Guest Author - Julia Reed Zaic
When it comes to eating out, we business travelers often get caught somewhere between the obligatory dinners with colleagues or clients, and the prospect of eating alone. I’m not a fan of sitting alone at a table in a restaurant, so I usually choose restaurants based on having a nice full service bar where dinner is served. It allows for the opportunity to review the menu and have discussions with the bartender, and get to know other business travelers who might be doing the same thing.
Luke is Comfortable for Dining Alone
There are so many restaurants that have comfortable dining for business travelers going it alone. When I'm in New Orleans, I enjoy eating at Luke which is located next to the Hilton Hotel on St. Charles Avenue, in the business district. What I like about this spot is that there are so many activities going on behind the bar. The oyster shucking, the drink mixing, the wait staff picking up their orders – all are people who like to be engaged in conversation, or, are perfectly willing to leave you alone.
On my last trip to Luke I sat next to two business travelers. One recommended the oysters and the charcuterie. I took her advice. While the oysters were being shucked, I had the most delightful conversation with Shawn, The Shucker. He has some intense opinions about football. So do I. I’m a Bucs fan. He is not. But we could both agree that Tony Dungy is a gentleman. That's when I realized, one of the great things about engaging people like him in conversation is that he probably had a lot of funny and intelligent things to say about a lot of stuff. I might never have met Shawn had I not sat alone at the bar for dinner.
In fact, the entire staff behind the bar is friendly, engaging, and helpful with things like pointing me to the right portion of wine based on happy hour savings, recommendations on the menu, and constant attention. I wanted for nothing, which is good, because at the end of the day while traveling, you really don’t want to feel like you are being ignored. A good meal, a nice drink, and nice conversation without feeling uncomfortable or pushed is what we business travelers seek.
While seated next to the service bar I had the opportunity to chat with the general manager, James. James was a nice guy, but a wee bit stuffy. But hey, he’s the “GM”, that’s his job. I’m a lawyer, so I understand preconceived notions. Overall, he and the management must be doing something right, the place was packed. Even so, the bar area was comfortable and not overwhelmed with folks making it difficult to enjoy a meal. In addition to the oysters, the charcuterie was a nice complement to the wine, or vice-versa. The point being, the food was great and the portions were ample enough, but not too much.
Alone at Luke? Try Something New
Another thing I love about dining at Luke is the opportunity to taste things you’d never eat anywhere else. From the selection of French, German and Belgian beers, to the “pork belly and clams”, it’s an adventure as well as a place to eat alone, comfortably. The cuisine is certainly brasserie in nature, with everything from poached yard eggs with lardons, to a Luke Burger. Throw in a crispy salad as a healthy option and a “Plateau de Fruits de Mer” (or as Anthony Bourdain would say in Brittany “Where’s my shellfish tower?!?”) this kind of eating is both a sport and entertainment. Not to mention, absolutely delicious, and in some cases, very economical. Luke offers several French wine selections by the bottle for under $45.00.
While you’re eating alone at a place like this, you can even try things you might never try because you'd catch grief from family, friends or colleagues. Ever want to try absinthe without being heckled by friends that you should wear a beret, a horizontally striped shirt and move to the Left Bank? You can do it here while discussing football with Shawn the Oyster Shucker. He won’t tell anyone, I’m sure. Go ahead, have the a martini with lavender, and say it proudly like PePe La Pew "luh-VON-druh, ze tonic of love".
So although you are traveling alone, don’t relegate yourself to room service. Getting out and eating alone doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Find a place that has a bar with a full service menu. It’s such a better alternative, and if you are in New Orleans, try Luke.