One….Singular Sensation? It’s a great song from “A Chorus Line,” but I’m not talking about Broadway musicals. I’m talking about….LUNCH.

There is a reason there are so many restaurants in the world. Almost everyone (who can afford it) “eats out” every once in a while, as do I. Now, rather than dine in a fast food joint like McD’s or Burger King or Taco Bell, I’d eat my own shoe (like Charlie Chaplin in “The Gold Rush). I much prefer a restaurant in which you sit down, peruse the menu, and give your order to the waitperson. They bring you water,or whatever you want to drink, they tell you all about today’s “specials,” they try to make you feel good about having chosen that particular restaurant.

Let us, then, consider the host/hostess—the first person with whom you relate when you walk in the door. If you come into that establishment with friends or relatives or family, they generally can count, so they can figure out which table and location is big enough for your party, and would make all of you the most comfortable. But quite often, as I’m buzzing around town doing this and that, mostly for business or research, I am by myself—and when I get hungry, it’s too far for me to drive home and make myself a sandwich. I’m not by myself because I don’t have any friends, but because I sometimes walk out the door for business OR pleasure reasons without bringing my longtime love, my family, or my friends with me.

And when I enter a restaurant for lunch, the host/hostess almost ALWAYS asks: “Just one?????”

JUST one? So they can make SURE I feel crappy about myself because I couldn’t find anyone to eat with me? So I can feel guilty that I didn’t stop some complete stranger on the street and offer to buy them a sandwich if they’ll sit with me? To remind me how miserably lonely and friendless I must be, or that I couldn’t AFFORD to pay for someone else’s lunch?

That always makes me recall one of the funniest Steve Martin movie scenes ever—in “The Lonely Guy,” when he walks into an upscale restaurant by himself and everyone working there made SURE the other diners knew he was, indeed, a lonely person.

So finally I’ve come up with something to tell them that makes ME feel better. Whenever the host/hostess says “Just one?” I always reply by saying, “Yes—unless you can find me a date.”

Sometimes they smile, or even chuckle. Sometimes they think I’m actually serious, that they should poke around the room and find someone else eating by themselves so they can introduce us. Just the other day, I THINK the hostess believed I was hitting on HER.

Siamese twins never have my problem.

Once, though—years ago, when walking into a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Malibu, California—I had an even better reply to a hostess. (By the way, I didn’t make this retort up, but I can’t remember where I heard it first.) When I approached her desk, she asked, “Do you have reservations?” And I answered, “Yes, but when you’re as hungry as I am, you throw caution to the winds.”

She actually laughed! She “got it!” I think—for just a few moments—I was completely in love with her.

Ah, well….Bon Appetit!

About Les Roberts

Author, Internet and Radio Personality (, Teacher, Critic, not a bad jazz piano player, Cleveland lover.
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5 Responses to One….

  1. Laura Kennelly says:

    When my five children were young and the hostess asked me that while I was away on business, I’d get a huge grin on my face and say “Yes!” I was always happy to sit alone, eat in peace, and watch people. So fine.:-)

  2. Jan Baylog-Tucker says:

    Les….really enjoy your commentary on this subject! I have often had the same reaction when I had to travel in my career – and I will tell you it is worse for a woman. At least you have come up with a witty way to react to these situations. Many thanks for keeping in touch with your loyal fans through this media….look forward to hearing more from you! Jan Baylog

  3. Carol McDonald says:

    Been there – done that – and what always helps is having a Les Roberts book with me and I competely tune out my surroundings while eating!

  4. Pingback: No mystery to favorite vegan spots of author Les Roberts: Five for Friday | Ohio news

  5. Tim Behrend says:

    Les, Loudon Wainwright III has a song about eating alone in restaurants.