Whether you’re traveling alone on business, taking a lunch break by yourself, or simply seeking a bit of solitude, there’s no reason why a party of one can’t still be a party.
In this third installment to our dining alone series (our others explored New York City and London), we’re pointing the way to Beijing eateries where the food is not to be missed and where you won’t feel the slightest bit awkward going as a lone wolf.
Welcome to dining Beijing style, where food is second only to family as the cultural glue. The worst thing possible for a host or hostess is to not have enough food for guests (seriously, a major gaffe). And so, to save face, restaurants typically serve meals family style and encourage what amounts to gross over-ordering to avoid this catastrophe. As a solo diner, it can be a bit uncomfortable to sit there alone (not to mention uncomfortable for your waistband).
But before you start shoveling it in just to fit in, consider that Beijing is an increasingly cosmopolitan city and that, if you know where to look, you can find restaurants welcoming to lone voyagers both in ambiance and portion size. At these delicious spots, you can experience the authentic tastes of the Far (and Near) East without having to worry about offending your host by not cleaning your plate.
There's no denying that it would be preferable to share this atmospheric hutong courtyard setting with a buddy or a date, but the restaurant's bespoke set menus mean that the meal can be tailored just for one. Tell them about any dietary restrictions, and the chefs will whip up a series of Yunnan specialties solely for you. Reasonably priced and supremely tasty, the set menu is an ideal way to sample a range of Chinese foods without having to dine with a big group.
2. Din Tai Fung
In a group or riding solo, this delicious dumpling restaurant just can’t be missed. Get a steamer basket of soup dumplings (xiaolongbao) along with some of the delicious cold appetizer plates, and you’re all set for dinner. It's a great place to steer clear of family-style eats and lighten up: The wonton noodle soup−delicately wrapped bundles of perfectly seasoned meats in a light broth−will fill you up without weighing you down.
Don't be shy about coming to this Middle Eastern restaurant alone even if the wild belly dance floorshow pulls in rowdy groups. The delectable Syrian and Lebanese dishes are ordered à la carte instead of family style, so you can customize your order for your appetite. The belly dancing makes for great entertainment, but if you're in a more reflective mood, chill on the patio.
A favorite among the business crowd, this trendy California-style sushi restaurant is no stranger to the solo diner. The sushi counter is perfect for a meal alone, and you'll be plenty entertained by watching the chefs prepare cleverly named creations like the "Moto-Roll-Ah" handroll. Plus, if you just want to take the opportunity to relax after a long day, you'll love soaking up the zen atmosphere, complete with accents like a gravel path snaking through the restaurant.
5. Noodle Loft
The name says it all: In an industrial-chic loft setting, expert chefs whip up hand-pulled noodle dishes from China’s northern Shanxi province. Sit at the noodle bar for the best solo perch in the house, where you’ll be able to catch a firsthand glimpse of the noodle-making at its finest. You can pick and choose your toppings to customize the noodles to suit your palate and, best of all, you won't have to share with anyone.
For more information on these delightful restaurants, check out our Passport to Solo Dining in Beijing. Additional restaurant ideas, as well as everything else to make your stay in Beijing fantastic, can be found in our comprehensive guide to Beijing online.
Photo of man eating alone courtesy of Shutterstock. Photos of restaurants courtesy of Alpha and Alexandra.
The Purple Passport is a web-based collection of chic, one-stop-shop guides to experiencing the world's cities in style. The site provides the full range of urban travel planning needs, from researching a trip start to finish, to reserving hotels, to creating an itinerary to be shared with travel companions. The Purple Passport team personally visits every spot that it reviews and never accepts compensation for featuring a venue on the site. First-person accounts of the team's travel experiences can be found on the companion blog, The Diary of The Purple Passport.More from this Author