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S5 E1 – Can dining alone be fun?

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Solo dining is incredibly popular in Japan with restaurants catering specifically for lone visitors; Ben experienced it first hand on his trip in 2016. So with it becoming increasingly more creative and accessible, Jamie and Ben chat about their experiences and debate when it is and isn’t acceptable. As an added bonus, things get pretty deep when they ponder the meaning of room service. Where do you sit?

Best soundbite: “Let’s get down to the main issue with room service… crumbs in the bed! Mayo on your pillow.” – Jamie Spafford

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55 Comments

  1. rburroughs361@comcast.net

    Great discussion! As a frequent solo diner I enjoy it more because I am not pressured by what the group’s needs are versus what I want to order. If I feel like ordering four beers I don’t have to worry about how the bill will be split or if someone in the group thinks three beers is enough. A point the three of you covered very thoughtfully and throughly. However, as a solo diner you do need to be conscious of space and seating. For example, if I am sitting at the bar and a group of two or three people walk in and space is limited I have moved “down” a few bar stools so that the larger group can be accommodated. In my experience this simple action is something the wait staff appreciates. They treat me well and the “she’s dining alone” annoyance dissipates. While I consider this a courtesy to the wait staff (they are just trying to do their jobs) others may consider it an inconvenience. Courtesy or inconvenience? You decide. Cheers!

  2. Evelinaalblasskogum

    I feel like am to late to this conversation but hey ho 🤣😂

    Am definitely team Mike, but there is a time and place for roomservice and not in the way you think.
    Backstory: am a cabin crew, I meet approximately 800 people a day every day.

    Sometimes you just want some peace and quiet around you and even if the hotel restaurant normal tend to be calmer sometimes you just can’t face to even see another human being. Then it’s time to get roomservice.

    And if you ask it’s almost always ok to order from the normal menu and then I can bring my own food up to my room. Then you get good food for normal price and you do the collection your self.

    But Jamie, don’t eat in the bed! There is normally some sort of desk around and a hard chair. 👍🏻😃

  3. LTJD

    Really enjoyed the format and fascinating subject that I am going to add my two cents to now.

    In my experience solo-dining can be liberating, you do not have to negotiate with someone on where to go, how expensive it can be, etc but rather find a place you fancy within your budget. I do tend to get the check quicker after I finished a meal on my own than when I have company, for the simple reason that if I am not in a spectacular restaurant I just rather walk around and enjoy the atmosphere outside the restaurant.

    My experience with solo-dining mostly comes from solo-traveling, which I do a lot. I have no partner and my friends tend to be busy with kids, partners well basically life, whenever I want to go somewhere so I just go on my own, to be honest even when I have a partner I am likely to go on my own (probably why I am still single :P). The first time I went to have a meal on my own I was very self-conscious and convinced that everyone was judging me but the more I did it, the more comfortable I became and now I quite enjoy it.

    My experiences of solo-dining have been mixed, when living in hostels and making your own food it is never really solo-dining cuz I always end up chatting with someone, but when it comes to solo-dining in restaurants I have to say the best country so far is Mexico and the worse England. In Japan, I had mixed experiences, in one restaurant I got worse service when I was there on my own than when I went there with friends the day before. And on this I agree with Ben I am paying for the same food and therefore expect the same service. In another restaurant, though the waiter ended sitting down with me chatting whilst I was waiting for my food, so yeah very different.

    And on the room-service issues, just no it is waaay too expensive and when I’m in a new place I want to explore not sit in my room doing anything.

  4. Foolofatook919

    I really liked this episode. It is so interesting to see the diverse opinions and feelings about solo dining here. I wish I could say I am comfortable with the solo dining experience but I am not entirely. It’s not the fear of being judged because I think you all hit the nail on the head in this episode about that; people are more interested in what they are doing at a restaurant than what you are doing. So, I don’t feel like people care if someone at the restaurant is alone or not for the most part. However, I have discovered through some exploration as of recent that I am not a very good loner. I have been single for, like, ever and recently decided to not let that stop me from the travel and exploration I want to do. I took a weekend trip by myself to get my feet wet, per say, and was lonely and bored by the 1st night. I know that sounds pathetic but what I am getting at is apparently I am far more of a people person than I thought I was, which probably explains why I chose to be a mental health professional, and I just like having people to share my experiences with. Every time I ate something great or saw something cool I immediately wanted to tell someone about it. I did a lot of texting and calling my friends to update them on my experiences throughout my trip but it was not the same, nor as fun, as having them with me in person. Ironically, as much as I seem to crave the company of my loved ones, I am ultimately not someone who loves to meet and strike up conversations with strangers so the whole “sit at a bar and find someone to befriend” thing isn’t for me (side note: meeting and talking to strangers at bars and restaurants always ends in a creepy dude hitting on me and I’m not a big fan of that). So, all that to say, I’m going to stick to dragging my mates around with me for now and save the big trips and adventures for a time when I can have someone I love join me. Maybe more solo dining is in my future but, well, it will have to wait 🙂

  5. Robeye

    Best Podcast So far. Really interesting topic keep up these great podcasts guys!

  6. Anya Lampesberger

    I travel alone quite a bit and over the years I have found myself very comfortable with that and with the idea of exploring new places on my own. I’m very much on the same page with Ben, as that it is, in my opinion, quite a liberating experience to do stuff, be it visiting museums, going to gigs or dining, alone and I’ve learnt to appreciate that kind of freedom a lot over the past years.
    However, as a young female, I often feel like people who see me dining alone almost see it as an invitation to come up and start a conversation, or in some instances even sit down with me uninvited. Sometimes I haven’t minded that, because the situation allowed for it because the place was relatively crowded and I was comfortable enough having a conversation with a stranger, however, most of the time it makes me feel very uneasy and even unsafe when that happens, and I think that is a big problem, because at the end of the day I love food and dining solo has never been a thing that bothered me, on the contrary I love being able to go where I want to go and explore new and exciting cuisines, rather than having to find a common denominator between multiple people, which more often than not ends up being a generic pizza or burger place anyways. Other people intruding that space, however, has put me off of solo dining for a while, and now I’m more likely to just grab something on the go or from a café and have it in my (hotel) room than go out and dine alone. And that really annoys me, because in my head I can’t be the only person experiencing this, and especially in a place like the UK it should be perfectly fine just do dine alone with a book and enjoy that experience without other people intruding on your privacy.
    With all that in mind, I have vowed to not let those past experiences put me off of having good food in the future and make more of an effort to go out and dine on my own, because, as you guys said in the podcast, it really does say more about those people than it does about me.
    Love the new chatty format of the podcast btw!

    • Bebbrell

      Hey, thanks for sharing that. Sorry to hear that you’ve been put off solo-dining because of the vulnerability of it… that kinda sucks. But I’m with you… be you… go out and appreciate the freedom.

      • Anya Lampesberger

        Update: So there’s a few things I’ve learnt over the past three days in Edinburgh. One, the whole dining/going out alone experience is made much less awkward and frowned upon by others by accompanying yourself with a book. I have no idea how I’ve never thought of that before, but the experiences in both bars and restaurants have been lovely. Two, the more ‘high-end’ the place you go to is, the less intrusive people behave, but maybe that is just down to the general nature of such places. And finely three, maybe people in Edinburgh are just really nice and good at respecting people’s choices and boundaries. Ha

      • VixReviews

        You’re in Edinburgh currently? It’s so great, isn’t it? If you’re fast, there’s a gluten free cake tasting going on at the regent bar 5-7 today, so you’ve got about half an hour left if you want to run over for cake. It’s also just a really lovely pub full of really lovely people. How long are you up here for?

        And yeah, I know, I’m like a kid with a new toy about my city. All ‘look how shiny it is, appreciate it, tell everyone how great it is!’

      • Anya Lampesberger

        I’m just about to board my train back home 🙁 I’ve fallen deeply in love with Edinburgh over the past three days though, and will definitely be coming back in the near future!! The food alone could convince me to be honest haha

        Also I love people who are passionate about their home, so thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

  7. Prettyblueshy

    Love all the formats that you’ve come up with. I really love hearing your personal stories involving food (working in or experiencing restaurants)
    I would also have to as when I was a child I would have totally been Team Mike, but as an adult.. totally Team Ben. If I’m in a new city I want to experience what they have to offer. However… Breakfast most likely would be room service .
    Thanks guys! And Congrats Mike! Wishing you and your lady all the love in the world!

    • Bebbrell

      Sounds like it’s a pretty common thing as we we grow up and feel more confident with who we are. Glad you’re loving the more chatty stuff.

  8. CassieHills

    As a reasonably frequent solo eater, I take a seat at the bar if I can – it’s an interesting spot with high people traffic – nearly anything could happen. I’ve had great conversations with bar-tenders, small talk with people ordering – even been asked if I could pose as a friend if a first date was going badly.
    Added bonus being you get to order what you want, zero judgement.

  9. ShaelynKareth

    First post, wheee!

    Ben’s comment about focusing on the food when dining solo totally hit home with me, especially as someone as busy as I am – if I’m out, by myself, and I want to eat? I want it to be something that’s memorable (in a positive way), instead of, “… well, that happened, my stomach’s vaguely full and I can’t recall if I liked it or not.” Which usually involves questionable sushi. There shouldn’t be any sort of stigma around going out and enjoying food for the sake of enjoying food, whether it’s with a group or by yourself.

    Living in a fairly food-centric city (Richmond, Virginia, one of the top cities for food, thank you Yelp!), I’ve never felt self-conscious going out and eating by myself, but, then again, I am a fairly extroverted woman who lives in a foodie city. I’ve rarely looked at a solo diner in Richmond and thought anything negative about it, even if they’re not sitting at the bar.

    There’s nothing wrong with going out and enjoying your own company (without getting arrested, of course, don’t do that in public), and that stigma definitely needs to go – food’s for enjoyment! What’s wrong with going at it solo? I’m lucky to have never felt judged while solo dining (dining with a toddler is an entirely different subject, though), but I do understand the underlying social anxiety that accompanies it – I can’t imagine being introverted and having to feel like I need to justify presence at a restaurant.

    And no, no vampires, just rock some garlic.

    This is such a great way to get people chatting and learning about others’ experiences out there, thanks for letting it be a thing!

    • Bebbrell

      Loved your first post! And completely agree… Richmond is a great city for food… which always helps alleviate the stigma of solo-dining compared with places where food is more about function and a calorie exchange for $$$.

  10. Sgaski

    I’m retired and live alone. I take a mini-vaca every month and a major vaca once a year. I have never felt self-conscious dining alone. I have unique interests and find that most of my friends and family aren’t eager to join me, so I go alone. Why would you deny yourself an experience just because no one else wants to go?

    • Bebbrell

      Solo travel is good point. Snap. I wanted to go to Morocco years ago and none of my friends did that year. So I built up the courage to travel ‘alone’ and join a group tour thing. Loved it. Never looked back. You’re so right, don’t deny yourself your passions because you can’t find somebody to share them with.

  11. Mystique

    My best friend lives in Japan and she dines and shops etc on her own very often. Sometimes, if we’re online at the same time, she’ll take me with her on Facetime or Discord and we can spend a few lovely hours together even though I’m in London and she’s in the Japanese countryside.

    This actually also touches on Mike’s points about isolation and loneliness, as I’m disabled and bedbound for 90% of the time, so technology has connected us so much that I can feel like I’ve gone on an outing with my friend and had a lovely time without having left my own bed. In fact, most of my closest friends are ones I’ve made online and have never met in real life, despite talking to them every day (including the friend in Japan). It’s funny how technology has become both a great isolator and a great connector. Your phone totally could be a dining companion if you so chose or only had a wooden shutter to look at.

    Loved the conversation and hearing more of your guys’ thoughts and experiences about this topic. Congratulations on your engagement Mike!

    • VixReviews

      I am also about 80% bed-bound these days, so it’s pretty cool that we can chat without having to even get out of bed. Incidentally, I wonder if people who are bed-bound are more likely to join the club because we’re all bored?

      • Mystique

        I wonder! Really glad I did though, having more personal/less manicured content in addition to the main videos and seeing the discussions is such fun. *gentle fistbumps for fellow spoonie*

    • Sorted

      This is a really fascinating perspective. We’d have never thought to count a phone as a dining companion but this seems like a wonderful example of that – so glad that you get to enjoy these kind of experiences with you’re friends and that’s definitely given us something to think about!

      Fab, really happy you enjoyed the episode, the guys have loved chatting about stuff they’re really passionate about for this season. And Mike says thanks!

  12. Sallijean

    Eating alone at any restaurant is something I would never do ( I am American, as I learn more, we are pretty weird). Even if I had time to sit down and eat at a McDonald’s or something, I would eat in my car. Alone. I would feel so awkward even at a McDonald’s to eat alone.

    • Sorted

      This is really interesting! Is it just because you feel judged or would rather not be around others or (if you don’t mind us asking)?

      If you get a chance, try pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and giving a go just one time. It’s a unique experience but you shouldn’t feel awkward about it at all! Like Dimi said in an earlier comment, people don’t really care if you’re eating alone, and if they do that says more about them than you!

  13. Dimi

    I have never ordered room service while travelling. The only times I have ever ordered room service have been when on “staycations”, staying in higher end hotel in my home town or just out of town for special occasions (think anniversary/birthday/pampering weekends) and even then it was always breakfast in bed, never a lunch or dinner. But it always seems expensive and disappointing so I don’t do it anymore.

    As for dining alone, I was always super afraid of it when I was younger and avoided it at all costs. But I was also very introverted and scared to talk to people. These days I care a lot less, and as pointed out, I don’t think other people really care if you’re eating alone, and if they do that says more about them than you.
    I quite regularly have breakfasts and lunches alone, and I LOVE going to the movies alone.
    Dinners alone happen a lot less often, more out of circumstance than choice, but when they do I still feel awkward, especially in a busy restaurant where I am forever conscious of taking up a table to order a single meal. And I am 100% with Ben about clearing the other place setting, nothing annoys me more!
    Context is also important, when I’m in my hometown if I’m eating alone, it’s usually by choice, so I like to sit alone at a table and have my meal uninterrupted. When travelling it’s usually just a circumstance of the situation, and as Jamie said, if the option is there I will always choose to sit at the bar and probably end up talking to a bunch of new people.

    Loving this “discussion” format

    • Sorted

      Hey! Completely agree on the breakfast thing, sometimes it just feels easier to have breakfast in bed and you’re naturally usually out for lunch and dinner.

      So many people are saying the same on solo dining, maybe there’s a shift in it being more acceptable more recently too? And YES, it definitely says more about them than you. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, I reckon context is definitely important as we came at this from a very holiday/ big city solo dining perspective but dining alone in a smaller town isn’t something we’ve really covered – it’s nice to hear your thoughts around it!

      Glad you’re enjoying the format too!!

    • Margusenock

      “I don’t think other people really care if you’re eating alone, and if they do that says more about them than you.” – love it!

  14. badinflspeaks

    I think I’ve ordered room service only a few times in my life. It never turns out to be worth it in terms of cost or quality. Since going gluten free, the options are even worse. I can get salad, no croutons, no dressing, and no that’s not happening. Team Ben on this one.

    For dining alone, I love it. It’s like going to a theme parks alone. It’s all about me. Eat where I want, what I want, when I want. I don’t have to worry about not finding anything on the menu because it was someone else’s choice. It felt a little weird the first few times but the older I get, the more comfortable I am with myself. I do find I’m more likely to eat someplace I’ve been before when I’m alone unless I’m traveling. I like sharing the experience of a new restaurant with someone. I’ll eat there alone the second trip.

    • Sorted

      Lots of people agreeing with you on that one! Hahaa love the way you’re coming at solo dining, you’ve got to treat yourself once in a while and it definitely feels like a lovely method of self care. Loads of people are also saying they found it awkward when they were younger, perhaps there’s a bit of a societal shift on it since then too? And what a lovely way of doing solo dining, you already know the restaurant is amazing so now you can enjoy it by yourself and order all the things you love!

  15. Fooza93

    I love solo dining but I’ve definitely had a bum experience or two. I think you need to do just a bit of research before hitting the town alone! I once had a great restaurant recommended to me across the other side of the country, so off I went when I was there only to discover it was a “share plate” situation. Food was amazing but service was a bit average – the wait staff forgot I’d come in alone and thought I was waiting for someone so it took me ages to get someone’s attention to get a menu and then subsequently order. My fault though – should have looked it up!

    • Sorted

      Oh that sounds like a nightmare! There are loads more articles around solo dining available now so yeah we’d highly recommend checking them out to find some of the best places. Hopefully you’ll have some better solo dining experiences in future!

  16. raptorwrecks

    I really like this format, it’s got a great organic conversation that’s a lot more thoughtul.

    As for room service, never on your life. Like Jamie said it’s just SO damn expensive. If I’m exhausted and need quick food I’ll just walk to the nearest corner store or pizza place. Usually though, if I’m eating alone I tend to eat at nicer places than I would otherwise. It’s half a budget thing (I’d hate to impose something expensive on someone else) and half treating myself. Personally I enjoy doing Italian food on my own the most, as it’s got lots of courses to leisurely go through and you don’t have to worry about flinging pasta sauce on your dining companion.

    • danahlia

      I’ve ordered room service once- I was on holiday in Las Vegas and me and my friend where so hungover we couldn’t leave the room. I think it was 32 dollars for two chicken noodle soups which honestly could have been out of a tin, and a cola. Never needed it more though, and if we weren’t so rough we would have walked to the Walgreens near by and bought something.
      Until then, I’d thought of room service as quite decadent, but having had that experience I would never order it again.

      • Sorted

        God that’s so expensive!

    • Sorted

      Thanks so much, we’ve tried to get the guys talking about subjects they’re passionate about and hopefully that’s coming across!

      Very good point, usually on holiday there are plenty of food places nearby anyway. And that’s such an interesting perspective. I absolutely love the idea of treating yourself to a nice meal without having to force that on someone who may not be as interested in food or the cuisine. I think I’ll definitely be giving that a go!

    • Bebbrell

      The guilt of imposing an expensive meal on somebody else is a very valid point. Have to pick your dinner spot based on present company and today’s mood for sure. I’m not always in the mood for expensive food… but always in the mood for good food. A quick grab and go street food option can be delicious and cheap if chosen carefully.

  17. Dbroadd1

    I have never ordered room service. I try and explore a new place as much as I can, including the food scene. Hotels are for sleep and showers to me.

    • Sorted

      Lot’s of people are saying this! When we chatted about the topic before filming the podcast Baz said ordering room service was one of his favourite things because you can order as much as you like with no judgement haha!

  18. Margusenock

    This is probably the most touching video of yours. It has many personal stories, you are opening yourself to the viewers and it is quite a special feeling. I have realized that I am kind of a Ben’s soul “sister”. I am 100% aligned with his view.

    I do enjoy eating alone. I have quite an intensive life which I really really enjoy and sometimes my only “myself” time is when I go to sleep or when I eat. And these moments are quite special :)I love watching a chef cooking my meal (in fact my “weak” spot is man who can cook, maybe that’s why I am enjoying your show so much 🙂 ). So 2 great things together 🙂

    I have never tried a booth like in Japan but now thinking if it I think I would not mind at all trying it and probably at certain stage would even appreciate it. Especially after a hard day when you have several meetings, workshops or have to fly to 2 different meetings in 2 countries in same day.

    When I was in my 20s I did feel that I was judged. Maybe I was thinking indeed thinking more myself about it than it was in reality. Now I just don’t care. I come for food after all. But sometimes, I don’t know why, it is hard for me to try new places on my own. I guess time will “fix” that too one day :).

    Anyways, amazing podcast. I have enjoyed it very much! Thank you for that!

    P.s. On a side note. Ben, you read quite a lot. What kind of books do you read? What is your favorite book?
    P.s.2 congratulations, Mike!

    • Sorted

      Thanks so much for that feedback, we really wanted to get the guys chatting about topics they’re passionate about and hope this comes across!

      It’s interesting to hear how your feelings around solo dining have changed over the years. I think it can definitely be a daunting experience but the more you do it, the more normal it feels! So so glad you enjoyed the podcast!

      I’ll ask Ben to drop you a reply and let you know about the books and Mike says thanks!!

    • Bebbrell

      I try to read a fair bit… mix of blogs and books. Almost always with a food skew… I’m addicted! Favs recently include Micheal Pollen’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma” (several years old actually) and Bee Wilson’s new book “The way we eat now”.

      Thanks for your comment, glad you’re liking the new style. And completely agree… with age often comes confidence. Now, food comes before other people’s thoughts of me. Selfish? Maybe. Empowering? Definitely.

      • Margusenock

        Thank you for the answer. I very appreciate it. To be honest I have never read a single book about food. Lately I read more from internet. When we were moving to Spain from Finland I had to go though all our stuff and unfortunately had to leave all my books and some other stuff to friends. So Sorted books are my first 3 books in a new place 🙂 those books that you have mentioned sound quite interesting and have good reviewed in amazon. Thank you for the hint. Maybe will be the next book I buy.

        I think there is nothing selfish in loving yourself and enjoying your life the way you want. We live once. When I am old, I want to live in my own house, with my own garden, with 2 dogs, surrounded by people I love and have no regrets, knowing that I did my best and enjoyed my life. I do nothing illegal, why shall I worry what others think of me ?:)

  19. danahlia

    It’s funny that no one judges someone sitting alone in a coffee shop, but in a restaurant they do. I’ve eaten alone but you always get the feeling that you’re taking up valuable space for a table of two, and I don’t really think the UK could go the Japan route of dedicated 1 seat space because eating out by yourself isn’t really the norm.
    I wouldn’t mind eating alone more though, my husband and I have very different tastes and so he would never come with me to a seafood place, for example, because he wouldn’t eat anything. Being able to go wherever I wanted would be quite liberating.

    • Sorted

      Very good point, it’s totally normal to go and read in a coffee shop but somehow doesn’t feel the same in a restaurant sometimes? Maybe it works better in the more casual, relaxed restaurants? Completely agree that it would be a massive shift in the UK to cater to solo dining, but maybe it could work in busy cities like London for people to pop out for a delicious lunch.

      You should definitely try dining alone in those seafood restaurants – you never know until you try and it might even become a regular thing!!

  20. Esther

    I have so much to say about this subject! I used to be terrified at the thought of dining alone. I’d feel so self conscious. To be honest, it’s still not something that I’d go out of my way to do but I’ve done a lot of solo traveling and it’s helped tremendously to ease some of that awkward feeling. I don’t believe that I’ve eaten by myself in my own city before but I wouldn’t be opposed to it either.

    Storytime. I was in London a number of years ago and this was when I first started traveling alone. Being the tourist that I am, on my final night, I was determined to have a meal at an English pub. Silly tourist right? I know. Anyways, I settled on the one that looked the least intimidating, took a deep breath and went in. The person at the door took one look at me (imagine wide eyed foreign Asian girl who clearly had no idea where she was or what she was doing) and asked if I was there for dinner. Not drinks. Dinner. I said yes and he proceeded to take me upstairs to an empty dining room save a single waitress who was busy playing games on her phone. Now mind you, there were patrons downstairs but it’s not like it was full. She (the waitress) was startled to see me but she still sat me down, took my order and then that was that. Just the two of us in an empty dining room. I ate my food and she went back to her phone.

    To this day, I don’t know why I was escorted upstairs. Maybe it was because he thought that it would be less scary for me? Or maybe it was to hide me away from prying eyes. Luckily it hasn’t deterred me from solo dining and now I have a great story to share.

    P.S Massive congrats to Mike & Kirsty!

    • VixReviews

      Were there people eating downstairs, or was it drinks only downstairs and eating upstairs? That sounds like such a weird experience!

      • Esther

        Not a clue – didn’t get far enough to see what the people downstairs were doing. The stairs were right by the door so I was escorted right up. For all he knew though, I could’ve been going in for drinks! Why did he ask if I was there for dinner? So many questions.

    • Sorted

      Hey Esther!

      Completely get you, solo dining can be daunting but def rewarding when you find somewhere amazing. Touring your own city is a fab idea to find some hidden gems, give it a go! Also, no way!? That’s such an odd experience! We can assure you that’s not what most pubs are like. Some pubs will have a separate dining and drinking area mainly so that you can eat in peace away from the loud, drinking crowds but to seat you alone on a completely different floor seems super odd! Hope you manage to come to London and try a proper pub some time soon though haha!

  21. VixReviews

    I’m liking the format of just throw out a topic and see what comes up. As it happens, this weeks topic is one I do quite a lot. I’ve mainly dined alone in three different locations, and I’ve found the experience differs a lot depending on where you are.

    Edinburgh, my home city, I find it very difficult to actually manage to dine alone as Edinburgh is like a tiny village. I find that I quite often walk into somewhere and will find someone I know, so it’s less dining alone, and more an impromptu meetup. I suppose dining alone where you live doesn’t really feel the same as dining alone on holiday even in the unlikely event of not running into someone you know as you don’t have that on holiday vibe that seems to make you chat to absolutely everyone.

    Another place I dined alone a lot was Tokyo. My sister is living there at the moment, and a few years ago she flew me over to visit for a month. Because it was such a long trip, she was at work during the week, so I explored the city on my own. It was certainly an interesting experience. For context, I am a visibly disabled, redheaded, rather… busty woman, and I found this definitely had an impact on how I was treated over there. I couldn’t really blend into the crowd except in the most touristy spots. I found that many restaurants would try to hide me in a back corner, which I wasn’t a particular fan of as I like watching the crowds. I also found the staff were often rather rude when I was alone, which surprised me as Japan is supposed to be famous for their politeness, and I was turned away in several places. Mostly the little tiny places that only fit, like, five people at any one time. The ones that allowed me in were usually absolutely the best experience though as they were really chatty, both the staff and everyone else in there. Definitely a unique experience, but not one I would necessarily want to repeat. I had better experiences the days I was able to get out without my cane, but that just underscored the difference when I was using it. I found that the staff tended to stop and chat more, even with my very very limited Japanese, the more ‘normal’ I managed to look that day.

    The other place I ate alone a lot was Port Leucate, in the south of France. I lived there for three months over a summer and worked as a chef in this adorable little beachfront pizzaria. I did a lunch and dinner shift, and as it was a 40 minute bike ride each way home I would often eat out between shifts. While my favourite place to eat was on the beach with a free pizza from work, I mixed it up a bit and tried quite a few of the restaurants and bars around the area. When eating alone there, you were never alone for long, everyone wanted to practice their english with me and have a good laugh at my absolutely appalling french. My sister worked at the butchers the summer before too, so half the village would stop and say hello whenever I was out and about and ask how she was doing. Another particular favourite was the absolutely incredible bar next door to the pizzaria (Les terasses de L’hacienda, if anyone fancies a visit there). It was a three tier open balcony overlooking the beach, with sofas on each level, and really cheap jugs of sangria. The waiters would all wander over to sit down and have a gossip whenever I was there alone and they had a free moment. I pretty much never sat fiddling with my phone there, as the atmosphere was so relaxing. Also there was absolutely no phone signal anywhere, but I didn’t really miss it.

    So to turn this into any sort of point, how comfortable I’ve felt dining alone varied a lot depending on where I was, as I was treated very differently in each place. I seem to end up chatting to whoever I happen to meet when I dine alone, so my memories from most of the experiences are of the people and the atmosphere, not necessarily the food. I barely remember most of the food in fact. There are a few standout food moments (kobe beef, the white base pizza with goats cheese, magret fumee, olives, and honey) but most of the food is eclipsed by the people I’ve found.

    • Sorted

      Hey! First off, so glad you like the format – I really wanted to get the guys chatting about foodie topics they’re passionate about and hopefully that’s something the community can get passionate about too.

      This is such an interesting read as we’ve definitely come at the topic from a holiday/big city solo dining perspective. Sorry to hear about those negative experiences in Japan but the time you spent solo dining in France sounds incredible! We’ll def be checking out that bar and pizzeria if we’re in the area.

      It seems like a massive factor for a lot of people is that it all depends on how you’re treated as that completely shapes the experience. Do you think solo dining is gonna be something you’ll continue doing in other countries as it sounds like it’s not really a solo dining experience when in Edinburgh haha! Thanks for sharing your experiences too, this was a lovely read!

  22. CallumDp

    I’m with Ben on the room service debate. When I travel I treat my room as a place to sleep and then go out and find places to eat as I’ll usually find out more about the place I’m staying from bar staff and waiters. The great thing about solo dining is you are dining on your own budget and dietary requirements!

    • Sorted

      Very fair! Barry wasn’t in this podcast but when we were planning it he said he loves room service because you can order a beer, coffee and juice and sit in your pants and enjoy them with no judgement 😂

  23. suebarnes

    Solo dining during daylight hours is fine (no vampires) but in the evening, I wouldn’t recommend it, the staff treat you like you’re a pariah and people stare (and of course the vampires)

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