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.
So, in this new series, we're pointing the way to eateries where the food is not to be missed and where you won't feel the slightest bit awkward going it as a lone wolf.
New York City is one of the world's foremost business travel destinations yet, when it comes to dining, it’s not the friendliest to those seeking solo seats. Manhattan's most sought-after tables are typically filled by starry-eyed couples, groups of ladies who lunch, and deal-closing business duos.
But whether you happen to be dining solo by choice or by circumstance, there's no need to sacrifice a quality meal just because you're the odd man or woman out—counter seats at some of Manhattan's tastiest eateries are especially welcoming to lone diners. At these top-notch spots, one is the magic number.
1. Casa Mono
Going solo can be an advantage at this perpetually packed, shoebox-sized Spanish eatery. While couples and groups jockey for one of the precious few tables, single diners can often snag a seat at the counter without a reservation. And there's no need to pull out your iPad to stay entertained—just keep your eye on the chefs whipping up authentic tapas in the kitchen right in front of you.
Since the dishes are small, it's fun to sample several on your own. Favorites include the skirt steak, fideos with chorizo and clams, and crema catalana con buñuelos for dessert.
The dining room at this classy, contemporary American spot is often filled with people celebrating special occasions and business groups, making it a touch intimidating for a solo bite. But you shouldn't have to miss out on the expertly prepared cuisine just because you're sans companion. If you're dining alone, opt for a seat at the bar in the tavern area just off the main dining room, where the bustling, convivial atmosphere is incredibly inviting and the superb food comes from the same kitchen.
While tasting menus receive much fanfare in the dining room, the more casual appetizers and entrees in the tavern (think shiitake mushroom lasagna and baked Long Island clams) are just right for feeding one.
3. momofuku ko
There are only 12 seats in this Asian-fusion hotspot, and there's no reason why one of them can't be yours. Well, maybe one reason: Snagging a reservation for any number of people requires serious persistence and a stroke of luck. You can only reserve by submitting a web request at 10 AM ET 10 (for dinner) or 14 days (for lunch) prior to the day you wish to dine. Thousands compete, and the dozen slots usually go within seconds of release.
But once that's taken care of, just slide into your counter seat and sit back while superstar chef David Chang serves up his mind-blowing 10-course dinner or 16-course lunch.
4. Robataya NY
Couples may cuddle in the romantic, garden-like dining room in the back of this Japanese grill, but you won't feel lonely in the slightest while dining solo at the "hearth," a 26-seat countertop grill where talkative "samurai" chefs strut their stuff. The waitstaff shout orders to the chefs, who proceed to make a show of twirling wooden paddles while grilling up ultra-fresh meats, seafood, and veggies in traditional robatayaki style. It all makes for such a rowdy, delicious meal that you'll forget you didn't come with the people sitting next to you. Another perk: The omakase menu (basically the chef’s tasting menu) is only available at the robata counter.
As with other sushi joints, the solo-friendly bar seats at this subterranean sushi spot are the best in the house. But what sets Ushiwakamaru apart from its Manhattan counterparts is the superior quality and variety of the fish (even the most hardcore sushi snobs will be thrilled with the hard-to-find Japanese varieties) for unbeatable prices. True, the portions tend to be delicate, but that’s just fine when you're not sharing with a companion.
The unpretentious atmosphere and funky mix of Greenwich Village folk make you feel right at home. Plus, it's kind of under the radar—a bonus when you just want to be left alone.
For more information on these delightful restaurants, check out our Passport to Solo Dining in NYC. Additional restaurant ideas, as well as everything else to make your stay in New York fantastic, can be found in our comprehensive guide to New York City online or via eBook.