Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio

Salty Waitress is The Takeout’s advice column from a real-life waitress that will teach you how not to behave like a garbage person while dining out—and maybe in real life.


Dear Salty:

Is it poor form for a solo diner to be reading a book during their meal?

I was at a rather upscale restaurant in a foreign country, by myself, and I’d brought a book to read as the several courses promised to stretch out over a few hours. I immediately put it away when a server came to check on me or put a plate down. None of the servers said anything or glared at me that I noticed (perhaps because they were distracted by the American group two tables over loudly discussing tip logistics) but I got really uncomfortable and ended up putting the book away. Strangely, I felt less compunction in scrolling through an e-book on my phone. What are your thoughts?

Thanks,
Not Literate Enough To Come Up With A Punny Sign-off

Dear Not Literature,

If you read more, maybe it would lead to punnier sign-offs, just saying.

But it’s interesting that you mentioned you were in a foreign country when the book-reading made you self-conscious. I think we can get uncomfortable dining out in new places, and you probably felt like you were under a microscope a bit more than usual.

Having waited on my fair share of solo diners, I don’t care at all whether you read in a book or on your phone or on a Kindle. Just keep whatever magazine or tablet from taking over the whole table and we’re good. Dining alone can be a nice indulgence in me-time, but it can make some people bored. If a good book helps, by all means, crack it open.

Things you shouldn’t do to pass the time: clip your nails, phone a friend, regale me with long-winded stories of Tinder dates gone haywire, turn your food into animal sculptures. Reading, on the other hand—totally fine!

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I’m an old soul—and my body’s starting to catch up—so I prefer a good paperback over a Kindle. It doesn’t make any difference to me whether you read on a page or a screen, for the record, as long as you can pry yourself away when I ask you how your patty melt tastes.


Got a question about dining out etiquette? Or are you a server/bartender with a horror story the world needs to hear? Email us: salty@thetakeout.com.

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