Ellen R. Shapiro and Steven A. Shaw
Ellen R. Shapiro,
a New York-based travel writer and photographer, has
traveled alone all over the world and is the Associate
Editor of Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel. Steven A.
Shaw, her husband, is an attorney and food critic.
No visit to
New York City would be complete without sampling a
few of this town's unforgettable restaurants. Luckily,
the solo woman visitor to The Big Apple has great
dining options in every price range.
for a restaurant in which to dine alone, bear in mind
that restaurants are, ultimately, in the business
of making money. On the one hand, a solo diner at
a table in a busy restaurant almost always means an
empty seat--and restaurants hate empty seats. On the
other hand, a restaurant would much rather have one
person at a table than none. Thus, your best bet is
to visit restaurants when they are least crowded.
Most New York restaurants, with the exception of those
in the business districts, are relatively empty at
lunch. If you plan to dine alone at dinnertime, go
very early or very late for the warmest reception.
Here are four
places in New York that not only offer great food
but are also particularly hospitable to the solo diner.
All are reasonably priced and all are in safe neighborhoods.
that in addition to the restaurants listed here, most
sushi bars and hotel restaurants are tailor-made for
the solo diner. Plus, many of New York's finer restaurants
now offer full menus at their comfortable bars--perfect
spots for eating alone.
97 St. Marks Pl. (Btwn. First Ave. & Ave. A)
Yaffa is one
of the hippest restaurants in one of the world's hippest
neighborhoods: The East Village. The menu is vegetarian-oriented,
healthy and economical. The best choices are the delicious,
hearty salads (similar to those that salad lovers
make for themselves at home). Yaffa features indoor
and outdoor seating (smoking permitted outside) and
is open 24 hours. During the off-hours (mid-afternoon
or late at night), you can sit at a table forever
and take in the funky, young, rambunctious East Village
scene. Another competitor for title of hippest restaurant,
which also caters to solos and features a similar
menu, is nearby Dojo (24-26 St. Marks Pl., Btwn. Second
& Third Aves., 212-674-9821).
The Tavern at Gramercy
42 E. 20th St. (Btwn. Broadway & Park Ave. South)
The main dining
room at Gramercy Tavern is one of America's finest
restaurants, but owner Danny Meyer and Chef Tom Coliccio--who
wanted Gramercy Tavern to offer something for everyone--also
created a restaurant-within-a-restaurant geared towards
the casual or solo diner: The Tavern. Solo diners
can sit at the bar and order hearty soups accompanied
by some of New York's best bread, meats grilled over
a wood fire, a selection of fine cheeses from around
the world, sublime desserts (particularly the fruit
tarts) and an incredible selection of wines by the
glass (or, even better, by the half-glass--so you
can taste several different wines). The bartenders,
like James, are friendly and will talk to you or leave
you alone as you wish. No smoking, even at the bar.
For another excellent bar-dining experience, try the
$19.98 lunch special at Gotham Bar & Grill (12 E.
12th St., Btwn. 5th Ave. & University Pl., 212-620-4020).
Cafe S.F.A. at Saks
611 Fifth Ave., 8th Floor (Btwn. 49th & 50th Sts.)
when they first hear about Cafe S.F.A., say, "I wouldn't
be caught dead eating in a department-store restaurant."
That was our initial reaction, but the reality is
that such establishments often serve good food in
attractive surroundings at reasonable prices. Plus,
because they cater to the shopping crowd, solo diners
are well accommodated (both at tables and at the counter).
Cafe S.F.A. offers great salads, sandwiches, soups
and other straightforward (but thoughtfully prepared
and presented) items. Another good dining choice,
along the same lines, is Fred's at Barney's (10 E.
61st St., Btwn. Fifth & Madison Aves., 212-833-2200).
551 Amsterdam Ave. (Btwn. 86th & 87th Sts.)
A favorite spot
of just about everybody who lives on the Upper West
Side, Popover Cafe offers a diverse menu of home-style,
hearty, health-conscious specialties. The signature
menu item is, of course, the popover. You do not need
to eat alone, because the restaurant will gladly lend
you a teddy bear to keep you company. The restaurant
offers discounts from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through
Saturday, including a tasty soup and half a sandwich
for $6.95. One warning: Popover Cafe gets very busy
during the weekend brunch seatings, so stay away at
those times. If Popover Cafe is crowded, try nearby
Good Enough to Eat (483 Amsterdam Ave., Btwn. 83rd
& 84th Sts., 212-496-0163) or E.J.'s Luncheonette
(447 Amsterdam Ave., Btwn. 81st & 82nd Sts., 212-873-3444).
solo travel motivation...
If you need further
motivation to try solo travel, here are a few more
links you might like to follow...
yourself safe and happy...
to She Travels Solo