Why Solo Diners Rule
One bartender's ode to the one-top.
February 27, 2017
By LM Schnaubelt | Photo illustration ChefsFeed
Dear Solo Diner,
You sweet, hungry unicorn. You curious, independent soul. You mysterious, course-crushing adventurer.
So rare in a packed bar of couples and parties of four and six. You’ve so patiently played snag-a-barstool, and you will be rewarded. We promise not to lose you in the hustle. We’re here to take care of you. To feed you uni pasta, margaritas, fancy bread and butter, and good clean hospitality. The bar top, the stools, the comfy foot rail — they were all built to welcome you.
You may not realize this, but you bring me back to the purest form of my job, back to the innocent romance of bellying up to the bar for a good meal, a little booze, and a bit of human connection. I’ll type your tab name for your perfect party of one: S-O-L-O D-I-N-E-R. That phrase flies around the kitchen and bar as our code to keep an extra special eye on you. Oddly, you’re so rare that there’s never any confusion; almost never are there two of you at the bar at the same moment. You’re our one and only, one at a time.
The bar is where you can break the traditions of the dining room. You can have daiquiris for dinner. You can start alone, have five friends meet you, and end alone. When you eat your martini onion two seconds after your cocktail lands, another one shall appear without a mention. As your bartender, I will never leave your sight. Your curiosity and respect for the work I do makes me want to do it even better.
Solo diners impress me with their willingness to place their experience in our hands. They aren’t there to put it in the hands of a friendship, relationship, or coworker. They’re there to have a great drink, or a meal, or a daiquiri-drink-meal, and be a part of a culture without sacrificing their independence. It’s incredibly personal to wait on one person at a time and endlessly fun to try to exceed the expectations of each. The prize is seeing someone have exactly the experience they needed and to see them leave comforted.
When a solo diner sits down I feel like the WALK sign turns on — an energetic bouncy relief, like the waiting is over and we can get the place we are meant to go. The person seated in front of me is not under pressure on a date: the pressure is on me, and I love that challenge. It’s a joy to retreat into this shot at perfect and simple service — the type of service that sneaks up on you and gives you things you didn’t know you needed. To great bartenders, providing service with that level of precision is addictive.
It makes me happy to see someone fed. It is also a joy to be needed. You give me your trust, I take care of you; because you are curious, we can be creative. Because you chose to belly up, I get to hone my skills to the scale of one. One thing at a time. One perfect Manhattan. Half-glass for course two. Sharp knife for course three. One amaro for your tum tum, but the right one for you is Meletti.
It’s about time we had a secret handshake, I think.