Solo dining? Try restaurants with communal tables.
I dine alone. No problem. But I have to admit that it’s a lot more fun to meet people, chat, laugh and learn first hand about a city or area. For this reason, when I travel I seek out coffee shops and restaurants that have communal tables.
Meeting locals – yes!
In a recent Philly Mag Review of restaurants with communal tables (link here if you’re going to Philadelphia) what came up again and again was the fact that these tables serve the locals — they provide an opportunity for neighbors to sit down for a casual meal and enjoy each other’s company.
Ah, neighbors. This means that, as a solo traveler, I would get to meet the the locals as I did in at The Camellia Grill in New Orleans. There I let my neighbor order me breakfast. I ended up with chili-cheese omelet and mocha freeze. Maybe not what I would have chosen but it did get the conversation started.
How to find a communal table.
Communal tables are actually pretty simple to find because the term is quite common now. (As is family style dining where everyone shares the food in the center of the table – but that’s something else again.)
At least, it’s simple if you’re going to New York or Toronto or Chicago… But, if you’re going to a smaller city it can get a bit tricky. Basically, start by Googling “communal tables”. This brings up many articles about communal tables in various cities and may be all you need.
No luck with Google? Try Chowhound.com. Sign up if you haven’t already. Go to the forum for the city or area you’re visiting and search the discussion topics. If nothing comes up for communal tables, start a new discussion topic. People on Chowhound are incredibly helpful. Chances are, if communal tables exist at reputable establishments, they will let you know.
Communal Tables in Toronto
What I know best is Toronto, and here’s the best of the communal tables in T.O.
You can’t beat The Dark Horse Espresso Bar for fabulous coffee and a wonderful communal atmosphere around a huge wood plank table. Two locations: Spadina just north of Queen West and Queen East just west of Broadview. There’s a few individual tables around as well for less social times.
There are many to choose from in Toronto. I haven’t tried them all but the local chatter amongst my foodie friends suggests that The Brant House on King St. West and the Picnic Wine Bar on Queen East are both great.
Dinner and Opera:
Every month Gary Ikona takes over the side room at Gio’s Really Really Nice Restaurant, (yes, it’s really nice with excellent food – located on Queen St. East on the corner of Leslie St.). He sets up communal tables, offers family style food and plays Deutche Gramaphone videos of amazing operas (he has the exclusive rights for public showings in Toronto). It’s a very fun, local evening. You can find out more by emailing Gary at email@example.com.
Do you know places with communal tables? Please add them in the comments. Be as specific as possible. Maybe we will have the makings of a free ebook that I can put together for everyone.