When you're on the road, eating alone can be a terrible way to end your day. But thanks to the growing popularity of a glorious Old World tradition — the communal table — dining out in the new economy doesn't have to be a solo experience. The following table offers details on five restaurants where solo diners can enjoy both good food and lively conversation. Sit at the table of your choice.
|Asia de Cuba,
New York City
|Asia de Cuba's Asian and Latino entrées range from $16 to $30 per plate.||Featured items include an oxtail spring roll, Chino-Latino spiced chicken, and warm Asian pear cake.||A 50-foot marble table that seats 32 people is the focal point of this stylish restaurant. The portions are designed to promote sharing.||Asia de Cuba attracts a trendy New York crowd. So expect to see celebrities from the worlds of business and entertainment.|
|Bice's northern Italian luncheon offerings run from $13 to $17. Dinners range from $25 to $32.||Start with the penne arrabbiata and osso buco. Finish with the tiramisu.||At a "corporate-women's table," female travelers gather in a spot that overlooks palm trees and other tropical foliage.||Conversation at the corporate-women's table can cross industries and borders, but it blends right in with Bice's quiet, elegant setting.|
|Cafe Pasqual's Mexican- and New Mexican-style breakfasts and lunches are a bargain. Dinner, however, can get expensive.||The restaurant's huevos motuleños, New Mexico rack of lamb, and toasted piñon ice cream will meet your needs — morning, noon, and night.||A table for 12 sits at the center of the restaurant. The mood is friendly. One couple who met there named their child Pasqual.||A large mural and hand-painted Mexican tiles decorate the dining room, which is visited by tourists and business travelers alike.|
|Dan & Louis' Oyster Bar
|If you want to belly up to Dan & Louis' seafood and oyster bar, expect to shell out $7 for lunch and $14 for dinner.||Anything with oysters! We recommend oyster stew, oysters on the half shell, and pan-fried oysters.||Small tables line the perimeter of the bar. Tables that seat up to 10 diners each dominate the middle of the restaurant.||Regulars often gather at the communal tables — which makes them a great place to get the inside scoop on the Portland scene.|
|Toulouse adds a French flair to American-style cooking. Entrées range from $10 to $20.||Favorite menu items include baked goat cheese in phyllo dough, sautéed sea bass, and flourless chocolate cake.||The communal table seats up to 12 people. "You'll feel like you're at your grandma's," says manager Marcie Meirndorf.||Toulouse draws lots of local connoisseurs, so plan on meeting diners who are interested in fine food and wine.|
A version of this article appeared in the May 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.