Despite certain people kinda judging us for it (our own moms and the smug, newly in love come to mind)—there is nothing wrong with eating out alone. In fact, if you want to look at it objectively, eating out alone is everything that’s right with the world.
Picture this. You’re at a restaurant where no one knows you and expects you to make casual conversation. You have a brand-new book you’ve been waiting to crack open (and it’s not going to make terrible jokes or try to order for you). Someone is being paid to bring you plates of delicious food and goblets of wine. And the whole experience usually takes at least an hour. A whole hour! For you to be alone and eat and read?! That’s just the best. Who cares what the haters say? You’re eating and reading like you don’t have a care in the world. You know who else does whatever they want? Kings.
So yeah. Get after it. And to get you pumped up for a date night that’ll actually be fun, here are a few pairings for you to enjoy in your glorious solitude.
Eat this: Italian
Read this: Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter
Oh, the decadence of pastas and breads and more pastas and more breads accompanied by this novel about Old Hollywood and Cinque Terre. It’s happy and sad all at the same time, like the hot-blooded Italians we know and love so well.
Eat this: New American
Read this: The Interestings, by Meg Wolitzer
Obviously we’re going to best enjoy our fusions and our reductions and our truffle-oil drizzles as we read about a group of old friends and their New York City lives and their struggles and their successes. Because in a way, “This isn’t what I thought my life would look like,” corresponds perfectly with “This isn’t what I thought my food would look like.”
Eat this: Tapas
Read this: Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
Why? Because eating tapas is like going on a little quest. You’re trying stuff out. You’re not sure how much to get. Sometimes you make mistakes. You create reasons to keep going even though you’re probably full. The food is all tiny and bite-sized like a fairy tale. It’s fanciful.
Eat this: Tavern fare
Read this: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
Guzzle some mead. Gnaw on a leg of roast beast. Wear a cloak. Wait for some magical stuff to go down. It probably won’t—but allow your imagination to run wild. The mead will help with this.
Eat this: Sushi
Read this: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami
Magical realism is the best genre for when you’re drinking sake and eating colorful raw fish and seaweed! And no one does magical realism better than Murakami. And he’s Japanese. It all fits.
Eat this: French
Read this: Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain
There’s something really satisfying about the juxtaposition of rich, fancy food and the general awareness of the depraved stuff that’s probably going on behind the scenes. Anthony Bourdain, lil’ rascal that he is, pulls the curtain back for us mere mortals on the general hedonism and unpredictability of the restaurant industry. Maybe the person who put those snails on your plate went on a crazy bender last night! There could be a kitchen full of Mick Jaggers back there! You just don’t know.
Eat this: Mexican
Read this: Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
Everyone has strong feelings about guacamole. And since this book is about a woman whose intense emotions are expressed through her food, it feels appropriate.
Eat this: Your feelings
Read this: Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
Ice cream parlor? Comfort-food restaurant? McDonald’s? Doesn’t matter. Go to the place that your heart-stomach demands. Eat everything you want without consequence. You are not an adult. You’re a teen and you’e in LOVE.
Where’s your favorite spot to eat and read, solo?