I Ate Out Alone For One Week—& Here's What Happened

Photographed by Ben Ritter.
This story was originally published on January 5, 2016.

Generally speaking, I’m not afraid to be alone — in fact, I’m someone who values alone time. Like most people, I have dined alone in the form of a speedy workday lunch or some quick sushi on my way home, but I've always had the comfort and distraction of a book, magazine, or my phone. But here's the thing: I'm a food writer. Dining out is part of my job. Eating by myself in a restaurant shouldn't make me blink, let alone create sweaty-palm anxiety. So to start off the New Year, I decided to tackle an idea that was stuck in my mind from an old Sex And The City episode: I was going to say goodbye to my dining alone armor.

There were two simple rules for my week-long challenge:

1) I had to eat dinner alone for seven nights in a row.
2) No “armor” — meaning no phone, no book, no magazines. Nothing except sitting alone and eating.

I did a little research, which — to my surprise! — calmed me down a bit. Because it turns out that solo dining is having a bit of a moment. But I still worried: Would I be looked upon pitifully? Would I feel super uncomfortable? Be unbearably bored or lonely? Would the service be as attentive?

As soon as I realized that I was getting caught in a spiral of anxieties, I told myself to buck up: Maybe I would find that I really did enjoy my own company and look at experiencing a restaurant meal in a new light. If nothing else, I reasoned, I’d get to try some new restaurants, and maybe have a fabulous meal or two. Here are the 10 things that I learned in my week-long experiment.

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