Table for one?

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Solo dining is a skill anyone can acquire. Just like baking bread, practice helps. The more you dine out alone, the more your comfort level will rise.

* When you dine out with friends, note restaurants that allow singles to feel at ease. Highlight those restaurants on your list of places to try when you dine alone. Hotel concierges are a good resource for solo-friendly restaurants. Coffee shops and casual restaurants with counters are good choices for beginners.

* Start with the meal most comfortable for you, which for many people is breakfast or lunch. Leave dinner for later, after you have mastered the other two.

* Make a reservation. If you know where you prefer to be seated, let the restaurant know. If necessary, share where you'd rather not be seated, as in: "anywhere but near the telephone."

* Take along something to do. Books, magazines and lists are fine. Just knowing they are there will give you confidence.

* If you'd like company with your meal, let the restaurant know of your willingness to share a table with another solo diner. If solitude is your choice, alert the staff to avoid being chatted up.

* Endear yourself to a busy restaurant by offering to free up your table by taking dessert and coffee at the bar. This simple gesture will ensure that you are treated well on your next visit.

* Be sure to maintain a sense of humor and keep an open mind.

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