I love tranquil solitude,” wrote the English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, “and such society as is quiet, wise, and good.”
Because solo dining is an occupational hazard, why not celebrate it? But The Shuttle Sheet fully realizes you can do that only in just the right place. That’s why our correspondents have been on the lookout for eateries that welcome those either seeking solitude-or consigned to it by circumstances.
Though we can’t promise you that the “society” you’ll encounter in the places we’ve chosen will meet Shelley’s criteria of wisdom, uprightness and quietude, we can assure you that you’ll dine well and comfortably.
Mendocino Grille & Wine Bar Grab a barstool at Mendocino Grille & Wine Bar (2917 M Street NW, 202-333-2912), a sophisticated, yet intimate, California-style restaurant. The Mendocino Grille crowd is a melting pot of young professionals, friendly Georgetown residents and businesspeople staying at nearby hotels, such as The Four Seasons and Latham.
The menu is California chic. If you’re really hungry, try the grilled veal medallion over mushroom risotto. The presentation is spectacular.
And if you just want to be alone, watch the Georgetown street life from an open window while sipping a favorite pinot noir. The extensive wine list includes 200 bottles, of which 23 are served by the glass and 10 by the half-bottle. Dinner for one is about $40 with wine.
Marcel’s You won’t be the only solo diner at Marcel’s (2401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, 202-296-1166), midway between Georgetown and the White House. In fact, dedicated solo diners have elevated status here; regulars are honored with a brass plaque on their chairs.
Chair No. 1 at the corner of the bar has Dr. William Hall’s name on it. “I eat boudin blanc there almost every night,” says Hall, who calls the ambience “welcoming” and the food “exquisite.” The bar is a vantage point for people-watching and offers Robert Wiedmaier’s complete French-Belgian menu. Adjacent to the bar itself are marble-top tables roomy enough to spread out a newspaper or magazine on while lounging in one of the comfortable, buttery leather chairs.
Try the osso buco of monkfish on fennel with olive sauce, or for lighter fare, the yellowtail tuna with mango and ginger in a curry oil. And rystpap-Belgian saffron-scented rice pudding with pricot compote-is a favorite dessert here. Dinner for one is $75 with wine.
New Heights New Heights (2317 Calvert Street NW, 202-234-4110) has an intimate bar where locals and out-of-towners mingle. The entire menu is served at the bar, so solo diners can enjoy meals there. The outside patio offers the lone diner a view of the hustle and bustle of Woodley Park. Well-behaved pets are always welcome on the patio; rest assured, a bowl of water will be provided.
The seasonal menu of New American cuisine deftly prepared by chef Scott Ostrander offers a variety of appetizers as well as half-orders served as entrees. Many fine wines are available in half-bottles as well. Dinner for one is $50 with wine.
Union Street Public House Union Street Public House (121 South Union Street, Alexandria, Virginia; 703-548-1785) is a favorite Old Town hangout in Alexandria, Virginia, that’s as inviting to single diners as it is to groups of locals, mostly young professionals.
The inexpensive menu presents a wide array of good food, ranging from center-cut spice pork chops to a healthy portion of cioppino and other seafood-based dishes. Dinner for one is $25 with wine. The beautiful, low-lit taproom is a good choice for the lone traveler looking for constant entertainment and conversation.