Table For One

Reclaiming the Enjoyment of Solo Dining


No Reservations- For One

In the madness of a digitally connected world, there is beauty in the calm of a meal. Details like the smell of the bread, the marbling of meat, and the connectedness of the food and your pleasure centers become the unwavering star of this small snippet of time. And I am not just talking about having a meal without your phone in hand. I’m talking about the undeniable enjoyment of eating a meal, outside of the home or office, alone.

In a recent analysis from online reservations company Open Table, *solo reservations are up 62% on a national level, making a table for one the hottest seat around. More and more people want to experience a break from the hustle of daily life and just enjoy an hour alone. This is not to be confused with eating lunch alone at a desk. A rushed lunch does not a relaxing afternoon make.

The rise in solo dining isn’t only attributed to more people wanting to experience a meal alone. American households are also shrinking. **Over the course of the last 40 years, more than a quarter of households contain just one person. Divorces, the choice to not have children, and simply not wanting to marry are all reasons that contribute to smaller households. So here we single diners are; alone and typically feeling rushed in our everyday lives.

Rather than feel ashamed of the single reservation, there is a new movement of solo diners taking back the table for one. +Coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg as “The Third Place,” a table for one represents an empowered choice by customers, a place that becomes a hangout where one can people watch and sit quietly, involved in the daily bustle of the café or restaurant, but not being bothered. It is also a choice to literally clear the table of distractions and instead be an observer. This is a very powerful and exciting position to be in.

Here in Omaha there are a number of places that appeal to the solo diner. A variety of factors go into accommodating the individual diner: ease of reservations/table access, enjoyable ambiance, portion size, and quality. Taking the time to dine alone is a treat in itself, and having a delicious meal to enjoy along with it brings the entire experience full circle.

These are just a few of the many places in Omaha that make dining out, whether in a group or alone, a wonderful experience.

 

La Buvette

511 S. 11th St. Omaha, NE 68102

(402) 344-8627

 

Tucked into a corner near 11th and Jackson, La Buvette is a European style café and wine bar that offers solo diners incredible food, delectable wine, and enough personal space to enjoy themselves. Known for wonderful but occasionally curt servers, diners can expect service that is just attentive enough. “La Buvette is a place I had my reservations about when I was younger, but once I stepped foot in there, I fell in love,” said Lisa Marie Dirks, Salon & Spa Manager at Victor Victoria. “I love going by myself. For one thing the food is delicious, and another is the atmosphere. It’s the perfect place to have a cup of coffee or glass of wine and journal or read a book. La Buvette is always my number one recommendation to clients of the salon who ask where they should eat.”

When walking into La Buvette, the first thing you notice is the bottles of wine lining the walls. Small tables are arranged in almost a haphazard manner throughout the space, and there is a gorgeous patio that opens into the activity of the Old Market.

What is most striking about being a solo diner here is the noise level. There is always a comfortable, quiet but steady hum of conversation. People of all ages come here to have an informal chat over amazing food and wine. The sounds of wine bottles being opened, napkins rustling across laps, and the tearing of fresh, warm baguettes, make dining even more sensory. With the murmurs of conversation, the clink of glasses, it is the perfect atmosphere to enjoy the meal at hand. The menu is handwritten and changes seasonally, and is the perfect portion size.

You cannot make a reservation here. There is no sense of urgency or rushed dining. Time becomes a secondary thing. Instead, diners pop in after an afternoon of shopping, or for a glass of wine after a hectic workday. The ambiance encourages stillness, peppered with the sights and smells of true artisan cooking. It can be easy to forget you are still in the Old Market, and not in some cozy corner in Paris. This place is a must visit for those who crave alone time and truly good food.

 

The French Bulldog

5003 Underwood Ave. Omaha, NE 68132

(402) 505-4633

 

There are few things more beautiful than a charcuterie plate. This picture of perfection includes ribbons of fat lazing through slivers of sausage and prosciutto, seductively lying next to a pillowy mount of pork rillettes. Grainy mustards and tart jams bring a pop of color amongst pickled veggies and spicy, stuffed dates. One of the most sought after boards in town is at The French Bulldog, a relative youngster to the corner of 50th and Underwood in Dundee. Though the restaurant itself is a newcomer, owners Phil Anania, Anne Cavanaugh, and Bryce Coulton, have been working in the restaurant business for years. Anania and Cavanaugh are quite familiar with Dundee itself, opening the popular Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob in 2007. There is no wonder why this place has become a Dundee staple.

Opened in 2012 in the skeleton of a Subway restaurant, The French Bulldog boasts meats cured in house, along with sandwiches, salads, and entrees that play off seasonal and local produce. Chef Coulton sources the meat from local farmers, and the display of the curing process beside the bar area is enough advertising to keep the restaurant in a constant hum of activity.

What makes this place most enjoyable for the solo diner is the wait staff. Preparing plates, salads, and drinks behind the heavy wooden bar, the staff is friendly and inviting. “We have 13 stools at the bar, and you can sit right in front of the cooks preparing your food,” said Coulton. “You can have a similar dynamic with the cook that you would have with a bartender, and you can have a conversation or just enjoy your meal. You never have to feel that you are truly alone.” The bar area itself is great for enjoying a glass of wine or craft cocktail while reading a book. “I never give going to The French Bulldog alone a second thought,” said longtime customer Dr. Sofia Jawed-Wessel. “Their space is intimate but not too formal. I prefer sitting at the bar when I’m alone. The servers who work there are friendly yet unobtrusive, plus sometimes they throw a little extra cheese your way!”

If you come in early enough, say for happy hour, it is easy enough to score a seat at the bar. On most nights, it is wise to make a reservation. The portion sizes are perfect, even a charcuterie board is great for one person. The whiskey bacon and pork rillettes are enough to make even the shyest solo diner venture out of their comfort zone to enjoy a meal alone. “Being able to take an hour for a meal is a great pathway to spend some time alone. Food is a conduit to taking this time and not feel guilty for it,” said Coulton. “Enjoying a good meal is just a great way to take care of yourself.”

 

Delice European Bakery

3201 Farnam St., Suite 6112. Omaha, NE 68131

(402) 505-9500

 

There is something about a good pastry that makes time seem unimportant. For some solo diners, the pursuit of a meal doesn’t necessary have to be a four-course dinner. A simple coffee, or slice of cake can be the perfect respite from daily life.  

“I have season tickets for the Broadway series at the Orpheum with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law,” said customer Julie Sebastian. “Afterwards I’m never ready to go home, so I stop by Delice and grab a sweet snack and a cup of coffee. I love the atmosphere of Farnam at night, and the choices of desserts are excellent. There’s just something to quietly savoring the food an coffee while continuing to savor the story I’ve just experienced at the show.”

When you walk into Delice, the smell of cookies and coffee is enough to make you grab a chair. Not sure what you want? There is plenty to choose from. Slices of cake, breakfast wraps, and fresh made salads and desserts of all types beckon you from the display case.

“I think we are very welcoming to the solo customer,” said owner Karen Tollinger. “I feel we have a warm, welcoming, and comfortable environment. We have a lot of regular customers our staff have gotten to know, and their preferences. Sometimes they’ll start to make the drink for the customer upon walking through the front door, before any words are exchanged! That is what a coffee shop should be like, you never feel really alone.”

Many working parents are unable to sneak away for a solo meal during the week. Delice, offering both lunch items and desserts, is the perfect place to take an hour for a quick treat. “We are a coffeehouse/café which lends itself to the solo customer,” said Tollinger. “It’s a perfect place to come and study or grab a cup of coffee before work or a meeting. We have free Wifi here so it’s definitely a draw for individuals who need Internet access.”

Designed to appeal to both the pop in customer and the remote worker, Delice is a treasure amongst the storefronts in Midtown Crossing.

 

Baby Blue Sushi Sake Grill  

16939 Wright Plaza Omaha, NE 68130

(402) 547-5959

 

It isn’t difficult to get lost in a plate of truly lovely sushi. Buttery strips of salmon nigiri and rich, dark red cuts of tuna encourage all conversation to cease, save for an occasional “Oh my God” that gets proclaimed towards the ceiling. Many sushi restaurants in Omaha seem crammed with couples or groups, all enjoying their meals during hectic happy hours or lunches.

But for the solo diner, Baby Blue Sushi Sake Grill at the Shoppes of Legacy is a welcome escape.

It has a completely different atmosphere than other cozy, European style cafes, and instead offers a high-end, posh vibe with delicious sushi to match. The wait staff is polite and attentive, no matter how many people they are serving at a time. “We see a ton of solo diners,” said General Manager Sarah Canfield. “Having a friendly staff is really the key when it comes to drawing guests dining in on their own.”

Baby Blue offers more than just a quiet corner to solo guests. “I would say the most desirable part of Baby Blue’s design and ambiance would be having the option of both a sushi bar and {regular} bar to dine at,” said Canfield. “A late lunch is a great time to have a quiet, relaxing meal while catching up on some reading, while a bustling happy hour provides the opportunity to chat and meet new people.”

Being able to choose how to socialize gives solo diners a sense of empowerment. Whether you feel like a quick bite and a martini, or a meal with the chance of conversation, Baby Blue is the perfect place to spice up any day of the week.

 

 Even in our ever-expanding metropolis, there are still plenty of places to enjoy the company of a meal and our own schedule. Gone are the days when the solo diner was shamed into eating alone at a desk. More and more diners are taking time for themselves and learning the value of stillness. Along with this is an appreciation for truly delicious food.

Writer Jill Neimark perfectly summed up solo dining in a recent NPR story: “Be fascinated by the fact that your food is often sourced from far flung places around the world,” she wrote. “They reach out in all directions to connect to the far-flung farmers, foragers, hunters, truckers, sorters, servers, chefs, and guests who may silently join us at every meal.”


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