a great evening! 🙂 I’m still a bit nervous before entering the restaurant, but that fear immediately flies away once I’m settled at the table.

    The only thing that I still have issues with is the amount of food. I don’t eat a lot at once, so when I’m dining solo I can’t share or give my leftovers to my boyfriend 😛 I usually ask for a doggie bag, but most of the time I end up not eating the leftovers. I’m still looking for solutions here, so any tip is welcome 🙂

    Reply
    • Hi Iona, I know what you mean. I’m a grazer so prefer lots of small meals meaning most restaurant food is too big. Sometimes I order a couple or appetisers. Or I specifically order food that will keep/taste good cold (chilli – mmm). Otherwise, in most cities you don’t need to look very hard to find someone homeless and hungry. Failing that, I have left food on top of a bin in the hope it will find a hungry mouth.

      Reply
  47. Thank you so much! Who would have known that this would be “ a thing “ for me after 3 years of separation. Someone told me tonight that it was liberating and challenged me to go this week! I’m taking her advice! Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  48. I used to be a server and I suffered from customer envy. Why cruel world am I not the one ordering the wine and sitting with that handsome man, but instead you have planted me here to serve!?!?!

    Then I started selling cars and was off at Happy Hour and dressed in a women’s suit instead of waiter’s tie and slip proof shoes. Now, 6 years later I am a professional solo diner. Although I still do get nervous as you said. I am also 20 pounds heavier. So many hundreds of Cosmopolitans and calamari will do that to ya!

    Additional tips that I would offer: 1. Sit at the bar. a lot of restaurants will put down a napkin and condiments and really make you feel special. The bar has a TV to help keep you busy and also the other people talk too. I have had people offend me by thinking I was looking for a man, when I really love dining out. 2. Dine at the same place alone regularly, then you become known by your name and don’t feel so nervous or uncomfortable anymore. 3. Be in the moment, savor the wine the food, and the breeze, the trees, the people, the passers by. Breath in and out and savor the decadence of life. 4. Be grateful that you are not suffering through a delicious meal with an old fart, or a selfish friend. Great article! Very fun topic for me.

    Reply
    • “4. Be grateful that you are not suffering through a delicious meal with an old fart, or a selfish friend.” So. Many. Times. Ha ha ha. Thanks for the extra tips.

      Reply
  49. Thanks for this article- I have found while making reservations for 1, many restaurants only have availability at 4:30 and 9:30- however, when you change it to 2, suddenly, all times are available… as I know going in that I am going to spend a fair bit on food and drink and I am a great tipper, I feel no shame in making that reservation for 2, then having my “dining partner” unable to attend due to headache, jet lag, etc… It’s too bad so many places still don’t recognize that solo diners are not looking to cheap out and may very well be one of the most delightful patrons of the evening 🙂

    Reply
    • Taht’s annoying – I’ve never noticed that (though the availability of seats on a flight does the same when I want to book a seat for one versus 2 people – grrrr). I’d have zero guilt about booking for two. I do it with hotels a lot otherwise one person gets stuck in the terrible tiny room for the same price.

      Reply
  50. For me it’s easier to eat solo at a restaurant at an airport because there are many solo diners. Right now I’m eating at an upscale restaurant at dca alone and I feel great! I’m not traveling anywhere!

    Reply
  51. So glad I came across this post. I dined solo for the first time this evening, and I’m glad I did! I think it’ll take a while before I’m comfortable with it, but I’m determined to make the most of every experience.

    Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Congrats, Tom! Here’s to many more wonderful solo dining experiences. Keep it up because it definitely gets easier.

      Reply
  52. Thank you Jo for a great column! Especially #18–it made me laugh!! I was reading it as I dined alone in Paris on a Saturday night at 11:30pm in a crowded bistrot on Blvd St Germain. I travel to Paris quite regularly, and am often alone. The French are a little uncomfortable with solo diners at dinner, and I’m usually given quizzical looks. Breakfast & lunch, a solo diner is not so conspicuous.

    I appreciate your tips, and love your writing style! Thanks for inspiring us solo diners!!

    Reply
    • I hope you spotted some interesting characters in Paris – definitely a good people watching city. And I can see that it is also a bit intimidating in terms of solo dining. I’m still baffled as to why some people think it’s a problem. I get hungry regardless of whether I have someone at my side – it’s not a symbiotic thing. Glad you enjoyed the article.

      Reply
  53. I really liked it when you suggested mapping out the route so that the person knows exactly where they are going or taking a taxi to the restaurant if they plan on eating out alone. I will mention this to my sister since she has been interested in an Italian restaurant for a while now and plans to visit it. Since she is the type that gets discouraged easily when she gets lost, knowing the route seems like the most helpful tip she can get. Thanks.

    Reply
  54. I have found that outdoor patio dining is an easy transition into solo feasting. You can throw your shades on, enjoy a drink (or 3) and watch the street happens or simply take in the scenery. Cheers!

    Reply
      • On a recent business trip I was a little sad to find that both mornings I went out for brunch, the menu online was different and each time the SPECIFIC thing I wanted was not on the menu. So flexibility has to go along with the pre-trip menu study!

        I also had to learn to stand my ground on seating as I usually get steered to the bar instead of a table. High tops I don’t mind but I’m not a big fan of sitting at the bar alone if I’m not really looking to socialize.

        Reply
        • Urgh, I hate it when they don’t have an up-to-date menu. How many times have I ordered something just to get the avocado only to have my food arrive and be told they’re out. Yep, setting your stomach’s expectations is also a part of it. I had a sit-down battle of wills with a waiter just last week in Spain when he wanted to move me mid-meal to accommodate a larger group that could easily have sat behind me. He was furious, probably at my lack of compliance (he didn’t lose any business). So being steered to the worst table in the joint is one of my bugbears too. I’m quite bold so usually I pick a table on arrival, nothing unreasonably large, and say, “I’ll sit there. Is that okay?” as I’m sliding into the seat. Good for you standing your ground. The more of us who do it, the more the restaurants will come to accept solo diners – I hope.

          Reply
  55. I like what you’ve said about dining alone. I travel a lot for my work, so I’m always eating by myself. It’s smart to do some research beforehand to find the best place to go, instead of wandering, like I normally do!

    Reply
    • The thing is, for me, that when I travel for work its like my brain “knows” I’m on duty and eating alone it something I have to do because the workplace has sent only me.

      But when I travel solo by choice (which I never did, because of this reason) its like my brain knows I’m alone and have nobody to dine with, and I instantly feel embarrassed and ashamed 🙁

      Reply
      • Hi Ashton, it’s one of those things that takes practice. Try small – coffee and lunch? Then progress from there. It does get easier. I promise.

        Reply
  56. Great article, very interesting and informative!

    I moved abroad from the UK, but I was reluctant to dine alone for a few years. A friend eventually convinced me that it’s not unusual, so I just went ahead and tried it, and it turns out that my biggest problem was just getting over the mental hurdle of thinking it’s weird. I practically never feel awkward while actually doing it.

    Since then, I’ve also started taking vacations alone, visiting London, Dublin, Rome, and Prague over the last few years. I’m also going to Disneyland Paris next week, and Tokyo in September, and I can’t wait to try lots of real Japanese food while I’m there!

    The only problem I still have is restaurants that give discounts to couples, as this feels like a form of discrimination. For example, there’s a restaurant in my town where I would pay €25 for a three course meal on my own, whereas two people together would pay €20 each for the exact same thing. The restaurant couldn’t give me any explanation for this, so I ended up leaving some very negative reviews on TripAdvisor, Facebook, etc. to make people aware that the restaurant has policies of discrimination.

    Reply
    • Urgh. I hate the solo diner/traveller surcharge. Because food is such a big part of my travels, I often spend more as a solo diner than a table of penny pinchers. It’s both prejudicial and narrow minded of restaurant owners to treat solo diners this way, IMO. I’m pleased you wrote about it on TripAdvisor and Facebook. With more comments like yours, hopefully restaurants will begin to educate themselves.

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  57. I like that this article recommended going to eat out as an alter-ego so that you feel more confident and out-going. Eating out alone can be a daunting task and I always worry that people are judging me. In Japan, certain restaurants will sit customers with stuffed animals or live animals so they feel more comfortable eating alone.

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    • I’m not sure how I’d feel about is sharing my table with an animal – it’s hard enough eating around my mum’s cats who always want a bite ;p

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  58. What a great article! As a single woman in my 50s, I travel all over Europe alone. When dining out, I pretend I am on a business trip. It’s kind of like your alter-ego idea. It puts me completely at ease!

    Also, sometimes I’ll sit at the bar and order food there when its available. I usually end up befriending the other couples around me. I had a wonderful night in Quebec City’s Chateau Frontenac this way a few months ago.

    Reply
    • I like the business trip idea – I’m going to try that next time, perhaps in my own city. It’s always inspiring to hear of other solo diner tales. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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  59. What a great article!

    I was actually forced into becoming a solo dinner long ago. I went on a summer long Europe trip with a friend who essentially dumped me to pursue a mad passionate fling with a guy she met on day one. Boom, shy 19 year-old me was on a 65 day backpacking tour solo.

    This what i got from that experience:

    – I bring a book., phone etc. and as soon as I start obsessing that others are watching me… read the book… But I also try to not hide behind props too much..taking in your surroundings on full observation mode is the best part!! This is easier the older and more practiced i get. I also just care less about what others think…blessings that come with laugh lines/

    -There are 2 types of solo dining The first is to be alone…sit at a table. The second is to meet others.. sit at the bar. Depends on my mood. and this method is not fool proof! I met one of my best friends sitting a table for one in Madrid Spain.

    – You are so right about avoiding peak times for solo dining… it is often awkward. If you really want to be alone, it is really no fun to read the newspaper in the middle of a party. If you want to meet others; Coming a little before peak.. and you will warm up with place..

    – But different from you- I order the weirdest most adventurous food when alone.. I can really take in the new experience.

    – Talking to strangers… is good! At first, I would only talk to those who approached me… but eventually it was me striking up conversations.

    And I also had to learn to end conversations that no longer interested me. And to avoid conversations with people with people that creep me out. Also there are times i really do want to be alone… so I learned to say- “I really want to be alone, but please have a nice day”

    You just have to be open, but still know and enforce your boundaries

    – I really like eating alone.. it is addictive and now I seek it out.

    – Going to museums by yourself is even better

    – That friend with the crazy fling… the fling didn’t last… our friendship didn’t last either But I had the time of my life.. met many life long friends, and I learned so much about…. everything!!! It changed me completely.

    Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts and tips, Amy. It’s daunting being thrown into the solo dining scene against your wishes but it sounds like you seized the moment and continue to seize it. Also, I couldn’t agree more about museums. In fact, I really struggle to visit with other people because I’m that person needs to read every last detail, which tends to drive my travel companions insane. Happy solo dining.

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  60. I love how you mentioned enjoying some people watching while dining out. I go out to eat by myself during my lunch hour at work and my favorite thing to do while I eat is to just sit back, relax, and observe people. I appreciate you writing this article about dining out alone, sometimes you just need to be by yourself.

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  61. Sometimes going out for a good lunch at Panera’s does the trick for me. I’ve seen a solo eaters often here and there that serve as a reminder that I am not the only one who eats out solo. Paneras can be a relaxing place for you to just sit and do your own thing-be it reading, working, blogging, or just enjoying your food. Eating out at a diner alone, I have yet to do but sometime soon I might just treat myself to a meal somewhere.

    People watching can be fun, table bingo I hadn’t ever thought of before but I’d be definitely willing to try it out as it sounds fun!

    Reply
    • I’ve sat many times in Panera’s for lunch – good soups 🙂 – and I agree it is an easy venture into the solo dining world. I hope you do treat yourself to a solo diner experience soon – come back and let me know how the bingo goes ;p

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  62. Great article! What I have a problem with is the other diners who seem to have a problem with someone dining alone. I have heard on more than one occasion “You’re by yourself?! Why don’t you come join us?” Although it’s nice of them to offer I resent the attention it puts on me. One time, after a date, I was headed home after midnight and decided to stop at Denny’s for breakfast. There was another man dining alone and he insisted on joining me. I really was not interested because I just wanted to eat real fast and go home. For some reason this man assumed I’d be happy for him to join me. He would not take no for an answer. I know I sound antisocial but what I don’t like is what we lone diners try to avoid, the attention. What is wrong with people? They think it’s a disgrace for someone to eat alone? My sister, after becoming a widow, tried dining out alone. She experienced the same problems and just started getting her food to go.

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    • I’ve only had an invite from a couple, once (head down in a book helps) but the uninvited male makes me mad (even when I’m head down in a book). One day, perhaps not in my generation but one day, I’m sure men will come to realise that women dining or drinking alone want to do just that. It’s not antisocial at all. There’s little chance he would have done this to a lone male diner and it makes me so frustrated because I’ve experienced it. I hope you and your sister don’t let this put you off. Keep dining alone when it suits you and it will get easier to politely tell these unwanted fellow diners that you really would prefer your own company….Maybe I should get some t-shirts printed for us all ;p

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  63. what a relief to come across your column! I was in Florence recently and waiting endlessly after putting my name on a list- finally suspecting that others were being seated before me… I walked off in an angry huff!
    Good to know it wasn’t (exactly) personal.
    My goal is to travel solo over the next decade- I’ll be your newest subscriber ; )
    Bonnie

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    • Hi Bonnie,I’m frustrated on your behalf that you had a bad experience in Florence. If you want to send me a private email via my contact page with the name of the restaurant, I’ll be sure to go next time I’m in the city – solo traveller demanding a seat! It’s not fun being this pushy but sometimes I feel like it’s the only way that restaurant owners will learn that solo diners are customers too. And quite often, between ordering many courses and a liking for fine wine, we often spend more than frugal families. It sounds like you have some nice travel plans coming up. Plenty of time to practice dining out!

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  64. I really enjoyed all the comments. I am a widow and planning my first solo date. I am not shy so I hope that helps. I plan to start with lunch first and graduate to dinner at a fine restaurant that I would be going to with my husband if he was still alive. I will check back and let you know how things go.

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    • Hi Delores, I’m very excited for you and for your first solo date (but I’m also sad to hear about the loss of your husband). Not being shy will definitely help and setting small goals is a great plan. Please do come back and let me know how you get on. But, most importantly, have an amazing time.

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  65. I’ve been dining alone for years, had no idea it was supposed to be difficult. If asked if just one, I’ve been known to turn to whomever is behind me and ask if they will be my new grandchild. When they say “no”, I say ” yes then, one”. We all laugh and I get friendly service. Works well.

    Reply
    • Not everyone has your bravery 🙂 It’s a nice suggestion though if you asked to adopt me for dinner, I’d give you a firm yes! Happy dining.

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  66. Hi Jo! I loved your article. I always thought of solo-dining as an art that would be perpetually hard to master. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. It is. I only decided to face my solo-dining fear recently.
    A couple of weeks ago I gathered the courage to take myself out on my first solo-date! It turned out wonderfully. I currently live in Las Vegas and there are literally hundreds of restaurants! I decided on a local pizzeria that turns out to be one of those neat hole-in-the-wall pubs. I met the owner Frank who was friendly and warm and we ended up talking politics and Mexican food. We spoke and joked like old pals through most of my meal so I didn’t even feel alone. After lunch, I treated myself to a movie: The Glass Castle. I cried my way through the film and if I could re-live that day, I would.
    Today I went out on my second date. This time I visited IHop. Originally I wanted to have breakfast with my bestest girlfriend but it turns out she had already eaten with her boyfriend. My stomach was not forgiving so I decided to go for it. Because it was Labor Day I figured it might be a bit disastrous but it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. At the door I was greeted by an exhausted hostess, ‘Just for one?’ I felt dread and a bit of blood rush up to my face. Yes!, I piped up. There was one waiter and he was on fire (not literally). I was sat in a tiny hidden section and there wasn’t enough room for my laptop and me. I huffed. The dining room was loud and full of families and friends in groups of three and fours and I felt a bit out of place. I decided to order. I’m not a huge coffee fiend but asked for a cup so I had something to fiddle with in the meantime. I took out my notebook and quickly became engrossed in my writings. I switched between emails and my Instagram Account and after a while the place started to simmer down. My food arrived. I listened to a mother and her three year old chat across from me as I wolfed down my pancakes, eggs, hash browns, fruit and avocado slices. The conversations were funny and sweet and absurd. I laughed internally and smiled broadly. Later a girl around my age visited the restaurant to dine on her own as well. She seemed peaceful and relaxed. I eased up. I finished my whole meal. The waiter seemed satisfied at my clean plates and became friendlier as the restaurant buzzed down even more. I gave him a nice tip and my outing came to an end.
    I’ve tried making my dining-for-one experiences fun and thought of them more as dates and that is why I think I’ve enjoyed them so far. Everyone should treat themselves to a date for one at least once. They’re empowering. Yes, people stare but that’s what people do when they don’t understand something. Screw it.
    My piece of advice for others: OWN IT! Really, own it. Take a book of your choice or a notebook or your laptop. Go. Bring your appetite with you. I’ve found that my waiters are especially curious and friendly when you finish a large meal. I almost feel like they are egging you on: finish the large pizza on your own! Smile, chat with the waiter/waitress, ask about their best dish, ask for two desserts, ask how their day is going, really enjoy your experience. Always, always finish your meal. When others see that you are enjoying your own company, they become intrigued and enjoy your presence as well.

    Reply
    • Hi Laura, thanks for taking the time to post this – it’s lovely to read such a positive attitude and experience. It’s even inspired me to pluck up the courage and face one of my own solo dining fears – to go out to dinner alone in my home city. I mentioned in the article that this is more terrifying to me than eating alone in strange countries all over the world. So, thank you for the prompt and here’s to many more solo dining dates!

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  67. Thank you for this article! 🙂 I am traveling alone for the first time and heading to Hong Kong. What makes me most nervous is dining alone during my trip which is frustrating to me.. this article had some great ways to shift my thinking! Also, bringing along a travel guidebook is something I will definitely do! Great idea! haha

    Reply
    • Happy to help! I was recently in Hong Kong – I have a post on the site that might be useful. Happy solo dining. It’s a really empowering skill to have 🙂

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  68. I like you am mostly a single diner, and I do agree with pretty much all of your comments: I also, like you, dread the “how many” at the start of the meal. It is so humiliating. Plus being stuck in a freezing corner to keep me away from intruding on any possible romantic couples is also very annoying, too. I also endlessly get people thinking at I am the “boss” from head office, and I am only there to critique their performance. Oh, how many people who have cleaned before me when I am eating! I so endlessly have to calm so many people down. Or, more annoyingly, the things that most women miss: The bravado
    of most guys who, if they can — and most do, pick seating arrangements to make darn sure that I notice that their with their girlfriends/wife’s, and try to make me endlessly jealous to puff up their enormous egos. I simply don’t care as, of course, I have “been” with women myself. But, it doesn’t stop these boneheads from trying to get my goat.

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    • Hi Kevin, I share your pain – I’ve been stuck in more than one corner ‘out of the way’ like an aged relative who’s an embarrassment to the rest of the family. I do like the idea of being mistaken for the ‘boss’ – I hope it comes with some superior treatment. But urgh, the bravado. I have to say, that one’s never occurred to me and can’t be fun. I’m not sure which is worse – the bravado or the pity stares I get from other women. However, at the end of the day, it all beats snacking on the mini bar in a hotel room so go forth and dine alone. I certainly have no plans to stop.

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  69. I love what you said about trying their lunch or coffee before deciding if you want to try their full dinner meals. My friend is planning on doing a bit of traveling over the course of a few months, and he was curious as to how to find the best local diners. I’ll make sure he tries out something small, as that is generally a good indicator of the quality of their food.

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    • Glad to help, Dennis. I hope your friend has a great trip and finds some lovely restaurants. I also find with a big lunch, I’m not so bothered about fronting up to a restaurant for a second effort at night!

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  70. Great tips! Thank you for sharing. I’m dining alone quite often, but still it doesn’t feel comfortable.. I see myself finding distractions so I don’t feel awkward about being alone. You mention this in tip 12 as well, but actually I don’t like doing this as it’s a kind of conformation that you don’t feel confident and on ease about dining alone without the props. I tried once to switch of my phone and just be in the moment, but damnnn time goes really slow then! You’ve experienced this as well?

    Quite some things you mention about dining alone I’ve experienced myself as well. I have been rejected because I was JUST one pretty much! I was at the Lake District in the UK, so many groups and couples there.. I just wanted a quick healthy bite as I was going to the theatre after. Everything was full and at the end I ended up in a restaurant sitting in a relaxing area with couches and chairs and had to eat my meal, which I had too wait for over 40 mins, on my lap!! I felt so embarrassed.. And because it took so long I had to run to the theatre to be on time! Pfff.. not my best “dining alone” experience, haha. Luckily I have had quite some other nice experiences as well 🙂

    This summer I will start an adventure full of dining alone experiences as I’m going traveling on my own to South America!! Quiting my job, leaving everything behind and ready to start exploring the world!

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    • Yes, Nadine, I’ve experiences the gaping hole of paranoid when I find myself dining without props. These days I don’t even try because having a phone or book, I tend to eat more slowly and enjoy the experience a lot more. I consider it a bit like wearing gloves in winter. I can and should be able to go without them but why when it makes my outdoors experience so much more pleasurable 🙂 I’m sorry to hear about your experience in the Lake District – strangely, England is one of the places (my home country even) where I’m most paranoid as a solo diner. But if you tell me the name of the place in the Lake District, I’ll go on an intentional trip to go dine there solo, just to make a point!

      Enjoy South America. It’s one of my favourite parts of the world! Happy travels.

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  71. This was a brilliant write-up. As a fellow blogger just now getting comfortable with going out alone it really resonated. My biggest fear has always been what other people think of me. I know how rediculus that is, so I’m in the middle of ridding myself of such a nonsensical phobia. I’m finally at the point know where I’m actually starting to love going out to do things all by myself. It’s quickly becoming my preference, in fact.

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    • Mike, that’s great news! It can be daunting – still I have moments when paranoia sets in but then I remind myself that 199% of the planned it self-absorbed and I don’t mean that meanly, just that most people are thinking about themselves and their lives most of the time so there is little head space for them to think about what you’re doing! Enjoy solo dining and next time raise a glass for me 🙂

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  72. I am a European 23-year-old girl doing an internship in South Africa and I went to get take-out pizza yesterday. Maybe next time I will dare to just sit down and eat there or somewhere else. Otherwise I will start feeling like a hermit, because three months is a long time… Thanks for the tips.

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  73. I ate out alone for the first time on Sunday at a Brewery I had never been too and I was scared out of my wits! They placed me at a table (with 4 chairs) smack dab in the middle of the dining floor and I could swear I felt everyone watch me get ranch all over my hands or every time I reached for my phone I heard everyone thinking “Oh, shes one of THOSE.” But I enjoyed myself! And I can’t wait for my next outing!

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    • Courtney – well done! i agree it can be scary and sod’s law will absolutely dictate that you get the most visible table in the room but it sure beats eating pringles and minibar nuts for dinner! Glad this sounds like it’s the start of a new dining out trend for you. Enjoy, brave lady!

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  74. I guess, a lot depends on the area indeed. I’ve managed to go on eating solo for years not knowing at all that it was such an issue (and I’m a girl, and a rather shy one). Including travels to some predominantly Muslim countries. And not before I got to a popular island resort did I feel something was wrong 🙂 But then, it might be not the waiters or the people around, but my own feeling that I miss my friends (though I adore travelling and having meals on my own, sometimes there’s too much of a good thing)

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  75. It has been 2 years since I ate out alone. More often I have been just getting it to go. Or going out with Family to eat. Today was the day I decided to go out and eat alone at a Restaurant I haven’t revisited for about 1-2 years. I felt it was a disaster. First of all I did dress in something I haven’t worn out in public yet. Then I went to the wrong door that was the old front entrance and is no longer. They changed everything. I complimented the gentleman on the establishment’s new renovations. They did do a great job. Then flopped into the booth oh so ever clumsy. They did ask me 3 times total if it was just for one. Then the menu….The menu was updated and had all new things to choose from. As excited I was to have such a selection, I also needed a lot more time to look..they kept asking also about 3 times if I was ready to order yet. I was so unprepared. Then I forgot to not put your utensils on the plate unless you are ready for them to take it. This experience is what brought me to this article. Well written I must say. Great tips on dining for one. I do however now feel bad for the 2 dollar tip I left because I thought they were being rude. Really I should had been better prepared. My typical tip dining alone is always 5 at least if not more unless I’m sitting at the bar.

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    • Oh no, Marie! All that courage to go dine out alone and you’re rewarded with a disaster 🙁 However, I firmly believe that we’re much more likely to slap a ‘disaster’ label on something than a 3rd party witness would. I bet if I was sat (solo dining) across the room I’d think, wow – she’s got it together. Confident. Picked a favourite restaurant. Happy to dine alone. I bet nobody noticed all the internal fretting you were doing and when you swept out (elegantly according to the onlookers, of course), they all thought – I wish I had the bravery to do that! Please don’t let this one bad experience (in your opinion!) put you off. Prepare better and go again. If it makes you feel better, go back to the same place and make up for the tip, though being a Brit, we have a somewhat mean view on tips – you really need to work hard to get anything at all…and if the waiters didn’t make you happy, stuff them! I asked to have the entire ‘optional’ service charge taken off my bar bill the other night in a fancy cocktail bar in London because the girl was surly and I wasn’t in the slightest bit shy asking about it in front of her. If you’re worried about under tipping, just tell yourself you’re channelling your inner Brit (assuming you’re not British, then just do what 99% of people do already). I hope the next dinner out goes better – come back and let me know! Happy solo dining!!!

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  76. I never had a problem eating solo, probably because I live in an area full of working singles so it is common seeing solo eaters. That kind of just goes with me since I guess I have the alter ego of ‘I am on a business trip so being solo is normal’ mentality. Personally, I love places that have bars or counters; they have the solo person in mind if you feel awkward about looking out of place. I love chatting with the bartender since they recommend food/drinks and even sites to see. But I also love a good glass of wine with my meal;)

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    • Tiny, That’s interesting – what area do you live in? I suspect more and more solo, working single places will crop up over time and “normalise” (for want of a better word) the whole solo dining. Yes, the “I’m on business attitude” definitely helps – I wear that alto ego too, very often. I like the idea of bars and counters but with my tiny legs, I’m often left perched and uncomfortable. I have been known to try the chairs out for size before deciding…which I guess attracts more attention to my solo dining status, but I’d rather than than spend my entire meal with one hand holding onto the bar to keep me fixed to my seat!

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  77. Istanbul helped me get over my fear of dining alone. No way was I going to miss out on those kebabs due to social anxiety! Now I don’t think twice about eating alone whilst travelling.

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    • Mmmm, making me hungry for kebabs! And I completely agree, it was my love of food that finally helped me push through my fears – in a very positive way.

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  78. Great post Jo!
    I have learned to dine alone and it really doesn’t bother me anymore as long as I have my phone and a book of some kind. Even my own writing book to jot down story ideas. I consider it having dinner with myself where I ask questions about my day and get some creativity out while I have the time.

    Reply
    • Murrisa “dinner with myself” I like that. I was having a conversation with another solo traveller about this subject yesterday who was a bit tired of being alone all the time. I told her to enjoy it. In life, most of us don’t get much time to ourselves and a nice meal out is the perfect moment to take a minute or two.

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  79. Great post. I used to be a bit depressed about dining alone too but I’d worked out many of these on my own over the years. I didn’t remember ever having the “save your seat” prop though and that is a good one. I must be the camel you mentioned…

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  80. Great tips! I eat out on my own semi-frequently when traveling and have no self-consciousness at breakfast or lunch, but agree it seems to be more taboo at dinner (especially at nicer restaurants). Still, dining is a big part of my travel experience and I won’t give it up just because I’m solo!

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    • Good for you, Becky! Yes, why is dinner so much more taboo? And yes, particularly nicer restaurants. There’s a cocktail bar and restaurant here in Medellin that I want to try that ticks the dinner and nice restaurant box, but still I’m going to go – which should be interesting because Colombia is a place where solo anything (travelling, dining), is seen as strange by the locals.

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