The Lone Grazer

White Oleander novelist Janet Fitch on the pleasures of eating solo

A few years ago in Paris I took note of an elegant woman of a certain age arriving at Café de Flore during the cocktail hour. She was shown to a good seat on the terrace, where she ordered a glass of white wine, unfolded her newspaper, and proceeded to enjoy the pleasure of her own company. Later she was served a beautiful roasted chicken. And, man, she owned that place. She didn’t waste the experience by constantly checking her cell phone. She was confident the world would still be there when she was done. I always think of her when I’m dining alone, to take a moment just for myself.

If the food is really special, it’s almost a shame to eat with company because you spend so much of your time talking when you could be concentrating on the thousand subtle flavors of what’s on your plate and in your glass.

For me the best restaurants for dining solo are ones where you can eat at the bar, amusing and comfortable public spaces. Café de Flore is a long way away from L.A., but the bars at Vinoteca Farfalla and Cliff’s Edge allow me the same kind of unselfconscious dining. For a self-cossetting splurge, A.O.C. and Lucques are solo friendly, and Café Pinot at the Central Library is great. There’s even a tiny bar at Canelé where you can eat and watch the chefs prepare their bright bistro fare.

When I’m in a meat mood, though, nothing beats the counter at Musso & Frank’s, which transports me back to 1948 or so. I’ll read the Times and sip a martini while I watch my lamb chops being charbroiled medium rare, ready for Philip Marlowe to slide into the captain’s chair next to mine.

Table for one, please.