Step 1 – Know why you want to do this
A younger version of myself had fantasies of traveling the world, eating in exquisite restaurants, seeing art and culture. For a long time, a lack of travel companions kept me home while the need for travel got stronger and louder. Eventually, I realized, if I was going to travel, I might have to do it alone.
Step 2- Decide you are going to do it
If this is really far outside your comfort zone, pick a date in the future and make an appointment for yourself. You don’t have to pick a place or even time, (that will come next). But commit to it. If you are reading this today, great! You’ll be ready in no time.
Step 3 – Pick a spot
Do you have a spot in mind? In my early 20s, I lived as a poor bohemian graduate student but dreamt of eating a meal at a fancy restaurant I drove past daily. Three months out from my birthday I started saving my pennies, made a reservation and took myself out for one of the best meals of my life. Written on the wall, above the entrance was a quote I’ve come to paraphrase often.
When you meet your maker, you will be called to account for the experiences you didn’t enjoy, not the ones you did.
Don’t live with regrets! Maybe it isn’t a fancy place, but a breakfast or brunch spot you read about online, maybe a co-worker mentioned a lunch place a few towns over and you’d love to try it. Or maybe you don’t know what you want. Thrillest and Eater have great food sections you can filter and search by neighborhood or by food type. Yelp will help you see what others recommend.
Step 4 – Review the website, including the menu
There is nothing worse than getting to a place, sitting down and realizing you don’t like anything on the menu or that your budget doesn’t align to theirs. Review the menu in advance and pick at least one meal you can fall back on if you get overwhelmed easily.
Step 5 – Arrive as your most confident self
Prepare for this event as you’d prepare for a real date! Take time to primp and prep, use one of those fancy bath bombs you’ve been saving for a special occasion or break out the Sephora samples you’ve hoarded in the back of your drawer. Wear something that makes you feel great about yourself and you feel comfortable in.
Step 6 – Pick Your Seat
You have a few options when it comes to seating and all have advantages:
- Sit at the bar – This is casual and can be social. If there is an open kitchen you can keep an eye on the most popular items while you review the menu.
- Table for one – If there is a host, ask for a table for one, and smile at the end while looking them in the eye. You just told them you are confident and want a better table than they were going to take you to. You’re welcome!
- Communal Table – This can be a great way to eat in a new city while traveling. Ask your tablemates where else you should try, see or do. If they share your taste in the food they will most likely share your other interests too.
Step 7 – Occupy yourself
I believe it is acceptable to have a phone, book, journal, even a computer with you, depending on the environment. Save something good you’ve been meaning to read, or a journal prompt you’ve been meaning to get to. This is your quality time, how do you want to spend it?
Step 8 – Enjoy the meal
Sit, linger, savor each bite and have a second drink or a cup of coffee. Unless you are someplace where the turn-over is expected to be quick — say The Café DuMonde in New Orleans with long wait lines, two things on the menu and fast-pace wait staff – you are in no obligation to eat fast and leave.
Step 9 – Tip your wait staff.
You know this right? 20%
Step 10 – Reflect
You did it! How did it go, would you do it again, where are you going next? My birthday dinner out all those years ago started a passion for culinary adventures. I’m already planning my next trip, how about you?