Maybe you're meeting for drinks at 10pm and you don't want to go back to your apartment uptown beforehand. Maybe you've already Seamlessed pad thai three times this week. Maybe you're just really f*cking hungry and would rather catch up on your Pocket articles than talk to another human. Whatever the reason, there comes a time for dining solo in every person's life - and we think those times can actually be pretty great.
There are a few criteria that make a restaurant ideal for eating alone, and the restaurants on this list all satisfy them. One, they must have a bar (or counter-type seating) where the whole menu can be ordered. Two, they must be places where you'll feel totally comfortable by yourself - that usually means a casual, friendly environment. Finally, they must serve food suitable for one person. Burgers, ramen, oysters, maybe even a big salad? Yes. A bunch of small plates? Not so much.
Want something kind of healthy? Direct yourself to El Rey. It’s a tiny space, with a few choice bar seats overlooking the street that are ideal for a party of one. Lunch is an order-at-the-counter situation, with lighter, vegetable options, while dinner has waiters, and more serious, composed, but still mostly light small plates. All of it's pretty affordable, too - so you can save your money for this weekend’s big group dinner that’s inevitably going to end up costing twice as much as it should.
The last time we were at St. Anselm, there was a guy sitting next to us, alone, going to town on a giant steak, mashed potatoes, and red wine. If this sounds like something you would do, do it at St. Anselm. Dining solo is the only way to avoid the crazy waits here, and you can watch the action happening in the kitchen.
Fact: a burger is the ideal dining solo food. And The Brew Inn’s burger is particularly the kind that you’ll want to eat alone: it’s a massive, messy, two-layer creation that deserves to be enjoyed without fear of judgment. The place itself is also perfect for solo experiences - it’s a bar more than a restaurant, there’s always plenty of seating, there are usually sports on TV, and the staff is friendly.
Another A+ burger best enjoyed alone at the bar, if you haven’t tried Bar Sardine’s, your next plan-free night is the perfect excuse. The space is absolutely crammed, but the food is excellent - so be smarter than all the people trying to hear their dates and just come here on your own.
The bar takes up most of the real estate at La Contenta, and that’s where you want to be sitting for a solo Mexican meal at La Contenta, one of our favorite casual Lower East Side hangs. Between the expertly-made cocktails, great food (the guacamole, fish tacos, and crab enchiladas are must-orders), and awesome service - this is the kind of place that makes it very easy to want to become a regular.
Momofuku's original outpost is either one of those places you've had on your bucket list for the past seven years, or one of those places you haven't been to in the past seven years, but keep meaning to hit up again. The whole restaurant is almost like one big communal table. Plus, you can have that order of pork buns to yourself.
Your old coworker asked to meet for drinks in the East Village, and now she's running an hour late. Your solution? Upstate. This is a restaurant that feels like a bar, and serves dozens of varieties of the best oysters you've ever eaten, along with some larger plates if you want to make a full meal of it. The service here is also absurdly friendly, there's a great list of craft beers, and they give you a free little slice of cake when you're finished.
Sushi bars are our favorite place to eat solo, and the original Sushi Seki is our favorite place to do it. First, because the sushi is excellent, and the environment is low-key and easygoing, unlike some of the more serious, austere spots. But it's also always a hilarious scene at the sushi bar - you'll be seated next to everyone from off-duty chefs to neighborhood locals to rich teenagers to two guys who just drove in from Long Island in one of those Mercedes that looks like an army vehicle. They're also open until 2 or 3 AM, if you're out eating alone due to insomnia.
Do you yearn for "old New York"? Wish you had a neighborhood spot that hasn't changed over the years, where you could roll up to the bar, order a cheeseburger, and maybe chat up the bartender while watching some sports on TV? Walker's in Tribeca is the platonic ideal of such a place. The burger here is not the best in the world, but it's still pretty good. That's kind of the point, you know?
Directions: Walk out of Midtown office building. Direct self to Midtown West Ippudo. Sit down. Order ramen. Flying solo at this location is the easiest and surest way to experience the glory of a bowl of Ippudo ramen: the bar is big, and there's usually room for one to squeeze in.
Most Italian restaurants are either all about being dark and romantic, or all about family-style sharing. Not Porsena, a restaurant that makes outstanding pasta, but in an environment that won't make you feel like you're on an episode of The Bachelor or make you miss the big Italian family you probably don't have anyway. Porsena is a simple spot - some brick walls, some bar stools, and that's about it. But the pastas are pretty excellent: always perfectly al dente, with interesting sauces, and perfectly portioned for one.
If the idea of eating alone in a "restaurant" makes you feel judged, exposed, and alone (it's OK) consider heading to Gotham West Market, which is more of a food hall than a restaurant, and has an outpost of Ivan Ramen. If you need to eat before a show at Terminal 5 or you're doing something else in the 40s or 50s by the Hudson River (going to The Intrepid? I don't know), this is your move.
There are many reasons New York is great, and one of them is the fact that you can sit at a bar while eating a turkey sandwich and drinking a cocktail. This is a power solo lunch move (maybe skip the cocktail, maybe don't), but it also works any time of day.
A ramen alternative, Cocoron is a funky little Nolita spot serving soba. For maximum distracting yourself from loneliness, get one of the dipping sobas, where you cook room temperature noodles in a steaming hotpot of concentrated broth. It'll give you something to do with your hands.
This fish market/restaurant serves seafood worth traveling to Greenpoint for, and the stools are an ideal places to get involved with fantastic fish tacos and one of the best lobster rolls in town. You can even pretend you were really just stopping in to buy some fish and got hungry. We won't tell anyone.
If you read the internet, you have likely heard about some popular fried chicken sandwiches in the East Village. We advise ignoring those, and directing yourself to Bobwhite, which makes an actually-delicious chicken sandwich. We usually relegate this to takeout due to the somewhat tight and awkward seating setup, but if you're dining solo, it can actually work quite well for a quick meal.
Diners are always a good setting for solo dining. And while we're all for rubbery eggs and pie served by a friendly older woman, Williamsburg's Diner is really only a diner in its aesthetics. Food-wise, you'll find everything from one of the best burgers in Brooklyn, to a rotating pasta special, to a pretty fancy duck breast. The counter stools are waiting to be sat upon.