Columnist Caitlin Weigel reveals the rewards of dining out alone at Moroccan cafe Argan.
I’d like to bring up a significant issue in this week’s column. Something that I think we all need to discuss together.
Eating alone – not just in your apartment, on the couch or grabbing a quick bite at a food truck between class. I mean eating alone in a sit-down restaurant with a waiter. Somewhere with menus and cloth napkins.
I can’t always find friends to join me on my foodie adventures. Lack of funding and conflicting schedules means my restaurant touring is often solo. And despite being a very social person, I’ve come to enjoy those quiet dinners by myself.
I’ll bring a book and catch up on my reading, or I’ll simply sit and wade through recent thoughts, giving myself time to assess recent happenings in my life. I generally ruminate on important subjects like what my rap alias would be or alternate epilogues to the “Harry Potter” series as I chow down on whatever happens to be on my plate.
It sounds strange, and you may look like an anti-social nerd to some less-cultured passersby, but eating out by yourself can be a very enjoyable experience.
I recently hit up the Moroccon cafe Argan, tucked away on 17th Street between Walnut and Chestnut streets, on a rainy Wednesday. There was only one other patron in the restaurant – another solo diner – and I took advantage of the quiet to concentrate on the food.
Argan delivers some seriously bangin’ bread and olives to your table for you to munch on while waiting. I followed up the entire basket of bread with some delicious lamb kabobs dipped in yogurt sauce with saffron rice.
Though I had no one to share it with (rather than approaching the other single diner to gush about the texture of my meat), I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and even sat for a little afterward reflecting on all the delicious edibles I just inhaled.
Because I’m not entirely sure how to prepare lamb, and I’m not exactly living on a lamb-for-dinner-twice-a-week budget, I decided to make another classic Middle Eastern dish – falafel.
Falafel is basically mashed up chickpeas with a little onion and spices thrown in for good measure. You mush the ingredients together into a sort of paste and pat it into tiny balls, which are then fried in hot oil on the stove. It’s a simple enough recipe, and I invited a few friends over to get in on the falafel-y goodness.
One thing led to another, and the next thing I knew, we weren’t just making falafel – there were kale chips in the oven, jasmine rice on the back burner and an overflowing pot of vegetables covered in a yogurt curry sauce. Wine was poured, late ‘90s music was played, and food was consumed en masse.
The falafel itself was only so-so. A little on the dry side and lacking a certain oomph I’ve come to expect with my falafel. This week, I’d recommend sticking to Argan.
But, despite the less-than-delicious falafel, I still highly recommend inviting your friends over to cook dinner. The evening was a reminder of the many beautiful social dimensions surrounding food. From quiet reflective meals alone to loud, laughing potlucks with friends, food remains at the core of each. Thanks again, food.
Caitlin Weigel can be reached at email@example.com.