In college, I worked as a hostess at a restaurant/bar. We were told that if a patron came in to dine alone, we should—without saying anything—drop a magazine off at their table. I think the idea—or the stigma, perhaps—was that people who dine alone are lonely, and a magazine might keep them company. Now, I think dropping a magazine off at a solo diner's table is a little insulting. People dine alone for lots of reasons: to think, to escape thinking, because they're traveling for business, because they hate people, etc.
Personally, I view eating alone as a reward. After a long day, it's a treat to hang out and snack, enjoying the sunshine with my dog at my feet, not saying a word to anyone (can you tell that I'm an introvert?). On the flip side, I also eat alone when my job is overwhelming—the walk to and from a restaurant distracts me from work worries, and I set my phone down and concentrate on each bite, returning refocused.
Due to dozens of solo meals, I've discovered a few Tucson gems that cater to the "just one, please" crowd. Check out my picks and answers to anticipated questions below. And if you see me eating at any of them, no pity please! I can assure you that I'm perfectly content.
46 W. Congress St., 85701 • closed Sunday, open 8:30am–2:30pm, Monday through Friday; open 5:30–9pm, Thursday–Saturday
Where should I sit? There are four seats up against the windows at Caffé Milano, perfect for people-watching while not being people-watched.
How soon can I leave? I'd say the average meal takes about 25 minutes, from ordering through resting silverware on the side of your plate. There's no need to rush, though. Unless there's a wait for a seat, lingering is perfectly acceptable.
Can you bring your dog for non-verbal company? Nope.
Will servers talk to me? No way. You order at the counter and the only other interaction you'll have is when they bring your food out from the kitchen.
Can I drink alone? Sure! But this is restaurant that serves drinks, not a bar that serves food, so I wouldn't recommend it for a solo beverage so much.
What should I order? I like the penne in salsa rosa con funghi e spinaci (penne in a tomato and cream sauce with baby spinach and mushrooms). It's so comforting. The penne in salsa rosa is the reason you'll find me at Caffé Milano when work is stressing me out—it's the perfect place to take a step away.
444 E. University Blvd., 85705 • open 7am to 10pm, every day
Where should I sit? There are lots of options: take a seat at the two-seater tables by the floor-to-ceiling windows, head outside for a pleasant patio, belly-up to the bar, or grab one of the stools that overlooks the kitchen. This is a good place to bring work/projects with you.
How soon can I leave? You'll have food in less than 10 minutes, so, how quickly can you eat? Similar to Caffé Milano, however, this is a great place to stay post-meal.
Can you bring your dog for non-verbal company? Yup! Dogs are allowed on the patio, but you can only get to the patio by walking into Time Market. Head inside and take a quick right—before your dog smells the walnut bread!—to get back outside.
Will servers talk to me? Depends on where you sit. If I'm looking to chat, I head to the bar. If it isn't a server who strikes up a conversation, it'll likely be another solo diner/drinker next to me.
Can I drink alone? Absolutely. If you're here for happy hour, glasses of wine and pints of beer are a dollar off, and there's a good selection of bar snacks that are perfect for solo diners. I like to get the burrata, which comes with crispy toast that my dog, Molly, occasionally gets to snack on, too.
What should I order? No exaggeration—every single thing here is positively excellent. Many menu items are made with local ingredients, and I bet that helps. The pizza uses a super bright tomato sauce and the crust is salty and chewy. The kale salad is simultaneously crunchy and creamy, and the Greek salad has a lot to love (mmm, the feta). The House BLT is classic and improved with avocado, and I love the Fried Chicken Sandwich–Tucson Hot but ONLY if the hot sauce is on the side—it could kill me, otherwise. Ok, THAT was an exaggeration, but it is ridiculously spicy.
326 N. 4th Ave., 85705 • open 11am to 2am, every day
Where should I sit? Grab a bar seat either inside or outside. Smoking's allowed outside so stick to the interior if you hate that sort of thing.
How soon can I leave? Even if it's busy—and it is for the workweek lunch rush and around 7pm for dinner—meals arrive pretty quickly. I'd guess about 20 minutes?
Can you bring your dog for non-verbal company? They're allowed outside in the enclosed patio. To get there, head down the alley behind Bison Witches.
Will servers talk to me? For sure. But, more likely, it'll be the regulars who beat them to it. Are those regulars going to be drunk? Also for sure.
Can I drink alone? Honestly, if you don't, you'll probably be the only person who isn't drinking alone.
What should I order? You can get at least two meals out of one order here. Think of a regular sandwich, now double it—that's the size of one sandwich at Bison Witches. HUGE. I like the Green Turkey (sliced turkey breast with avocado, crispy bacon, cream cheese, alfalfa sprouts, mayo, and salsa).
400 N. Toole Ave., 85701 (it's the one on the left, Maynards Kitchen is on the right) • open Sunday, 9am–2pm; Monday, 7am–8pm; Tuesday–Thursday, 7am–9pm; Friday and Saturday, 7am–midnight
Where should I sit? Pretty much anywhere is a good option. If you sit outside, the train noisely whooshes past but it's kind of thrilling. A few years back, I wrote about how Maynards is great for solo dining because of all the seating options, and it still rings true!
How soon can I leave? Ok, this is actually a bit of a con for Maynards. They take foreverrrr. If you're trying to grab food and go, you will get frustrated. Prepare to chill. This is another great place to bring work/projects with you.
Can you bring your dog for non-verbal company? Yes, and the back patio is huge so they've got lots of tables to sniff underneath.
Will servers talk to me? If you sit at the bar inside, they might. Depends on how busy they are.
Can I drink alone? It's downright pleasant to have a glass of wine on their patio as the sun sets, twinkly lights above and all. Plus, sunset happens at happy hour time and their happy hour is killer. For less than $10, you can get a glass of pretty good-quality wine and crispy, garlicky pommes frites with a smoked white cheddar aioli.
What should I order? If you're there for the aforementioned happy hour, the pommes frites are $3, and the oysters are reliable. I love their avocado toast for breakfast (the rosemary-infused extra virgin olive oil really takes this basic staple up a notch) and their Cubano for lunch.
312 E. Congress St., 85701 • open Sunday–Wednesday, 11am–9pm; Thursday–Saturday, 11am–10pm
Where should I sit? Walk in and to the right there's a row of stools in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows that are perfect for solo diners. When the weather's excellent (often), the windows are thrown open for an al fresco-esque meal. The bar's another good option.
How soon can I leave? Meals here take a bit of a time dedication. I've never gotten a burger in fewer than 30 minutes. But, man, they are worth the wait. So decadent.
Can you bring your dog for non-verbal company? No.
Will servers talk to me? Servers here are always super friendly and happy to see customers, so it's likely that you'll exchange a few words. If you sit at the bar, it's a guarantee. Diablo Burger has community tables for seating, so even if you bring a friend, you'll likely leave with more.
Can I drink alone? Sure, but this is another restaurant that serves drinks, so I'd head elsewhere for a solo brew.
What should I order? The Big Daddy Kane is, in a word, indulgent. If you eat it on your lunch break, you will be aching for a nap come 3pm. Burgers here are on the messy side, so eating alone here takes a sort of confidence (how do you feel about a stranger seeing you with sauce on your chin? Good? Ok.). I also like The Blake but it's deceptively spicy.
621 N. 4th Ave., 85705 • open Sunday–Thursday, 8am–9pm; Friday–Sunday, 8am–10pm
Where should I sit? Anywhere. There are lots of nooks and crannies here, and lots of fellow solo diners, so you should feel comfortable anywhere.
How soon can I leave? Hmmm, I think 25 minutes. Maybe a bit longer if you don't eat as quickly as I do.
Can you bring your dog for non-verbal company? Nooo
Will servers talk to me? Nooo, pt. 2
Can I drink alone? Even though The B Line is more restaurant than bar, I think drinking alone here isn't unusual. Maybe it's those nooks and crannies? They've got a great selection of wine and beer, so go on, take advantage!
What should I order? I crave their pasta alla vodka often. I get it half & half style, with the buttermilk avocado dressing for the salad, and Italian sausage added to the pasta.