Travel and food will always go together. Yet if the thought of requesting a seat for one could leave you without much of an appetite for solo dining, don’t go hungry. Here are some options of what I would call “communal dining,” for eating with others in your destination.
Currently with offerings in major U.S. cities and other locations through the country, Feastly is like an Airbnb for diners. The online community website connects eaters with both home cooks and professional chefs willing to make and set meals for strangers in the venue of their choosing.
Diners first have to create an account through Feastly, then they can browse through current or future scheduled meal dates. Once they see an event or meal that they can sign up for (with a listing of what’s on the menu) they then register and pay for their seat. The meal “ticket” price goes toward ingredients.
Often based on their personal backgrounds and taste preferences, the cooks set the menu. The picked location can be held in their or someone’s private home. In May through Feastly, I got to try Filipino cuisine for the first time through The SALO Project, a traveling Filipino pop-up feast. Created by Yana Gilbuena, a talented home cook, the SALO Project consists of bringing a sit-down, five-course, family style meal in all 50 U.S. States. I ate at her stop in Connecticut.
That evening in New Haven, the SALO Project menu consisted of a fish soup served inside a green pepper, a rice medley with coconut milk, okra, scallions, radishes and garlic, mussels, cooked bok choy with salmon and bluefish and a rice pudding for dessert. A row of banana leaves doubled as a table cloth and place mats.
Similar to Feastly, EatWith is a community centered site where people who cook for work or for fun and like to share they can make with others with offerings within the U.S. and also overseas. It can be weird to go over a stranger’s home but EatWith does have safety check measures in place.
Also like Feastly, reviews are listed, so you can read what they have to say about their experience. I haven’t booked a meal through EatWith just yet. Hopefully soon enough.
Another professional “meal” site, Dishcrawl is like a pub crawl but takes out the bars and puts in restaurants instead. Outings are set by location, like in Connecticut’s Fairfield County, or by a certain type like brunch or a foodie scene. Locations are usually hidden until about 48 hours before the event takes place.
As Meetup groups are based on common interests, look for one that’s all about dining out. Group organizers may schedule group dinners out at restaurants, ranging from ethnic to diet-types to hotspots. Sometimes, due to reservations or restaurant space, signups can be limited to a small number. If all these fails, the organizer might opt to include a waitlist, which could give you still a chance of getting a seat.
In May, I went with a group to Pok Pok, a hip Thai-inspired restaurant in Brooklyn and shared four dishes with about five other people). I had a nice time and enjoyed a good meal.
If you don’t mind walking while eating, food tours are a fun way to discover local good eats. Most often, tours will include at least four or so stops (look for a reasonable number to make sure you get your money’s worth) and, unless it’s a single theme, it’s also good to go ones that present a good culinary mix.
Recently, I went on a food tour in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg section that led me to a pizza place, a barbecue smokehouse, a neat bagel place, a cheese shop, a funky ice cream shop, and yes a chocolate shop. Especially in NYC, check out by neighborhood food tours as they really give you a taste (no pun intended) of your location.
Editor’s Note: Feastly invited me to attend the SALO Series dinner in Connecticut, in which I accepted on gratuity.