Table For 1?

Everyone has to eat. Yes, even solo travelers.

Table For 1?

When solo traveling, going out to eat is probably the most challenging aspect. The traditional form of dining is eating in a restaurant at a large table with friends or family, but when traveling on your own, you don’t always have to eat alone, and you actually have a lot of options! In this post, I’ll detail the various options solo travelers have for breakfast, lunch and dinner to make dining while solo traveling a great experience:

Free Breakfast? Why sure!

slices of papayas
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When choosing your accommodations, many hotels offer free breakfast buffets. Among the hotels included are Hyatt Place, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn, Tru by Hilton, Residence Inn, Springhill Suites and Homewood Suites among many others that offer breakfast included with the price per night. Some also offer breakfast as an add-on, but may get pricey, so check with your hotel. The options for breakfast includes eggs, bacon and sausage but also cereals, waffles, pancakes, yogurts, breads and pastries. There's usually a small variety of milk, juices and coffee also available. There’s plenty of options no matter what your diet needs are, and the convenience is hard to beat.

If you’re staying at an apartment or house, check with your host to see if breakfast foods are included or offered (highly unlikely, but worth a shot!). There is usually a seating area where you can enjoy your breakfast, and you can always go up for seconds! Depending on the hotel and area, the weather may allow the opportunity to have breakfast outside as well. You can always take your breakfast back to the room as well, as takeout containers or paper plates are often made available.

Sit at the Bar

brown-themed bar
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Most people I see dining alone tend to be sitting at a bar, usually served by the bartender. This might not be the greatest idea for those that don’t consume alcohol, but bartenders are there to provide service as much as the server does moving around. Don’t be concerned with what anyone thinks, order what you’re comfortable with and ALWAYS consume alcohol responsibly. Other patrons may want to talk to you, or not. If you feel the urge to start a conversation, go with it. Though, use your judgement. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t be rude. You may also get a bartender that keeps to themselves, and that’s what your phone or a good book is for! You may also get a bartender that is chatty, and wants to engage in conversation, and obviously it depends on your comfort level but solo traveling is all about getting out of your comfort zone. So if you have a bartender that wants to chat, engage and talk, it’s a “business relationship” after all! I have had bartenders shave a few dollars off the bill or slip another drink to me on the house just for being nice and talking to them. That’s more of the exception than the rule, but service is the name of the game. The key phrase is - be nice.

Food Courts

a restaurant with tables and chairs inside of it
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If you’re staying near a mall, especially one that is a bit more upscale, this might be a good place to go. Many malls have sit down and “fast casual” restaurants, but many also feature that classic food court where you can pick and choose what you want to eat. Some malls have really upgraded the food court to be more aesthetically pleasing, and food options include both “fast food” and healthier options. This may not be the case everywhere though, so do your research as you would for any restaurant! Seating is generally open and communal, and you would generally obtain the food right at the counter, though at times food can be brought to you. You will generally find more chain restaurants at these type of areas, but local establishments could have a presence as well.

Food Halls

people walking on street during daytime
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There are also “food halls”, these could be part of a larger complex or freestanding on its own in a city block or portion of a city. Generally, these are situated in former or downsized industrial areas utilizing repurposed factory buildings. Food halls generally feature many different local food vendors specializing in different types of cuisine, some of these could be from local food trucks or restaurants. The big difference between a food hall and a food court is where the food comes from, so if you prefer to patronize local businesses, this might be the best way. You may find American staples like burgers and fries, but you’ll more than likely find Thai food, cuban sandwiches, Asian fusion, mofongo, South American dishes, BBQ, pizza, sushi and other foods. Food halls also generally include at least one bar area, and may include both indoor and outdoor seating areas. Some food halls will bring the food to you, but others will require you to pick up the food. Depending on the area, you could really sample the local cuisine at a place like this, or go for the comfort food that you already enjoy. Some of the best food I have had while traveling comes from these places, but they can be far and few between. I highly recommend Chattahoochie Food Works in Atlanta, Parkville Market in Hartford, and Revolution Craft Food Hall in Lexington, MA. Some also include “self serve taprooms” as well.

Food Trucks

a food truck parked in front of a restaurant
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This is a relatively new concept where food is produced and sold out of trucks, often adjacent to a park or beach. Food truck areas can be hard to locate sometimes, so keep an eye out for it. If you search online, you might be able to find where local food trucks are going to be next. There are also “food truck parks” where many food trucks are available in the same place at the same time, and often have a rotating selection. Breweries and wineries may also have food trucks at busier times (weekends/evenings). There’s almost always outdoor seating, but some places have indoor seating as well. It is similar to food halls where it is generally local establishments sourcing local ingredients, but there are now franchised food trucks (Cousins Lobster is a big one that comes to mind) but the same idea applies. The food can get expensive, but it’s almost always high quality.

Takeout: Pickup and/or Delivery

burger and fries on brown paper bag
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Sometimes, you’ve had a long day exploring and you just want to eat in your hotel room out of a container in your pajamas. This option is for you. DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub are your big three for food delivery, there’s also Slice if you want local pizza. Some of the fast food and fast casual chains also offer delivery. Keep in mind, that delivery has added fees and you have to provide gratuity and service can be inconsistent at best. Also, depending on the restaurant and how it is packaged, the food might not be ideal. These are great options to try out local restaurants as well, though if you can order direct from the restaurant, you could probably save on fees you encounter with the big food delivery services. Pickup is an option too if you feel like making one final stop back to the hotel or residence.

Fast Casual

fresh food fast neon light signage
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This growing concept in dining combines the higher quality food with the quick service of a fast food restaurant. Generally you can eat inside the establishment or take it with you to wherever you want to go, but you may have to wait some time for the food. Many of these places allow you to order ahead to save time as well. Some examples include Panera Bread, Chipotle, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Shake Shack, Chick Fil A, Mission BBQ.

Buffets

person holding stainless steel fork
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Depending on where you are, buffets might be a great option - especially if you’re hungry! This option allows you to sample and choose from different foods for one set price. You can’t take anything back to the hotel, so eat wisely! Also, this option might get pricey, so definitely do your research. A place that comes to mind for me is the Las Vegas Strip, which features several different buffets. There are also buffet chains that might be in the area you are visiting, such as Golden Corral. Chinese restaurants could also feature buffets allowing you to sample different kinds of Chinese food, but that might be more of a “comfort food” option.

Fast Food

a tray of food on a table
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This could be considered a “last resort”, but I like to get creative whenever I travel, so I’ll visit the fast food establishments I can’t get at home. It’s an occasional stop while traveling. This is where you could visit more regional chains. Among my favorites to visit are Culver’s (Midwest/south), In-N-Out Burger (Intermountain west and west coast), Whataburger (south). There’s also Hardees, Carl’s Jr, Panda Express, Steak and Shake, Jack in the Box and several others. If you want to learn more, I highly recommend the book Fast Food Maniac by Jon Hein as your guide!

Cook It Yourself!

man grilling outdoor
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This is another great option if you’re staying at an apartment or a suite hotel with a kitchen area, and probably the only option if you’re camping/glamping. In this case, you are generally visiting a local grocery store ahead of time (or having it delivered) and making food on your own. For those that prefer to know exactly what they are eating, or have dietary restrictions, this might be the best option. It may also keep costs down as you are cooking the food. Many hotel suite chains (Residence Inn, Towneplace Suites, Homewood Suites) may also have a grilling area, check with your hotel. If you’re camping/glamping, you will likely bring some type of grill with you. As always with cooking and grilling, proceed with caution.