I’ve eaten alone at restaurants a few times. Twice I was in New York after the long flight from San Francisco made me too irritable for companionship, but too hungry to sleep.
I rarely think to feed myself well when I’m alone — it seems indulgent. Before my most recent trip to New York, I’d slept maybe two hours in as many days. My plan was to drop luggage, shovel Chipotle at my face, and succumb to the impending stroke.
In my search for fast food, I happened on Gramercy Tavern. It looked so quiet and merciful, I went inside.
Anna was my waitress; she asked me how I was. I told her I’d just flown in, and she welcomed me back home, which seemed about right. My exhaustion made everything acute, kinder than usual.
I ordered a warm tomato salad to start, then the fish. The tomatoes had been softened in a small blessing of bacon fat. I finished both plates by tearing off a bite of bread, spearing it with my fork, and sopping up the sauce.
Dessert was a peculiar sundae, the first night of the summer they were serving it, and it was a busy night for Anna because regulars had been waiting. On the back page of my novel, I recorded its components:
Blueberry Corn Ice Cream Sundae
• sweet corn ice cream
• blueberry compote with whole corn kernels
• fresh blueberries
• caramel popcorn
• unsweetened whipped cream
As a kid, I lived in a house with a Verbena tree near the front door, and it smelled of lemons when you brushed against it. So I ordered the Verbena tisane, and finished another chapter of my book.
Everything tasted compassionate, specific to me. I assume meals like that are why people become chefs, to leave people feeling cared for and well fed. I did.
You should have one of these nights too. Add it to your Life List: Take yourself out to dinner. And when the day arrives, sit down at your table knowing you’re in good company.
Would you ever eat alone?
Salt House is one of our favorite places to celebrate in the city. We like to sit upstairs, order cocktails and a shellfish platter to share, and watch everyone talking down below. Their design details are charming.
Hand-stamped coasters cut from corrugated cardboard.
Vintage playing cards used as coat-check numbers.
Seafood shipping tags as business cards.
I love it when businesses find clever ways to distinguish themselves without impacting the bottom line adversely. Smart.