“Table for one, please.”
“Oh just one?”
“Yes, table for one, please.”
I find myself repeating this phrase often, not for lack of dinner company, but mostly because I really love eating out alone. It feels indulgent to me, and liberating, and exactly like I skipped that conversation that usually goes something like this: “Where do you want to go for dinner?” “I dunno, where do you want to go?” “Does your mother hate me?” Silence…. and someone orders takeout.
Because I often travel alone (and have eaten enough room service club sandwiches to last me a lifetime), I’ve grown to LOVE learning about a city through some of their best restaurants… all by myself. It’s like being a stranger in a strange land, leaving surrounding diners not to pity me, but rather assume that I’m Sydney Bistow in the early seasons of Alias. They are correct, I’m part ninja in confidence alone.
I also live in one of the best food cities in the country, and a girl can only eat so many scrambled eggs for dinner at home before enough is enough. What I’ve come to love about dining out in New Orleans is that I now have local knowledge under my belt. That’s handy as a single woman dining alone. It’s nice to know what bars feel cozy to eat at (without too much interruption from gentlemen folk), and which restaurants feel nice to sit at a table solo. Here are some of my favorite restaurants to dine alone in based on my experiences out in New Orleans. If you’re on a visit solo to New Orleans, welcome… get some good grub and always have a Sazerac:
• Sylvain in the French Quarter is one of my favorite places to grab a solo bite. It’s especially great if you’re visiting town, wandering through the Quarter (it can be pretty dreamy) and looking for a good bite to eat. Some tips: Sylvain opens for dinner at 5:30. I suggest arriving well before 7pm and finding a seat at the bar. The earlier the better as, in my experience, the bar can fill up quickly. The restaurant is cozy and dimly lit with a decent mix of local and tourist patrons. This is a good place to strike up a dinnertime conversation. Also, get the burger.
• Patois is located in the heart of and Uptown neighborhood. It feels like a very local, heartfelt, comfortable neighborhood place. The food is sincere, generous, and really some of my favorite in the city. Tips: Don’t be afraid to make a reservation for one and sit at a table on your own. This place is comfortable enough. The staff will take good care of you.
• For breakfast I love Cherry Espresso Bar. It’s a coffee shop Uptown with the best breakfast sandwiches, quinoa bowls, pour over coffee and no ridiculous line out the door for medium-meh diner food.
• For lunch I love the locally sourced food and very chill vibes at Sneaky Pickle in the Bywater. It’s mostly vegan food with a few meat options and a lot of gluten free too. It’s heart food. Tips: This is an order-at-the-counter spot so cozy up at a small table, bring a good book or magazine, and enjoy the solo quality time.
• For Southern Cajun food I really love a bite to eat at Cochon in the CBD (Central Business District). They know their way around a pig. My very favorites at Cochon are the wood-fired oysters, the smoked pork rubs, and… the cochon. Tip: ask for a seat at the chef’s bar. You can peek into the kitchen (it’s full of friendly hard-working folks), gaze into the wood-fired oven, and have a good chat with the chefs. Also, order a Sazerac.
• For a solo happy hour, I recommend a seat at the bar at Peche. Go early. If the weather is nice they may even have the side doors open, which makes a bar seat even more lovely. Order the oysters, definitely get the tuna dip, and a lovely glass of crisp wine. The staff is really lovely and the food is solidly delicious. Tip: Peche is very well-earned after an afternoon visiting all of the art galleries in the Arts District. Here’s your guide to art in and around Julia Street.
• N7 is a dreamy, romantic restaurant in the Bywater. The restaurant is behind a pretty nondescript, tall wooden fence but as you pass through, it’s like entering a secret garden. There’s seating outdoors, but when I’m alone, my favorite tables are the cozy two tops inside the restaurant. I’ve found there’s no real need for a reservation, head in, make eye contact with a waitress and they’ll usually nod you on to find your own table. The wine list is excellent! Bring a book and feel transformed.
• Cafe Henri is an easy neighborhood restaurant, also in the Bywater. I like to sneak in just before closing for their Steak Frites which is charred just perfectly and supreme. Staff is mellow. Almost always a place to grab a table or bar seat. Easy and delicious.
Enjoy your dinner. Enjoy your time. Remember, no one belongs here more than you.
Thank you for the recommendations. I got to meet you at the Merchantile this past weekend for the Bakehouse Workshop event. I will use some of these recommendations this week when I get to NOLA. When you have a minute, would you add a few new recommendations? Looks like Cafe Henri is no longer open, but I think it may be Paloma Cafe now- which I’ve tried for breakfast last October and loved.
I wish I had this when I was in town last week! Lucky for me I stumbled on Sylvain and enjoyed a nice pork shoulder and champagne cocktail at the bar. It’s been one of my favorite solo dinners to date!
My SIL just referred your blog to me! I’m a Bywater neighbor!. I also love to eat alone; my favorite places are Who Dat Cafe in the Marigny – such nice folks there! And Polly’s Cafe on St. Claude. Also – the best – Cafe Degas on a lazy afternoon.
Hey Joy – Cafe Henri is now closed! I so want to like Sylvain…I’ve only been once and the food was so unremarkable and the staff so rude that I’ve never been back. Maybe I’ll give it another chance someday. Cane & Table is a fun place to sit at the bar and I like their food a lot! Looking forward to trying Elysian Bar soon.
Thank you for the recommendation of Sylvain. I dined alone at the bar and my experience was everything you described and more. Warm and friendly service and great food.
I have to thank you for the recommendation to try the burger at Slyvain, because I’m here right now and it is CHANGING MY LIFE. A restaurant that understands a good burger is just bread, meat, and cheese, with some optional condiments and housemade pickles? Heaven. I’m in New Orleans on my own for the first time for a work conference, and I’ve been having so much fun dining out solo. Everyone’s been treating me with a pleasant mix of polite conversation and “she’s doing her, I’ll leave her be” and it’s perfection. Remembering this place for next time I come here, because I will be back!
I love your perspective on eating alone. Such a great approach to it. Personally, I always feel a bit self-conscious. I really must do better. Thanks for the info.
“Table for one?”
“Yes. I am sufficient.”
We went to N7 on our last trip to NOLA, try to go every other year, and it was amazing. There are so many wonderful restaurants at your finger tips in NOLA; I’m jealous. Another few favorites are La Petite Grocery, Brigtsen’s Restaurant, The Joint, Compère Lapin, Shaya and there was a breakfast spot up past the St Roch Market that had a pig on the label that was outstanding too!