Eating Well Enough Alone

When I traveled to Copenhagen last fall, I scrambled to make a last-minute reservation at Noma, the restaurant ranked #1 in the world by Restaurant magazine for three years and counting. It was a shot in the dark: Noma has an entire page on its website dedicated to explaining its reservation policy, which tells you something about how elusive it is. Tables are reserved months in advance, and “on days that the reservations book opens for a new month,” warns the site, “the system can become overloaded … Please note that it can be hard to get through on the phone as well.”

The polite disclaimers are about as reassuring as a casual “thanks” in response to a proclamation of undying romantic love. Not to be deterred, I frantically signed up for every spot on the waiting list for lunch. A chorus of angels sang from the grey Danish heavens when Noma’s maître d’ called me the next day to tell me a spot had opened up.

That I snagged my table was not a stroke of luck. It was because I had requested a table for one. This was largely practical—I could find no one else who was ready to blow their summer savings on a lunch date—but it was also strategic. Demand for one-tops is low. The stigma on dining alone goes back to kindergarten, where the cool kids eat in crowds and the losers eat in the corner. It’s perpetuated by this glimmering ideal we have of eating as a communal activity (one that is unfounded in the realities of fast food and cubicle lunch).

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