Some women do not like to go out for a meal on their own. I’m not one of those women. I think a fine meal dining solo is a luxury that should be enjoyed as often as a woman is willing and able.
I work for myself out of a home office in Conway, and I will often find myself in Little Rock after a presentation or a client meeting ready for lunch. My go-to destination for solo lunch these days is the stellar restaurant, The Fold: Botanas and Bar in Riverdale.
I love it because the hostess or host never asks that dreaded question for single-women diners, “Just you?”
My friend Michelle likes to answer, “Not just me, thank you very much!” I’ve used that myself, at the Neiman Marcus café in Atlanta. It makes a point.
At The Fold, they give me a lovely table, or even better, let me choose, and they are happy to let me take my time and read my book. They are friendly, but not intrusive. I feel comfortable. Of course the food (guacamole and one each of the seafood tacos, and a glass of Malbec if I have the time) is a delicious, delectable treat.
One of the fondest memories I have of traveling abroad alone—I’ve taken solo trips to Paris, Greece and Prague—is a luxurious meal at Palffy Palace in Prague, which is located in a building in the castle district. Old world charm and furniture and exquisite cuisine make one feel she is back in time, but it was the professional and attentive service by my waiter who never acted like I was anything but the perfect party to his table. This is the standard by which I judge all other dining experiences. Even though The Fold is not an elite restaurant in an exotic foreign city, their staff treat me the same way, and I am equally comfortable. That’s why I return.
I wanted to know what other Central Arkansas women thought about the experience of dining alone, so I asked a few.
My friend Christie says she selects restaurants with “dining-bar situations” for a really relaxed atmosphere. For her, this means Mugs and Good Food by Ferneau in North Little Rock.
“I was able to pull off [dining alone there] without feeling creepy,” she said.
Carol, who has dined alone throughout the state says the service is just as important as the food. See the list below, which includes many of her recommendations in Central Arkansas for solo women diners.
Another friend was simply eager to read the article so she could have a list of where she might go to have a quiet glass of wine alone after her “go-to” The House closed.
My friend Jodie says her criterion for choosing a restaurant for solo dining is that she does not feel uncomfortable. She lists Sky Restaurant in Pleasant Ridge as an example of a place that never makes her feel “singled out,” (that was my pun, so don’t blame her).
“They always make me feel welcome, the music is upbeat, and I love their sushi,” she said.
Bri says that one of the best ways to make her feel uncomfortable as a solo woman diner is if she is seated at the back of the restaurant, near the kitchen or the bathrooms, when there are plenty of free seats near windows or other diners.
Her comment made me realize how much I appreciated only being seated at the bar at The Fold when all their tables are full. They’ll give me the best seat in the house if it’s open and I select it. The bathroom/kitchen seating ploy is pretty lame.
Monika said she rarely goes anywhere alone, but if she does, she likes Crush in Argenta for its amazing wines, where she likes to sit at the bar with “other loners.”That way she doesn’t feel too uncomfortable. If they ask, “Just you?” She’ll respond flippantly, “Why, do you know a smart, funny, sexy guy?” It gets her a laugh and helps her make friends among the other singletons in the restaurant.
My friend Megan said she likes to go to Mr. Chen’s on her own. “I used to love solo lunching at Lemongrass and Boba Tea, but sadly, they are no more,” she said. She lists the bar area of Trio’s as “good solo time.” This is because there is a lot going on all around diners, so they can people watch if they’re not occupied by books or phones.
From the owner’s perspective, Capi Peck, of Trio’s, says she has observed for nearly three decades that women seem to feel comfortable dining at Trio’s for lunch and dinner, as she’s seen them.
Megan also recommends Cantina Laredo. “I got a big comfy booth all to myself,” she said.
Conway also offers positive dining experiences for solo women, says my friend Jennifer. “Mike’s Place is the best here. They always seat me somewhere discreet… I occasionally go during the week and have a glass of wine with lunch..:
Other recommendations for solo dining establishments for women include:
- Cache (especially at the bar, where a lot of people dine alone with the friendly bar staff to enhance their experience)
- Pei Wei (I concur)
- Lily’s Dim Sum
- Canon Grill (I’m usually not the only woman dining alone there, reports Jessica)
- The Root
- Faded Rose
- Riverfront Steakhouse
- Copper Grill
- Terry’s Finer Foods
- Boulevard Bread (Heights is stipulated)
Meredith says she dines alone “anywhere she damn well” likes, and another agrees, “I feel comfortable dining alone anywhere! Maybe I’m oblivious.” One friend says, “I don’t usually choose a location based on the fact that I’ll be alone, but I do remember the locations where I wasn’t treated differently because I wasn’t dining with some, and I will return.” She, too, recommends Mike’s Place in Conway for a solo meal and/or glass of wine.
Shelle recently experienced a downtown restaurant that she will not return to, after they brought food to every diner in the place before hers was served, even though when she arrived, only one table had ordered ahead of her.