Party of One: The Best Bars and Restaurants for Solo Dining in Boston
Between splurge-worthy tasting menus and welcoming whiskey taverns, we have no reservations about eating alone.
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Believe it or not, some of us actually do love dining out on our own. Just think: No endless text chains trying to coordinate a date and time with your friends, no bargaining about which cuisines are off-limits. Plus, sometimes you need a spot to nurse some whiskey after a breakup, or a place to enjoy a celebratory splurge when you can’t convince your non-foodie friends to ante up. With this guide to great spots for solo dining around Boston, we’ve got you covered for those occasions when you want a dinner date with the person on this Earth you’re most compatible with: That’s you, boo!
If you’re looking for a haven-like escape from the tourists in the busy, buzzy nearby Seaport, settle in here for Mediterranean-inspired cuisine and excellent cocktails. Chickadee is set back in an office and industrial park on the Southie borderline, nested inside the ground floor of the sprawling Innovation and Design Building; unless your friend was already planning to peruse some home-interior showrooms to shop for a new couch or wallpaper, it might require some arm-twisting to lure them all the way over here, anyway. (That said, there’s plenty of parking and a silver line stop close by.) Well, their loss—and anyway, dining here alone means you don’t need to share the delightful small plates dreamed up by James Beard-nom’d chef-owner John daSilva. We’ve already tipped you off to the magic of the fried chicken, but the octopus alentejana is another winner—it’s daSilva’s take on a traditional Portuguese dish, and you can’t find the savory symphony of pork, octopus, and littlenecks at many other places around the city.
21 Drydock Ave., Boston, 617-531-5591, chickadeerestaurant.com.
Those of us who get the stink-eye when ordering anchovies on a pizza understand all too well that tinned seafood can be quite divisive. Well, attention all fellow sardine fans: leave the haters at home and get to this pint-sized, Best-of-Boston-winning natural wine bar that also happens to emphasize eclectic fish fare. That includes small plates, such as an anchovy tartine with fennel, dill, and a sweet-and-zingy red pepper jelly, as well as flavorful tins packed with more punch than Poseidon wielding a trident—the delicate sardines in oil, for instance, or steamed mussels in vinegary escabeche. It’s a place perfectly engineered for grabbing one of the handful of bar or street-side window seats, cracking open a can o’ fish, and sipping down some small-production wines while ’90s rap spins in the background. Yes, please.
45 Province St., Boston, 617-208-6000, haleyhenry.com.
Secret #1: The fact that this snazzy yet subdued nine-seat sushi counter of a restaurant hides in the back of the South End’s tropical hotspot, Shore Leave. Secret #2: You can snag a single spot most nights, while larger parties usually have to book several weeks in advance. Plus, No Relation’s omakase experience—about 14 courses of pristine seafood prepared right in front of you—is ideal for the solo diner looking to splurge on themselves (it’ll run you $150, plus extra for exceptional wine and sake pairings). The menu changes nightly based on availability, but you can expect delights like slivers of European bass with umeboshi puree and shiso leaves, or maybe barracuda with black garlic and finger lime.
11 William E. Mullins Way (inside Shore Leave), Boston, 617-530-1772, norelationboston.com.
There are some foods you can order on a date and easily eat between moments of coy banter and flirty sips from your wine glass. Pho ain’t one of ‘em. Rather, the huge, gorgeous bowls of noodles and broth at Dorchester favorite Pho Le call for rolling up your sleeves and being willing to splash yourself as you slurp. Plus, you don’t need a table-mate judging you when you inevitably tip back your bowl to guzzle down the final pools of silky broth. Just pull up solo to one of the window seats for chicken noodle phở gà or beef-based phở bò viên. When you want soul-warming comfort, they’re the only company you need—well, maybe invite the pork and shrimp summer rolls, or the dessert-like Vietnamese iced coffee, to the party, too.
1356 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester, 617-506-6294.
The Quiet Few
The Quiet Few is a neighborhood whiskey tavern that offers the best of both worlds: On one hand, it’s the kind of place where people will totally leave you alone if you just want to hang out at the bar and watch the game with some Scotch and a burger in hand. On the other, people are friendly enough that, after you down a few spicy pickle backs, you’re bound to meet a new future wingman among the regulars. At the very least, maybe you’ll meet a fellow whiskey geek for discussing the novel-length menu, which includes highlights like the the Yamazaki 12 year, a Japanese bottle with subtle notes of honey and coffee. Otherwise, though, enjoy the people-watching and fade into the background with a beverage and a bar snack of “disco poutine fries” with cheese curds, Cheez Whiz, and chicken gravy. There’s enough to share—you know, if you decide to.
331 Sumner St., East Boston, 617-561-1061, thequietfew.com.
If you’re bummed that your hybrid work schedule has you reporting back to the office, at least treat yourself by closing out the workweek with a lunch break of haute cuisine: Besides the fuller fanfare of its dinner service, Peter Ungár’s Best-of-Boston-winning 20-seat restaurant offers a one-hour, three-course lunch tasting menu on Thursdays and Fridays. (An indulgent, two-hour and nine-course lunch, meanwhile, is served on lazy Saturday afternoons.) You’ll assemble at Ungár’s U-shaped counter for a front-row view as the ever-rotating dishes, such as branzino with black trumpet mushrooms, are prepared. As with No Relation, the limited seats are reserved like show tickets, meaning it’s often easier to sneak in solo and let some scratch-made bouillabaisse buoy you through the rest of your workday.
14 Tyler St., Somerville, 617-299-6362, tastingcounter.com.
Does hitting up a book store, a record shop, and a tapas restaurant all in one place sound like some perfect “me” time? Great—because you’ll find all three under a single Victorian-home roof at Tres Gatos. First, peruse the rear retail space filled with crates of vinyl albums and shelves of novels, then head to the dining room and immerse yourself in a newly purchased tome as well as stellar tapas and pinchos—say, roasted beet salad with whipped ricotta, passion fruit, and pistachio dukkah, or dates stuffed with blue cheese and almonds.
470 Centre St., Jamaica Plain, 617-477-4851, tresgatosjp.com.
Yume Wo Katare
After diners polish off their bowls at this little counter-service ramen shop in Cambridge, they are offered the opportunity to stand up and announce one of their hopes, goals, or aspirations to the whole restaurant, then bask in applause from the kitchen. It’s a fun, heartwarming tradition, and let’s be honest: sometimes it’s easier to confess our dreams to strangers than people who know us well. So give it a go alone—if nothing else, you’ll get a good story out of it and some of the city’s absolute best ramen, with pork broth that cooks for 14 hours. Added perk? You can get the extra garlic for your ramen, because if you’re slurping solo you won’t have to worry about hitting your date with anti-vampire breath (Check Yume Wo Katare’s Instagram for the latest ticketed popups with guest chefs, too.)
1923 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-714-4008