Thursday, July 24, 2008

My Chat With A Relationship Expert!

To answer some of the questions I've received from the comments on this blog, I decided to go to the expert: Andrea Syrtash. Syrtash is a relationship expert and host of

Here is what she said to me via email:

Me: Have you ever gone to a restaurant alone? If so, describe your experience.

Syrtash: I enjoy dining alone. I find I taste the food more when I'm not chatting during a meal. I have also enjoyed sitting in a restaurant and eating while reading or writing. I'm more focused and it's usually been an enjoyable experience for me.

Me: Why do you think there is a stigma against eating alone?

Syrtash: I absolutely think it's a confidence issue if people think there's a stigma associated with dining alone. The reality is that most people in the restaurant are consumed with their own matters and really aren't taking the time to notice the single diners around them! The best way to get over this fear is to challenge yourself to eat alone and see how it feels...when you're scared to do something (that's not dangerous, of course), that's the time to jump in. We're all more resilient than we realize and may actually enjoy some of the activities we are scared to do. We'll also build confidence when we prove to ourselves that we can do things out of our comfort zone.I'd also advise the person to try to be in the moment (instead of in their head), enjoy the time and savor the meal. I'd suggest that the person start small...perhaps a solo breakfast one morning...and then build up to lunch or dinner out alone.

Me: What do you think about the correlation between companionship and food? Is there a direct
link or could you enjoy one without the other.

Syrtash: Eating can be wonderfully social - many families and friends gather around food on important holidays and events. So - there's certainly a correlation between community and food. That said, I think you can absolutely enjoy one without the other. You may even enjoy certain tastes more when you're not distracted by everything around you and are able to focus on the flavors in the meal.

If you have any questions for Syrtash, please visit her website at:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Table for One, But Not by the Toilet

I found this article on the website: "Table for One, But Not by the Toilet," posted on May 9, 2008. It is by another single diner, Lea Lane, author of Solo Traveler: Tales and Tips for Great Trips.


She lists 12 tips in the article. Some I agree with, others I don't.

I agree with this tip:
"Don't accept a lousy table. I've sat near busboy stations, swinging doors, and toilets too many times. Now I politely hold out. I was once told that a choice table by the window was a "romantic" table and I said that I was a romantic person and wanted to let the manager know. I got the table."

Although I agree with this, I have to admit I have not mustered up enough courage to ask a manager to get me a better seat. This was in my original top 10 list of tips but I think it is one of the hardest things to do.

I DON'T agree with this:
"Offer to share a table. This is commonplace in some foreign countries. I once sat at a small table with an elderly couple at Fortnum and Mason tea room in London. The man fell asleep in his scones and clotted cream and started snoring. I could barely contain my giggles."

I once was at a Chinese restaurant and the waiter sat me with a couple because he felt bad for me. I did not like the experience because it felt like a forced situation. They couple didn't want to eat with me and I didn't want to eat with them. In the end, both parties shared an awkward meal together.

Spice Market

The Chef's Table at Spice Market. Right: Renee Hong, single diner
                                                        Spicy Thai Fried Chicken Wings 

I was a little nervous going into Spice Market on 13th Street and 9th Avenue, because the restaurant was voted the Best Hot Date award in 2004 form the Best of New York Awards. Also, the reviews I read on Yelp, Chowhound, New York Magazine and Menupages rated it as a romantic date spot. I decided to get over my fear and go anyways because I wanted to see what it was like to go to a trendy meatpacking restaurant as a solo diner.

I arrived at 7:15 for a 7:45 p.m. reservation. The hostesses did not give me much attitude for my early arrival although they did scan me up and down to see what I was wearing. I guess that's expected of a trendy restaurant in the Meatpacking district.

I was seated at the “chefs table,” or a long bar that seated around ten people facing the kitchen. My waitress explained that was the spot for all their single diners because the kitchen helped to keep them entertained. The space was cozy and nice because I had my own little corner and did not have to bump elbows with other diners.

I ordered the spicy thai fried chicken wings served with sliced mango and mint and the nonya seafood laksa, a coconut noodle soup dish with gulf shrimp and scallop. The chef brought the plate directly from the fryer to my table!

Two other single diners were sitting at the bar.

Here is what they said:

Renee Hong, 30, retail associate from Canada.
Me: What do you like most about eating alone?
Hong: I like not being bothered by people when I am eating.
Me: Haha…opps, sorry for interrupting you.
Hong: It’s not a problem. I like your blog idea. I guess what I mean is, I’m just not a fan of talking when I’m eating. I like to really enjoy the food.

Hong ordered the lobster roll with dill and sriracha sauce and shrimp dumplings with shiitake and dill in a fragrant lemongrass soup. She said she eats out alone more than she eats with other people.

Barry Horne, 44, lawyer in NYC for business from Canada. (Horne and Hong have no relations).

Me: So what brings you here tonight. Why are you eating along?
Horne: Eating alone is just a different experience. I don’t really like it but I don’t mind doing it. (He had a book with him and was reading when I approached him).
Me: Do you do this often?
Horne: No, only when I have to for work. I prefer eating with friends.

Side note: After my interview with both single diners, Horne approached Hong and they started a conversation. See? Eating alone could lead to a possible romance!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Q & A: Would You Ever Eat Alone?

Nicole Ameduri, 30, opera singer
Yes but I hate to eat alone at a restaurant and I still have to do it when I'm away singing occasionally. I just feel like everyone is staring at me and watching me eat and I hate it. It is one of the things I hate the worst in the word. Also, people always approach me and hit on me when I’m alone.
Me: Do you have any stories from dining alone?
Ameduri: When I was in North Carolina, a local man approached me when I was eating alone and he was definitely not someone I would like to approach me. It’s like, they see a single girl sitting by herself and they think they can just approach you. I hate it.

Kat Ricker, 28, producer
Ricker: Part of the joy of dining out in the City is the ambiance, and unless I have someone to share that with, I just can't do it. I won't eat anything other than a croissant by myself, and I don't know why anyone would want to eat alone and stare off into space.
Me: Have you ever gone to a restaurant by yourself?
Ricker: No, never have, never will.

Jennvine Wong, 24, legal assistant
Wong: Depends where. For some reason at noodle houses like the da pai dongs in HK I have no problem.
Me: What is da pai dong?
Wong: Oh the street carts with street food mostly the noodle carts in Hong Kong. Or fast food restaurants or something like that. Like a cafe. But, I eat alone like for lunch not dinner.
Me: Why?
Wong: I don’t know. Dinner is like a social thing for me I guess. Lunch could be too but I don’t care too much at lunch. Dinner, I would rather go with someone.

David Kaufmann, 24, footage licensing coordinator for Major League Baseball
Kaufmann: I ate by myself when I was traveling all through Europe but I normally prefer to have dinner with someone else. In the City, I would only get a slice of pizza by myself.
Me: Would you ever go to a restaurant by yourself in New York?
Kaufmann: No, not a restaurant, just a slice of pizza. It’s so much easier just to get takeout if you want restaurant food here in the City.

Michael Waller, 26, musician
Waller: No because eating is a chore.I am diabetic so I have to eat the same food at the same time every single day. I eat because I have to. I really don't see any excitement in it.

Angry Boyfriend

I told Ryan I was going out to eat alone again tonight. His response: "Is this going to become a habit?" Maybe this blog idea is not the best one for someone in a relationship. Then again, I think single dining does not necessarily mean single person. After all, the point of this blog is to show that anyone can go out and enjoy a meal alone.

Meanwhile, I just saw this article on

25 top places for singles

Number 1 on their list was Hoboken, N.J. with 57.7% single in a population of 39,853. I don't hang out in Hoboken very often, but with some many singles living in one concentrated area, wouldn't you think there are some good places for single dining?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tips for Single Diners

Here are some tips I've compiled to help people who have a fear of dining alone.

1. Make a reservation. If you make a reservation, the restaurant will be expecting you as a single diner. This could be good for taking some of the awkwardness away from when you first arrive at a restaurant as a single diner.

2. Tip well but only if the service is good. Most waiters and waitresses think of single diners in one way - bad tips. Prove them wrong by tipping well but do it only if you think the service is good.

3. Dress up. I personally enjoy dressing up when I go out to eat and for some people, it could make you you more confident. Consider it a night out on the town and you are your own best date.

4. Don't bring accessories. Some people like to bring a book or a cell phone to dinner. I think if you bury yourself in the accessory, then you are not fully enjoying the single dinning experience. My favorite part of eating alone is people watching. Try it, it's fun.

5. Read reviews and study the menu before you go to the restaurant. The reviews will give you a good guide of what to expect, what dishes to order, what to eat, and what not to eat. Studying the menu will eliminate the "what do I order" dilemma and make you not miss having someone there to discuss the possibilities with you.

Trust me, eating alone is really not that bad if you do your homework and follow some of these tips.

Photo caption: I studied the menu at before heading to Mill Korean on 2895 Broadway. I ended up ordering a delicious Kimchi and Pork Dosot Bibim-Bab (kimchi and spicy pork cooked with rice and served in a hot stone pot).

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Eating Steak Alone

My hair was curled and my dress was freshly ironed. I even forced myself into a pair of alligator skin stilettos. It was Saturday night and I was all ready for a big night out.

But instead of meeting someone for a date, I was dressed to the nines for, that's right, dinner by myself.

Eating alone is something I've always enjoyed doing. I love food for the taste and the experience of eating. If I can't find a partner to go to dinner with me, I would rather just go out alone and not miss the opportunity to try delicious food.

I picked Ruth's Chris Steak House on 148 W 51st Street as my first experience as a solo diner for this blog because it is a traditional steak house where people go for dates or special occasions. Although I did not have a reason to eat steak, I thought "why not" and decided to make this night a celebration of my first blog assignment.

I paused for a minute before opening the gold plated doors because I was nervous. A lady dressed in a black suit greeted me at the reception desk. "Party of one, for dinner," I said confidently. She took my last name and led me to a nice table in the middle of the restaurant.

Two minutes later, Cindy Lou, my waitress, greeted me. "Good evening Miss Cheng,"she said. It made me feel special. At that moment, I knew I was going to be comfortable at this restaurant.

I ordered a glass of Shiraz and a medium rare petite fillet with a side of creamed spinach. As I ate, I looked around the restaurant and noted that most of the patrons were either on a date or out with clients for a business dinner.

Marie Carey's song "Always Be My Baby" played in the background and it made me think about two childhood friends. We performed a song and dance routine to that song but changed the words from "baby" to "mummy." It was fourth grade and we were studying Egyptian culture.

Cindy Lou, a waitress at Ruth Chris for 13 years, was the perfect waitress for a solo diner. She did not ignore me or hovered over me. She came by to check on my three times (in my opinion, the perfect amount). Overall, I would recommend Ruth Chris as a restaurant for a single diner. It made me feel comfortable and allowed me to return to childhood memories while cutting into a nice fillet.