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eating alone I hate eating alone while traveling. If I have to do it, I seek out dark corner tables and I make sure I’m armed with a book or a laptop in which to bury my face.

It wasn’t always this way. In fact, I used to like dining alone, beaming confidently at the empty chair across from me while enjoying my food in peaceful silence. But a bad incident at Senor Frog’s in Myrtle Beach changed everything.

I know. Senor Frog’s, the hard-partying place that serves JELL-O shots and fish tacos to tank top-clad tourists in beachy destinations, isn’t exactly Shangri-La for the solo diner. Nevertheless, I was at Broadway at the Beach at the time (a vast Myrtle Beach shopping and entertainment complex), and my options included a Hard Rock Cafe shaped like an enormous Egyptian pyramid and various steakhouses and seafood spots. I’m a vegetarian. And it looked like the 70-foot-tall Hard Rock pyramid might swallow up a lonely unaccompanied traveler. So I took my chances with the frog.

In the same way that T.G.I. Friday’s displays vintage memorabilia and relics of Americana, Senor Frog’s posts smart-mouthed signs declaring “Save water. Drink tequila!” or “We don’t speak English, but we promise not to laugh at your Spanish!”

Sometimes, I noticed, Senor Frog’s staff placed signs next to patrons. As I waited for my nachos to make an appearance, I watched a waiter set up a sign next to a gaggle of giggling teens. It read “Supermodels at play!” with an arrow directing diners’ eyes to the girls.

“How sweet,” I thought. “But you better not put one of those things near me. You. Better. Not.” I sank my face into my novel and tried to blend in with the booth.

A server soon arrived and, with his left hand, slid a plate of cheesy nachos under my chin. In his right hand, he gripped a tall wooden sign, which he positioned next to my booth. “Needs a date,” it read. A fat arrow pointed mockingly to my head.

This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve always secretly feared when dining alone. Sharing a meal with a ghost in a restaurant stuffed with chatty quads and pairs, I’ve envisioned people whispering about me, wondering what happened to my date or whether I was some kind of socially marred loner. In reality, few people care about or even notice solo diners. Of course, there’s usually not a brazen sign broadcasting one’s lack of date.

“Take it away!” I hissed to the waiter. “No sign! Take it away!” The thing went down like a slap, but the damage was done. Thoroughly embarrassed, I choked down one or two triangle chips, signed the check and exited quickly.

Should I have laughed at the sign and taken myself a bit less seriously? Perhaps. But I was pretty embarrassed, and ever since that meal at Senor Frog’s, I’ve dreaded the table for one. How do you feel about dining alone?

— written by Caroline Costello

8 Responses to “Terror at the Table for One”

  1. SeaMarmot says:

    Depends on the restaurant. It can be great to dine alone on the road, especially during off hours. Gives you a chance to chat up the waitstaff about the destination. Gotten some good tips that way.

  2. Lissa says:

    I actually love when I get the chance to eat alone – Either I get to dive into a good book or I get to know the patrons around me. My mom always asks me how I do it! The secret, I’ve discovered, is to sit at the bar. I used to always go and get a table and pull out my book, and yes there was often that pause by the host asking if there was only one in the party and if they could pull away the other silverware, but when sitting at the bar, I can walk right in, grab a seat, and a friendly bartender says hello. I’m not expected to have drinks at the bar, and if it’s slow, the bartender usually chats, unless I whip out that book and give the signal that I’d like some peace. Even with the book, the people who belly up to a bar are more likely to also be alone and just as willing to say hello. There have even been some meals where I’ve made friends with the people I met and now we keep in touch on Facebook. When traveling, it’s a great chance (and icebreaker) to ask locals what to see and do in the area. I just love how social a meal for one can become.

  3. CAROL JEAN says:

    Solo dining is a great way to get local tips on where to go and also other places to have a snack or meal. It is easy to try an ice breaker line i.e. “It seems so busy here…do you know of other nearby places with a view? a budget menu? specialty drinks? well that’s worked for me. Give it a go and keep that journal and/or magazine handy~just in case.

  4. Nicky says:

    I am fairly new to solo traveling and the first time i did i ordered room service all week, the second time i traveled i used quiet restaurants, the hotel restaurants and fast food places. This time i went to restaurants on my own but i will use the tips above to help next time cos i felt like the queen of loner ville most the time when i left. The waiter at one restaurant did ask me for my number so it cant be so bad lol

  5. You can bet I will never eat at Senor Frog’s

  6. Annie says:

    In retrospect it is easy to say “laugh it off” and I hope I would be able to do that but I know being alone it would depend on my mood…I have done a lot of things alone, movies, traveling – if I didn’t I would have missed out on a lot of experiences.
    Maybe you should have turned it around, the sign and the joke, back on the waiter! But, I know, its easy to think of the response after the fact.
    Single is good, let them laugh!

    • BIDYUT says:

      I COULDN’T AGREE WITH YOU MORE. PEOPLE WHO LAUGH AT PEOPLE WHO DO THINGS ALONE HATE OUR GUTS BECAUSE THEY ARE IN DIRE NEED OF REASSURANCE ABOUT THEIR SELF ESTEEM.IT IS GOOD TO ENJOY YOURSELF WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT OTHERS.

  7. Sascha says:

    In opinion eating alone is quiet comfortable with me. Of course the situation which Caroline Costello has had to face in Senor Frog’s is embarrassing.
    On the other hand dining alone may open to You an amazing door of upcoming experience.

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