Table for One: Where to Eat Alone on the Upper West Side

by - December 4, 2009 at 12:34 am -

By Virginia Tangel
Let’s face it: in the New York singles world, roughly 90% of dates aren’t worth the time or the expense. Inevitably, the other party is incredibly dull by objective standards, neurotic to the point of being intolerable, or is still living like they never left college. So why bother?

Personally, my favorite “date nights” are with the New Yorker. Writers Hendrik Hertzberg, Adam Gopnik, and Malcolm Gladwell always have something interesting to say, spark intellectual curiosity, and leave a decisive answer as to who will pick up the tab at the end of the night. But finding a restaurant to comfortably accommodate such couples is not the easiest. And in light of the “singles crisis” on the Upper West Side, how does anyone muster the courage to move beyond Chinese take-out and go out to eat?

In an ongoing project, the Westside Independent is scouring the streets of the neighborhood in order to find restaurants with reasonably priced dishes and quality cuisine suitable for those wishing to dine unaccompanied. For a restaurant to be considered a good place to eat alone, it must have the following attributes: no looks of contempt from the host when declaring that you’re a party of one, little pressure to turn tables, no meal interruptions from would-be suitors, and decent non-judgmental service. And of course, delicious food doesn’t hurt either.

Kouzan (Japanese restaurant): 685 Amsterdam Ave. (at 93rd St)

kouzanIf the Upper West Side lacks anything, it is most certainly not sushi restaurants. But, as with all cuisines, some restaurants are more favorable for those wishing to dine alone, and Kouzan fulfills this need. Plus, Kouzan combines the quality, value, and drink selection that make it an ideal noshing location.

Sitting at the sushi bar, I am regularly offered a free appetizer and dessert by the chefs; on other visits, parked at the (alcoholic) bar, I’ve been rewarded with a strong sympathy pour of Tanqueray and a free half-pint of Sapporo. As far as entrées are concerned, the maki combos run about $15: these include three rolls and your choice of generic tofu miso soup or a small salad with traditional orange miso dressing. While Kouzan does not have the neighborhood’s best fish, theirs is certainly a far cry above other restaurants with similar prices. The sashimi is tasty by any objective standards, too, and the wait staff is friendly and accommodating.

Lansky’s (Jewish-style Deli): 235 Columbus Ave. (at 71st St)

lansky1For the value, Lansky’s cannot be topped: 50-cent sliders, $3 beers after 4 p.m., and frequent specials on artery-clogging (and therefore delicious) cuisine. I have a special affinity for their egg salad, which pairs perfectly with a $3 Leffe (yes, imported beers are $3, too). The mixed crowd of businessmen, families with kids, and awkward dates is the observational sociologist’s dream, which only accentuates the slight kitsch factor of this West Side institution. Top it all off with a black and white cookie and coffee, or the restaurant’s famous banana pudding, and you will waltz home happily, arm in arm with your New Yorker. (Top photo by Avi. Other photos by Virginia Tangel.)

Know of any other good spots to eat by yourself? Let us know!

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