Solo Diner-Friendly Contest (2001)


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Sooner or later, EVERYONE — business and pleasure travelers, singles, those divorced or widowed, very-marrieds whose spouses are on the road, harried moms and dads, etc. — faces the challenge of eating out alone!

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THE How-to Booklet of Solo Dining Tips & Strategies:

The Art and Satisfaction of Dining Alone — REVEALED!

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Contest Winner

Duck Club ( Monterey Plaza Hotel) — (831) 646-1706; 400 Cannery Row, Monterey, California.

I recently traveled there alone. Initially, I chose seating at their more casual restaurant, but a pre-wedding party was having a rowdy good time, and I needed some quiet before flying home in the morning.

When I asked to be switched to the Duck Club, the hostess was
extremely gracious. She made me feel like a treasured guest, and seated me at a small table with a view of the grill and beautiful windows with a sweeping view of the Monterey Bay.

Interestingly, another single woman diner was seated nearby, and there were groups of 2-3 single women mingled with couples on a Sunday night.

Because I had brought a book to read, the hostess brought three candles over to provide light.

The waiting staff was excellent, seeing to every need without being obtrusive. They brought tidbits from the kitchen, recommended wines, kept fresh sourdough bread in the basket, and quietly refilled my water glass.

I had a perfect dinner of enormous fresh scallops with mashed potatoes and fava beans.

Dessert was some of the best creme brulee I have had in the world. The texture was light, redolent of vanilla, with a warm broiled top and beautifully arranged perfect berries. French press coffee topped off the meal.

Because I was reading, the staff maintained a leisurely relaxed pace. They remembered my name throughout the evening, sent the bill to my room, and wished me safe travel.

I slept beautifully that night, feeling pampered, nourished and rested. A truly artful evening.

Karen Vaniver — St. Joseph, Missouri

C-C Inn — (760) 340-1236; 73445 El Paseo, Palm Desert, California

This is the greatest place I've ever gone to eat alone.

The first time I went there by myself, I figured they would make me wait for a "table for one" in a dark corner and allow the other couples and groups waiting behind me to go first — not so!

When the next table was clear, they showed me to the center of the room to a table for four. I protested, stating I would be glad to wait for a small booth and let the larger parties go ahead and take the table. My offer was pooh-poohed and I was promptly seated.

I then promised the hostess I would eat quickly, since I realized they were very busy and could use the extra seating. She leaned down and patted my arm as she said, "You've waited like everyone else has, so you take your time, enjoy your meal and leave only when you're finished.”

I had just left a business meeting and had some papers I needed to review, so I ordered, read my files and an hour later I was ready to go having eaten one of the most wonderful, leisurely lunches I've ever had. My service was exceptional and not once did they make me feel uncomfortable or in the way.

Since that day, I've dined there many times, both with others and alone and I've always been treated the same, with respect, incredible food and service.

Robyn Foote — Indio, California

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Contest Winner

Duc's Bistro — (808) 531-6325; 1188 Mauna Kea Street, Honolulu, Hawaii. (Five minutes from Downtown and about 10 minutes from Waikiki.)

Very nice, understated restaurant. Nice dining counter at bar which I always eat solo at — they even have special wood blocks at the bar to level the bar edge to accommodate plates for those eating at the bar. Bar is beautiful Koa wood (native dark wood).

Solo diners (mostly professionals) every night, very casual and easygoing — I have met people from all over the world dining at this counter.

Live music every night varies from jazz piano to Hawaiian music. Crowd is mostly professional and a little on the more mature side — not a lot of "yuppies."

Menu is fine French and Vietnamese — may sound strange but consider that the French colonized Vietnam for a long time.

I think the food at Duc's is the best in town. The entrees range from a simple Vietnamese rice noodle salad with spring rolls, beef, duck, or prawns to Venison or Duck Civet. They also have serve Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Beluga Caviar for those big spenders.

I like it just because the food is tasty, the people are very nice and it's owned and managed by the same person. Duc is there every night and is a wonderful host.

Matthew Kobayashi — Honolulu, Hawaii

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Abruzzi Restaurant — (502) 245-7121; 1500 Evergreen Road, Anchorage; Kentucky (Louisville)

I recommend this place!

Located in a lovely small town, it’s friendly to everybody who enters. A polite person greets you at the door; welcomes you to your chosen table. I always feel welcome whether it is just me or me and a friend.

We people who dine alone know if we are being welcomed or not. It's not rocket science to feel comfortable in a restaurant, where I am glad to pay my tab and tip generously if I am treated kindly.

Abruzzi is such a comfortable, pleasant restaurant to visit, and it does not seem if any extra effort is extended to the solo diners versus the group.

Helen Claiborne — Prospect, Kentucky

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Fairmont Bar & Dining — (301) 654-7989; 4936 Fairmont Avenue; Bethesda; Maryland

This restaurant that I frequent in my neighborhood has some very newsworthy ideas, including catering to singles since its design!

They have two television sets at the bar — one that plays a cable TV station and the other that plays their library of DVD movies! Both have closed captioning.

They also have "shelves" under the bar that will hold a purse, laptop, light coat, etc. They even subscribe to many magazines that they keep for the solo diner. This encourages dining.

They also built out the countertop of the bar to make it come out far enough that you don't have to hunch over the bar for you to get to your plate.

And finally, they serve 30 wines by the glass; and the white and sparkling wines are on display right in front of the diner, in a "well" that's been cut out of the bar that displays all of the open bottles. If you see something interesting? Ask the bartender for a taste.

Anyway, you can see that I really love these guys, and I think that others would as well.

Kerry White — Bethesda, Maryland

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The Student Prince — (413) 734-7475; 8 Fort Street; Springfield, Massachusetts

This solo-friendly restaurant has had a communal table at lunch as long as I can remember. It’s usually occupied by local attorneys.

Hank Savioli — Agawam, Massachusetts

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Giovanni's Ristorante — (313) 841-0122; 330 Oakwood Boulevard; Detroit, Michigan

This Detroit-area favorite offers probably the best traditional Italian food in the city, according to the critics. (If you do go there, try the Fettuccini Alfredo — best in the world!)

The area where it is located has deteriorated over the years, but Giovanni provides free valet parking in a fenced, guarded, well-lit area.

Inside, they offer quite a number of smaller tables (one to two persons).

Even though I only get there three-four times a year (and alone), the staff always recognizes me by name, asks me about my kids, and spends the time to talk to me.

Mama Rosa, the owner of the establishment, isn't always in town; but when she is, she always makes it a point to stop and talk to each patron. She seems to spend extra time with those who don't have a dinner companion.

I've done a lot of traveling on business, and I've eaten in a lot of restaurants. I can't think of a better place to eat.

Alan S. Binkow — Oak Park, Michigan

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Steak & Ale — (417) 883-7717; 1935 South Glenstone Avenue; Springfield, Missouri

I had a great experience there last summer when attending a conference in Springfield. I had a minor surgery the week before and had been on my feet making back-to-back presentations at the conference — I was ready to sit down, relax, and have a good meal.

When eating "solo," I'm never sure of what kind of reception/service I'll receive. Here, I was greeted courteously and seated promptly in at a small table with comfortable high backed chairs.

The service was outstanding, and the food was well prepared and delicious. When told that the dessert was either chocolate cake or cheesecake, I told the waiter I would prefer the cheesecake as I had chocolate cake for lunch. Well, the dessert of the evening was the cake, but the chef provided a lovely cheesecake with strawberries instead.

This was the most pleasant dining experience I've ever had when dining alone, and I'll go back.

Rebecca Limback — Warrensburg, Missouri

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New York

Tazza — (212) 633-6735; 196 8th Avenue; New York, New York

My favorite solo dining restaurant has been around for about three years. The food is Mediterranean, but I call it comfort food. They also have a fab Pre-Fixe for $16.95 daily which includes soup or salad, entree, dessert & coffee. By New York standards this is a bargain!

One can eat here, not go back for six-nine months, then order the same thing, and the food will taste exactly as you remembered it. Consistency is important to me.

The bar is designed in a way that if you’re dining alone you have your space; if you’re dining with someone else the angle of the bar seats you facing each other.

The restaurant has nice candlelit areas with warm colors to make you feel cozy.

There is also a great bartender named Delilah (This is not a woman, but a drag Queen named Delilah who dresses occasionally.) who not only creates some wicked drinks, but also entertains you at the bar.

The staff has been there for quite sometime. (Tazza used to be called “Twigs,” but the owners have been the same even 11 years prior to the name change). Service has always been friendly, to the point that you feel like it's your place.

Jack Guza — New York, New York

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Contest Winner

Pappas Brothers Steakhouse — (713) 780-7352; 5839 Westheimer Road; Houston, Texas.

Pappa's on Westhheimer in Houston is the best solo dining experience I have had to date and I eat out alone about 50-60 nights a year on business.

They have a cigar-friendly bar and restaurant area, a great wine list and most importantly a dining bar for singles with full waiter service. I have had groups of clients there as well and the attention from the wait staff was great whether I was alone or with a group.

Bob Staargaard — West Chester, Pennsylvania

The Paris Coffee Shop — (817) 335-2041; 700 West Magnolia; Fort Worth; Texas

Their long old fashioned bar/counter seats numerous solos and the waitresses are extremely courteous and efficient. There's plenty of room to read your newspaper while dining, too.

There is a long line to wait for the booths and tables, but the counter seating is usually much quicker. You meet great people while eating at the bar, also.

It's a great place to dine solo for breakfast or lunch.

Veronica Sustaire — Fort Worth, Texas

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Cafe Septieme — (206) 860-8858; 214 Broadway East; Seattle, Washington

This is my favorite solo dining spot. The owner and waitstaff are sassy and fun, but extremely professional and on top of their menu.

In an exceedingly diverse neighborhood, everyone is welcomed and made to feel comfortable in the restaurant — gay, straight, Goths, soccer moms, families stopping in after church, party-ers who haven't made it home yet.

They don't make you feel rushed if you just want to have a huge mocha while reading a book, and they keep an eye out for anyone who might be trying to make moves on a single diner (especially a woman).

The location is terrific, on a bustling pedestrian-friendly street, with lots and lots of interesting people going by — makes for an easy and entertaining solo experience.

Sherry Howland — Seattle, Washington

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