Solo and Hungry in Boston’s North End

Hello to all from Boston. Your curtain raiser is in town to catch a couple of Red Sox games and push a few personal boundaries. To achieve both I have left the familiar behind and am travelling solo.

And I’m loving it.

Never one to mind my own company I’m loving the freedom and adventure.

Today I attacked Boston’s freedom trail. Whilst I have done sections before I have never been able to do the whole length. The trail takes you on a 2.5 mile historic tour of Boston. There are several ways you can do the trail, I chose to do it unguided with only a map in hand. The trail
is marked by a red line and takes you back more than two centuries.

I suggest taking a map (costing $3.00) because there are places where the red line embedded in the footpath becomes a little confusing.

Part of the trail takes you through the North End. North End was home to Paul Revere and also to a large Italian population, although probably not at the same time. It is also home to many fine Italian restaurants and Mike’s Pastry, an Italian patisserie featuring signature calzone. A must try and always busy.

Coming back from Charlestown which is the end of the trail (think Bunker Hill), I decided it was time for dinner. Having had enough of fast food I went in search of some fine Italian in the North End.

The time was around 6.30 and diners had started in on their entrees (in Australia, this is the course before the main one). My first stop was a restaurant called Strega. I chose this one because my Italian MIL always says “Ostrega”, which as far as I can tell means something like “oh geez”. The lobster ravioli in a crab bisque also caught my eye. Mains were priced at $20 to about $42 and the place was a quarter full.

Having confirmed I didn’t need a reservation I asked the maître d for a table for one. She had been standing in the door way trying to spruik for business when I arrived.

I was informed that the table for one was a no go because she was fairly busy but that I could dine at the bar.

Say that again? You want me to eat at the bar whilst watching the couples have a fine dining experience?

I politely declined and started to walk away when she explained I would not be dining at the bar per se, but at a high table near the bar. Apparently you have to be at least a twosome to enjoy dining at a normal table. I declined once more and went in search of another place to eat.

The second place I tried had very few diners and another spruiking maître d. This one handed me a menu and explained the nightly specials. Then I asked for a table for one. We can seat you at the bar was the answer.

Do solo people in Boston never dine at a table?

I have to scratch my head at this letting the bird in the hand go logic. There was no queue and both places were spruiking for business. I would have come and gone in half an hour. It was a Thursday night.

With dishes priced $20 and up, it is not unreasonable to want a dining experience rather than just food on a plate. To me, this includes ambiance and being treated with respect.

Being relegated to the bar as a single is a slap in the face. It is also a short sighted strategy. My money is clearly good enough, but my single status is not. So much for goodwill.

I could have dined at a table and been converted into a raving fan. I could have gone back to my hotel and told everyone about the dining experience. I could have blogged, tweeted and jumped on Facebook and raved.

No doubt, there is usually no shortage of restaurant patrons on the North End. But if filling the restaurant is so easy, why spruik? Because the restaurant competition in the North End is fierce.

I had heard about discrimination against solo travellers, but this was the first time I had experienced it.

Goodwill generation requires more than just seeing diners as walking credit cards. It requires seeing diners as people.

In the end I dined on $8 clam chowder at Quincy Market at a normal sized table. A most enjoyable and tasty meal and one that I’m more than happy to blog and tell all my friends about.

As my MIL would say:

OSTREGA

or perhaps the better word is:

Fuhgeddaboudit.

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About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

18 thoughts on “Solo and Hungry in Boston’s North End

  1. Strega means witch in Italian…. this can be either good, or bad depending who it is directed at !

  2. I looked it up: “ostrega” means “oyster,” but it’s also an exclamation of frustration. I like that, I think I’ll use it.

    I can’t believe that the restaurant told you to sit at the bar and eat. Especially since they weren’t exactly lined up out the door. What did they think, you’d dine and dash? Ostrega! I’d hop on Yelp and write them up good.

    Did you get to Fenway? The seats are tiny. Either that, or I’m huge. I was there the night Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 200th home run. Sat right near the Pesky Pole. It was a pretty good time.

    • Yes, I was at the Red Sox v Rays game a couple of nights ago. The Sox scored 11 runs and I got to see my first Fenway homer. I am rather mystified by the whole restaurant thing. Maybe other solo travellers don’t mind dining at the bar, maybe the food is that good, maybe if I was local I would understand the “rules”. All this does is drive a wedge in their customer base.

  3. That is absolutely bizarre!!! I did love the Freedom Trail and eccentricities of Boston architecture, but that is quite off-putting about the restaurants. Safe journeys 🙂

  4. Judy, welcome back to the states. Enjoy your visit and I look forward to seeing when you come south. I am glad you voted with your feet and ate elsewhere. When I traveled on business, I ate solo often as I would rather have a quick meal at a sit down restaurant than eat in my room. I would be the guy with a newspaper, magazine or IPhone reading while eating. Safe travels, BTG

  5. This is so weird. I’ve never heard of that. More hilarious is that the restaurants weren’t p.a.c.k.e.d. 😀 😀 :-D. Glad you found something at a better price at the market at a decent table.

  6. oh my gosh! I am so very sorry that you were treated in such a fashion. I have dined alone on a few occasions. It is a strange situation, but to be singled out for not having a dining companion is awful. I hope it did not ruin your experience of Boston….

  7. Hello Judy,

    Hope you are doing well. I discovered your lovely blog last year via AtoZ Challenge. So, when I got an opportunity to nominate someone for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award, you were in my thoughts. This leaves me to wonder if you will accept my nomination ! In case you are thinking what is it, you can find out more about my nomination here:

    http://sinhasat302.blogspot.in/2015/01/sisterhood-of-world-bloggers-award.html#more

    Regards,
    Shweta @deafmamma (twitter)
    Bangalore, India

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