Where to Dine Solo in NYC Right Now

These places accommodate solo diners safely and make them feel special

In full winter gear, face mask in place, I set out on my solo adventure for an alfresco table for one. I look for good safety protocol — required masks, temperature checks, QR code menus, hand sanitizer, socially distanced tables. But I'm on this adventure because I miss restaurants and people and being surrounded by those who care about the hospitality industry as much as I do. It's my industry, our industry. And I want to support it as much as I can. 

When I am out, I easily forget that I am by myself, feeling the restaurant's energy, regardless of whether I talk with other diners. It's less about eating and drinking and more about being a part of a community. 

As winter has progressed, restaurants have created more sophisticated and often impressive outdoor dining setups, investing in comprehensive decks/patios/tents with reliable heat. I have always been in awe of chefs and restaurateurs with their ability to adjust and adapt, but even more so in this unprecedented time. Here are some of my favorite winter solo dining experiences in Manhattan: 

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232 Bleecker (232 Bleecker St., Manhattan) is a welcoming West Village neighborhood spot featuring vegetable-forward dishes, homemade pastas, and simple, hearty meals from Suzanne Cupps in an open kitchen. I stopped by for solo brunch and devoured the bacon jam, egg, and cheese on a housemade English muffin: They had me at bacon jam. Warm service on the winterized cozy patio, upgraded since my visit, makes for a wonderful solo experience. There's limited indoor dining, too. 

 

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Can we say fried chicken kara-age sando? Yes, please! Bessou (5 Bleecker St., Manhattan) offers a modern take on everyday Japanese comfort food by chef Emily Yuen and owner Maiko Kyogoku. I had a lovely solo brunch on the minimalist patio, pairing the sandwich with hot kukicha green tea. I am eager to return for more deliciousness, including Yuen's miso roasted salmon and a decadent banana hotcakes foster. Indoor dining is an option now, too.

 

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Kimika (40 Kenmare St., Nolitan Hotel, Manhattan), a newish restaurant from Erika Chou and Doron Wong, features Itameshi cuisine — an Italian/Japanese mashup. You will want chef Christine Lau's entire menu, including tuna tartare, crispy rice cake lasagna, mortadella pizzette fritte, and mochi bomboloncini with Nutella. Dine on the covered, heated patio at a socially distanced table, and you may even find yourself taking off your jacket, as I did. Limited indoor dining is also available, plus DIY-meal kits.

 

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Feel the New York energy at iconic Pastis (52 Gansevoort St., Manhattan) while savoring traditional French bistro fare. Legendary restaurateurs Keith McNally and Stephen Starr know how to create the perfect vibe, day or night; it's great for people watching too. I loved my alfresco brunch of moules n' frites and a spicy, virgin Bloody Mary, but you can't go wrong with any order. Reserve seats indoors or on the heated patio. 

 

Treat yourself to an omakase you won't forget at Sushi Ishikawa (419 East 74th St., Manhattan). This innovative sushi restaurant on the UES by chef-owner Don Pham has two menu options ($95/$135), including various high-quality fish. The latter is enhanced with luxurious ingredients, including uni with black truffles and gold leaves, with each bite outdoing the next. Follow my lead, and dine solo on the heated patio, and you may feel transported to Japan for a moment. Takeout and delivery also available. (Full disclosure: This is a former PR client.)

 

Thai Diner (186 Mott St., Manhattan) is one of my favorite restaurants in the city, featuring an all-day menu with some greatest hits from the beloved, now-closed Uncle Boons. Chef-owners Ann Redding and Matt Danzer have upgraded their outdoor patio, serving Thai comfort food, including laab and khao soi. Dine solo — inside or out, or take out from their convenient walk-up window. Be sure to get the Thai Diner egg sandwich with oua herbal sausage, American cheese, and Thai basil on homemade roti, available until 5 p.m. every day. Unaccompanied, you, or I, don't have to share. 

 

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Craving savory Southeast Asian flavors? Reserve a single spot at Wayan (20 Spring St., Manhattan), the Indonesian restaurant from Cedric Vongerichten, and his wife, Ochi. Settle into your cozy outdoor nook with individual heat lamps and a tabletop grill to keep you, and your meal, extra warm, or opt for a limited indoor spot. Hiramasa sashimi, crispy baby back pork ribs, and corn fritter make for a winning combo.

 

Known for its family-style portions and festive group gatherings, you may not think Wu's Wonton King (165 E. Broadway, Manhattan) is ideal for soloists, but it is. This LES authentic Cantonese food destination offers many lunch specials for one, including dim sum and Hong Kong-style noodle soup and my fave wonton noodle. It's perfectly OK to have leftovers, as I had with my delicious roast duck and roast pig and sauteed snow pea sprouts. Dine alfresco with complimentary hot tea under the giant tent with socially distanced tables and heaters. You'll be glad you went. 

— Shari Bayer is the founder/president of Bayer Public Relations and the host/producer of All in the Industry on Heritage Radio Network. Follow her on Instagram @sharibayer, @bayerpr, and @allindustry on Heritage Radio Network. She is a fearless solo diner and traveler.