I read bad advice recently, that in order to get yourself psyched up for solo travel, you should start dining alone as preparation. I think these are two very different things, and I would hate for anyone to decide they can’t jump up and explore the world alone because it’s kinda sucky to have dinner alone in your hometown.
However, when your home town is Aspen, Colorado in all its culinary glory, and you work weird long hours and go from chillaxing to hangry within minutes, sometimes you have to run out and grab a solo bite. And, if you keep these tips in mind, it can even be enjoyable.
First of all, if you can, walk there. That way, you will run into one friend and/or acquaintance per block, and may find a fateful dinner companion after all. Basically wave at everyone you know, they’ll wave back, you guys can do a cool little handshake thing and then ask them if they are hungry. The answer is always yes, but mostly they are on their way to work and can’t join you. But sometimes your friend-acquaintance is free and you can carry on to your restaurant of choice and get a table for two.
This technique also works within your restaurant of choice itself. If you did not manage to cajole a street-friend into being a dinner date, chances are there is already a friend-ish person sitting down to dinner somewhere and you can join them instead. This is ideal if they are with friends because then you get new friends and a meal all at once, two-for-one.
If by the time you get to a dining establishment you have not run into anyone on the street, and do not see any familiar faces already seated, the next step is to sidle up to the bar. As a singular person, it is nice to leave pairs of two chairs together when selecting your spot, and tempting as it is to sit in the middle of three and hope you are left alone the remainder of the evening. This also brings up a point about solo noshing — sometimes companionship is too much work, and cooking is too much work, so it’s actually really nice to sit somewhere in silence while a stranger cooks you food, and not necessarily something one should work to avoid.
So anyway, sidle up to the bar, where in Aspen, you will find a menu with toned down proportions and prices suited perfectly for one. Also, because it’s Aspen, you will find a friendly and knowledgeable bartender, who will probably be really good at gauging how much you feel like making small talk, and do their best to engage you or ignore you accordingly.
May I suggest bringing a back up activity, in case the company of strangers or the food itself is not entertaining enough. The bad-advice thing I read said bring a book, but this is bad advice. There is nothing that will keep you from reading a book more than reading it at a bar. I promise you, the moment you open your book someone and everyone will ask you what you are reading. Then they will probably ask you if it’s good, unless they’ve read the book as well, or anything kind of like it, in which case they will just go ahead and book-splain your book to you.
Instead, I of course would encourage you to bring you free local independent newspaper. Not only is it fascinating cover-to-cover, if you get through all the new articles and off-putting classifieds for “services”, there is always the crossword — the solo diners’ true companion.
One note to people who see people eating alone — I bet you they don’t want you to talk to them. Try to resist. You can make like one stab at a corny joke or comment about the weather, if they don’t pick up what you are laying down, then drop it, and find yourself a book.