10 great places for solo diners to pull up a chair

Table for one, or would you prefer the counter? In celebration of National Singles Week (Sunday-Sept. 27), Marya Charles Alexander, editor and founder of solodining.com, shares her list of favorite eat-alone places with Kathy Baruffi for USA TODAY

Bar Boulud New York

This casual bistro, across from Manhattan's Lincoln Center, is named for the owner and chef of several eponymous restaurants, including the city's famed Daniel. "It has a charcuterie bar (specializing in traditional house-made terrines, pâtés and cured ham) with casual seating for 21 diners wrapped around it," Alexander says. "Solo diners are also welcome to enjoy their meal at the round tasting table that seats 14." 212-595-0303; danielnyc.com

801 Steak & Chop HouseDes Moines

"This elegant downtown establishment was jam-packed with politicos enjoying hearty fare during the Iowa caucuses," Alexander says. The surroundings and amenities are solo-friendly with a full menu available at the bar. "Luckily, half orders of sides are permissible. A full order is ample for two," Alexander adds. Choose from a selection of wines by the glass, splits and half bottles. 515-288-6000; 801steakandchop.com

Miss Mary Bobo's Boarding HouseLynchburg, Tenn.

"Lynchburg is known as the home of Jack Daniel's Distillery and — drumroll! — this restaurant, where 12 guests sit together at a single table in each of the eight dining rooms. Southern regional food is served family-style at this former boardinghouse," Alexander says. The ease with which solos blend into the scene of taking "dinner" — rural Tennessee's midday meal — with 11 strangers creates instant camaraderie. 931-759-7394

MeshWest Chester, Ohio

Solo diners are as welcome to a table for one in the main dining room as they are in the adjoining lounge area of this sleek restaurant outside Cincinnati. "The bar, a free-standing rectangle in the lounge, is also a draw, as are the high-top tables, inviting couches and live entertainment," Alexander says. 513-777-7177; meshrestaurant.com

Lynn's Paradise CaféLouisville

"How do you characterize a restaurant that describes its location as, 'behind the giant red coffee pot on Barret Avenue' and hosts an Ugly Lamp Contest?" Alexander asks. "Quirky, of course. Off-the-wall fun? Absolutely. Is it a magnet for solo diners? Yes!" The counter is where the action is. Regulars welcome newcomers; conversations flow easily over such specialties as Bourbon Ball French Toast. 502-583-3447; lynnsparadisecafe.com

Rosemary's Restaurant Las Vegas

"A respite from the Strip, a warm welcome and fine dining await solos here," Alexander says. "They have a concerned friend in chef Michael Jordan (celebrity cook, not the basketball star). He is acutely aware of solo guests, whether they reserve seating at the eight-seat food bar located midrestaurant that overlooks the open kitchen or opt for the 30-seat bar/lounge area that features high-top tables or dine comfortably in the main dining room." Signature dish: Hugo's BBQ Shrimp with Maytag Blue Cheese Coleslaw. 702-869-2251: rosemarysrestaurant.com

Café Pasqual'sSanta Fe

"Getting your green on is easy at this boisterous restaurant, where 95% of the ingredients in the Mexican/Southwest/Asian-inspired menu are organic," Alexander says. "Securing one of the dozen coveted places at their old oak 'Joiner's Table' is more of a challenge because this small café draws crowds of locals and visitors at all meals." Reservations are for dinner only. 505-983-9340; pasquals.com

Pagliacci Pizza-Queen AnneSeattle

"Some simply assume that Seattle is best known for coffee. The locals know better. Pagliacci Pizza — six dine-in locations strong — has embraced the Seattle area with its style and comfort food for almost 30 years," Alexander says. Visit its Queen Anne locale, where the tables are close together and conversation is easy. Additional seating is at the counter along the window. 206-726-1717; pagliacci.com


"Proprietor Ina Pinkney knows how to show her appreciation for solo diners' business," Alexander says. "She promises: no seats in 'Siberia' or near the kitchen door; no 'invisibility' and no rude service. Chicago's Breakfast Queen also does the other meals. Here's your chance to revel utensil-free in her incredible finger-food fried chicken at dinnertime." 312-226-8227; breakfastqueen.com

Hot and Hot Fish ClubBirmingham, Ala.

"A seat at the chef's counter in the main dining room promises a view of the bustling kitchen plus the company of fellow diners," Alexander says. "The bar offers friendly company and an opportunity to order from the full menu. However, your very own table may prove to be the best choice of all." Try their tasting menu with wine pairings that can be customized to each diner's preferences. 205-933-5474; hotandhotfishclub.com