Washington, D.C. Widower Shares

Observations and Insightful Solo Dining Tips

Solo Diners and Restaurateurs take note!

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We are always pleased to hear from SoloDining.com visitors. An exchange with one of them proved so interesting, we asked if he would care to broadcast his thoughts and discoveries via SoloDining.com, the newsletter.

Happily for us (and for you!), he kindly agreed. Here's a report on solo dining from a retired ex-pharmaceutical business executive who moved to DC in August 2002:

I am widowed, slightly over a year, and love dining out, so now frequent DC restaurants about twice a week. I still do some consulting and do travel to NJ, where I was originally from and where there are a large number of pharmaceutical companies.

On the positive side [speaking of dining out alone], a number of restaurants that I frequent do go out of their way for the single diner [I can name names.]. He did! Click: restaurants

Here are some examples:

(1) greeting you the same way as if you were a party of two or four;

(2) asking you where you would prefer to sit, or putting you at a table that provides either a good place to people watch, or some shield from other diners (Most ask me what I prefer.);

(3) having a good selection of half bottles of wine;

(4) the maitre'd coming to ask how everything is or was.

Since I'm usually talkative, I have started friendships with the sommelier or even the chef, especially if I come more than once. This always encourages the staff and they recognize my name and greet me accordingly.

Another facet that helps things is that I usually eat before 6pm and can get a reservation, even at the best places with no problem. And, because I am a sort of regular, when I do go out with others, the restaurant always gives me a table at any time.

On the other side of the coin, I have been seated, without more than a grunt in welcoming (parties of two or more were given vociferous greetings) at a table exposed to the world, even though the restaurant was empty. The staff ignored me and I had to beg for a drink.

And in one case, though the food was delicious, I told the maitre'd as I was leaving that he had ignored me. I added that although the food was delicious, I would never come back because of his attitude. (I followed-up with an e-mail to the restaurant but it was never answered. I also sent one to the food critic of The Washingtonian who had just reviewed the restaurant, he also hasn't answered.)

What I have learned is that if the maitre'd ignores you, or treats you poorly, go to the manager and tell him/her of your experience. Also, when making reservations, I always say that I was there previously and enjoyed the food. I usually try to "make friends" with the maitre'd, wine steward or someone who will remember me.

Incidentally, I usually take a PDA with games with me. If the people watching is boring, I have an alternative.

The "good" restaurants I refer to are:

Dish (202) 338-8707; 924 25th Street, NW (Foggy Bottom); Traditional American

Kinkead's (202) 296-7700; 2000 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW ("I" Street); Seafood

Marcel's (202) 296-1166; 2401 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW; (24th Street); Belgian with French touches

The Prime Rib (202) 466-8811; 2020 "K" Street, NW

Although I am, or in the process of becoming, a regular, the one thing all four have in common is that on my first visit, they made me feel as welcome as my subsequent ones. That's class.

We asked: How did these restaurants make you feel as welcome on your first visit as they did on your subsequent ones?

He responded: Because

(1) when I made a reservation, they didn't repeat, "for one" as if it was a question;

(2) they gave me a choice of seats, e.g., "...want to people watch or be off on your own...";

(3) they immediately showed me where the single glasses of wine and half-bottles were located on their substantive wine lists.

Once more, the maitre'd came over and asked me how things were the exact same way actually nicer than the party of four at the next table. I guess with one person, you can be a little less formal and friendlier.

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