While I was working as a hostess years ago, a woman entered the restaurant and asked how long it would take to be seated.
“Just one?” I asked.
She very politely replied, “You really shouldn’t have asked ‘Just one?’ It implies I should be dining with someone else.”
The interaction, though uncomfortable, reminded me that there’s no wrong way to enjoy dinner out. In the years since, I’ve shared many a pleasant meal with only an empty chair and my thoughts. On some occasions, I bring a book; on others, I end up spilling out of the restaurant, laughing with new friends.
Eating alone is easier for some than others. Whether you’re after a quiet night out or looking to increase your Facebook friend count, consider doing so at these eateries where, unless bar-seating is recommended, there’s a table with your name (and only your name) all over it.
You Want: To Meet People
Bistro du Coin
1738 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-234-6969, Bistrotducoin.com
No matter the time of day, Bistrot du Coin bustles with diplomats and barflies alike. A favorite since 2000, the bi-level restaurant touts gigantic ceilings, a foosball table and more than 14 wines and champagnes by the glass (ideal for single sippers). Dive into a pot of moules provençales (steamed mussels in white wine with tomatoes, thyme and garlic, $9, left) at the 20-seat bar, and sit back as intermingling ensues amid a decidedly European atmosphere. “When we opened the bistro, we didn’t hire an interior designer,” owner Michel Verdon says. “We just sat down with friends and built it from there. [The vibe] is just something you have or you don’t.”
American Ice Co.
Maybe it’s the picnic-table seating, the $5 PBR tallboys or the hipster eye candy. Whatever the reason, a meal here usually ensures you’ll have stories to tell in the morning. 917 V St. NW; 202-758-3562, Amicodc.com.
Last month, Room 11 nearly doubled in size (though, considering its original dimensions — 650 square feet — that’s not saying much). As before, its small space is conducive to conversations with strangers. 3234 11th St. NW; 202-332-3234, Room11dc.com.
You Want: To Read a Book
3418 11th St. NW; 202-588-7442, DC-maple.com
There’s something immediately comfortable about this modern Italian restaurant in Columbia Heights. Chances are it’s the patrons. “I’d say 90 percent of the people who come here live in the neighborhood,” says Lori Roberson, who, along with her husband, Eric Gronning, opened the cozy restaurant in April. Being so at ease means you can focus on those heady passages in your novel. But if you need a break between chapters, walls covered with chalkboard paint display daily specials and musings from customers. Any combination of six types of bruschetta (two for $5.50, four for $10) are enough food for one — though to overlook the house-made gnocchi and basil pesto ($14) would be a crime.
An obscure entrance and discreet signage means Corduroy is perpetually peaceful. Owner Tom Power’s hearty entrees, such as antelope with chestnut puree ($39), are worthy of putting down your paperback. 1122 9th St. NW; 202-589-0699, Corduroydc.com.
Jack Rose Dining Saloon
Find a spot in the balcony room (open Thursdays through Saturdays), where you can soak up comfort from the wood-burning fireplace and BBQ pork sandwiches ($12). 2007 18th St. NW; 202-588-7388, Jackrosediningsaloon.com.
You Want: To Go Unnoticed
923 16th St. NW; 202-509-8000, Adour-washingtondc.com
Because Adour is located within the St. Regis hotel, you’re more likely to run into a sharply dressed out-of-towner than an acquaintance. The anonymity makes for an uninterrupted supper in the well-lit, contemporary dining room designed by David Rockwell. Alain Ducasse’s menu features items such as wild salmon with savoy cabbage and Gala apple ($34) and his signature “cookpot,” a ceramic pot of roasted root vegetables sourced locally ($14). If loneliness sets in, ask your server to help you pick a glass from the restaurant’s impressive inventory of more than 6,500 bottles of wine.
The 20-plus sweet and savory crepes hold diners’ attention in this Georgetown nook, the older sibling to AdMo’s clubby Napoleon Bistro and Lounge. 1522 Wisconsin Ave. NW; 202-333-8830, Napoleondc.com.
Steps from the Howard Theatre, Kafe Bohem (the tavern adjoined to Shaw’s Bistro Bohem) offers plenty of scene-stealing bites, including pierogis. 600 Florida Ave. NW; 202-735-5895, Bistrobohem.com.