I'm extremely uncomfortable with the idea of eating at a restaurant alone, something that doesn't quite work with my life as a 20-something working and living in the city. The Chipotle next to my house or even the neighborhood diner don't count - plenty of people eat solo at these locations and hardly get a second glance. With a boyfriend and plenty of friends in the city who are down to catch up over a great meal, what's really the need?
When I got the assignment to eat by myself and document the experience, I was nervous but also excited to confront something that's always made me extremely uncomfortable for no good reason. I envy my coworkers who were perfectly fine with enjoying a great sit down meal and glass of wine by themselves. After all, sometimes I'm in the mood to be alone and eat something a little out of my normal price range/something that isn't takeout.
I picked a sushi bar near my apartment which had good Yelp reviews but also seemed casual enough that people wouldn't be openly staring if I walked in and tried to enjoy a lot of sushi by myself.
The restaurant was crowded and I was seated at the bar, which was both good and bad - good because I could avoid awkward eye contact with the other customers, and bad because I was directly facing the sushi chefs with nowhere else to look but down. I ordered an elaborate sashimi platter (after all, I was definitely going to treat myself if I was eating alone) plus a glass of wine. As soon as I ordered, I found myself with nothing to do. With the lack of conversation, I quickly opened my book, a recently purchased copy of "Anna Karenina" and tried to busy myself in the scandalous affairs of 20th century Russia. I was distracted, but I must have looked like a pretty sad sight as the chefs gave me two different complimentary appetizers - I'm not sure if it's because it's common for customers eating at the bar or because they felt sorry for me. I hope it's not the latter.
When my sashimi platter came, I busied myself with eating. Everything tasted delicious, but I found that I felt hurried to finish and get out of the restaurant. It's cliche, but I found nothing tasted quite as satisfying as if I had some company and great gossip to wash everything down. I even found myself feeling self-conscious and like I needed to justify enjoying a very nice meal by myself for no special occasion. I did walk home feeling like a strong, independent woman, though.
So, what I learned. Bringing Anna Karenina plus my cell phone was probably over kill, but did help pass the time while I was waiting for my food. Now that I've done it once, I would maybe do it again depending on the restaurant.