In defense of eating alone
A group of friends were playing the “guilty pleasures” game last week, and it didn’t take me long to blurt out, “Dining alone!” I was met with much surprise, since I cook a lot. And by a lot, I mean every day, nearly every meal, as a personal chef. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy going out to dinner with a group of friends like anyone else, and I’m completely all-in when my husband invites me out to special-occasion supper. But I do enjoy a nice, quiet meal in solitude as a form of nurturing, indulgent respite. It’s so nice once in a while to enjoy someone else cooking something special just for me, not to mention the added bonus of having another person take care of the dishes.
I completely understand that not everyone embraces my sort of enthusiasm for dining alone. But if you do, or you find yourself traveling and the need to eat alone is obvious, there are some nice options in Salt Lake City. Here are a few ideas—sans chain restaurants, in either a quiet corner of a quaint neighborhood café, or getting absorbed in the crowd of a bustling high-volume venue. The bonus? As a single diner, you’ll rarely have to wait for a table.
To get that relaxed, comfortable atmosphere away from the stimulation of technology, I like heading to Em’s Restaurant (271 N. Center St.). Em’s feels like I can relax right when I walk in. It’s like stepping into a relative’s historical home (that conveniently has a coffee shop attached to the north side). It has a friendly staff, a lovely vine-covered patio, plenty of locals, yet the comfortable and quiet vibe makes me want to linger. Em’s serves a delicious variety (the seasonal cold beet borscht is exceptional in summer) of salads, hot entrées and sandwiches. Plates are manageable for one. Chef Emily Gassmann cooks dinners herself on the weekends, so making a reservation is a smart move. But there’s also counter seating, so you don’t have to.
Another fun option for solo noshing is the Avenues Bistro on Third (564 E. Third Ave.), where you can enjoy the friendly Avenues neighborhood vibe, and walk around back to visit the community garden and even watch the hens while waiting for your meal on the patio. (Note that they are closed on Monday and Tuesdays.) Service is casual and friendly; the food is terrific. Plan on taking a little more time to eat at the Avenues, since no one will rush you. It’s a place to relax and unwind. There’s even a great collection of cookbooks to help pass the time if you’re in need of reading material.
You can watch the cars go by in the Sugar House neighborhood and get a nice, early start on the day with some homemade toast and coffee at Publik Coffee Roasters (931 E. 900 South), situated inside a converted home. They open at 7 a.m. for you early risers.
The Tin Angel Café (365 W. 400 South), on the outskirts of the busy downtown hotel district and directly across from Pioneer Park, offers an interesting variety of healthy and delicious food, along with outdoor seating for singles to enjoy. The friendly owners treat everyone—from large groups dining before a concert, to solo customers—like part of the Tin Angel family. Be sure to try the awesome “Patos Tacos.”
Speaking of sushi, there’s nothing easier and more relaxed about dining solo than sitting at a sushi counter. Sushi chefs are accustomed to serving singles, and are likely to strike up a conversation with you while preparing something delicious that you’ve never imagined. Go ahead and put your meal in their hands. Other solo diners are likely to compare notes with you about rolls if you decide you’d like to strike up a conversation. When craving good sushi downtown, give Takashi (18 W. Market St.) a try. Takashi Gibo’s creative sushi and abundant sake selection might actually make you feel like you should dine alone more often. Get there early. If the line is daunting, try Kyoto (1080 E. 1300 South). Award-winning, Japanese-trained chef Peggi Ince-Whiting heads up the Kyoto sushi counter. I’ve had such nice conversations unwinding with locals and travelers at sushi bars over the years, and you will, too.
Whatever you’re up for, these local places and many others can make you comfortable as a solo diner. You just might be surprised at how pleasant dining alone can be. Unplug, and indulge in a little solitude. There’s respite in the act of dining alone.