Solo Diners and Restaurateurs — take note!
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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.
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
(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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