How to eat alone at the bar
June 17th, 2010
03:00 PM ET
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Previously: Steven Stern's ode to eating alone at the bar

Tips for best bar eating

Find a good spot

If you're next to the place where the waitstaff picks up drinks, they're going to be squeezing by you all night. If you're all the way at the end of the bar, the barkeep is going to have to do a lot of walking back and forth to take care of you. Choose somewhere central, and settle in.

Start with a drink

Sure, you can ask for the wine or cocktail list, but if you sit down and immediately order something – a beer, a Campari and soda, a club soda if you don't do alcohol – the bartender knows they're dealing with someone decisive.

Ask questions

A good bartender knows a lot – about the drink options but also about the menu. Find out their opinions, and tailor your ordering accordingly. Their tastes might not match yours, but you'll probably get some good advice.

Don't expect special treatment, but a little hinting won't hurt

There's a wine on the menu that's available only by the bottle, but you just want a glass? Ask about it anyway; you might end up with a taste. The same goes for dishes you're unsure about. And is there anything the kitchen does well that isn't on the menu?

Don't be afraid to ask your neighbors what they're eating

You probably would never waltz over to a stranger's table at a restaurant and ask what they ordered. But at a bar? Totally fair game. A great way to start a conversation; a better way to find out what's good.

Bring a book or magazine, just for insurance

Not everybody wants to chat. Perhaps you might not either – definitely not with that guy two seats down who want to tell you his political theories. Reading is the universal symbol for "Leave me alone." It's useful and not rude.

Tip well

The next time you come back, you'll be remembered and treated very well. If you never come back, you've still contributed to the world's eating-at-the-bar karma.

Previously: Steven Stern's ode to eating alone at the bar

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Filed under: Bars • Bite • Etiquette • Restaurants • Sip • Solo dining

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Pscyclepath

    One of the things that really ticks me off is to be immediately sent to the bar just because I came in alone. I'd rather sit in a regular chair or bench than be dangling off a barstool for dinner...

    November 9, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  2. Mike Dwyer

    I find the article and tips very reassuring. Some of my favorite restaurant bars are always full though with 50% couples eating and really taking their time. How long to wait? This is the only downside I've found. Mystic, Ct

    June 22, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
    • mike goldfather

      we are in the same bot!i hate eting alone on the bar,think people will get me off-gardd!

      June 22, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  3. Shannon

    It's not stupid, it's useful.
    Not all of us are loners and socially awkward, but some are. This article is designed to help reassure nervous people that are going out to eat. A close friend of mine is extremely anxious when out in an environment with other people, and this article should give him some good tips, especially when traveling.

    June 22, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  4. The Good Cook

    One of the few perks of business travel – eating a meal well prepared, paired with an expertly made cocktail and a good book – alone, in a strange city.

    June 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  5. dmanburger

    Whats the big deal about eating alone ? I love it

    June 18, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
  6. Donutqueen

    Is this really necessary? I think I just wasted a few minutes of my life.

    When I eat alone, I prefer to sit on an end of the bar so that when big groups come in, I don't feel like I'm splitting them up by sitting right in the middle.

    Who cares if the bartender thinks you're decisive or not?

    And wouldn't asking questions sort of contradict your wanting to appear decisive?

    And why is asking the bartender questions unique to being alone?

    Same thing with special treatment... Why do you need to be alone for this?

    Annnddd same thing with asking your neighbors what they're eating... I've leaned over many times to the table next to me, asking what that yummy looking dish is, and people are always happy to tell me. If it's a dish across the dining room, I just ask the waiter or waitress. (duh).

    Good advice for bringing a book or magazine though!!! (Thank you, captain obvious.)

    And good wait staff should always receive good tips, no matter how big or small the group.

    June 18, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
    • Christ Almighty

      Glad to see that I wasn't the only one duped into this drivel.
      Pick a spot where you can crowd watch, always bring a book, get recos from the staff; they tend to feel at ease w/ a single at the bar and if you're in town at the same place for a while, or settling in to a new location as a consistent loner,introduce yourself a the end of the night, tip good but not extravagant and let them know you appreciated the service and you'll be back.

      November 12, 2010 at 10:08 pm |
  7. Mike

    This is the dumbest thing I've ever read.

    June 18, 2010 at 9:57 am |
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