Dwight Garner has a NY Times blog entry on the joys of reading while you eat. Here’s the best part:

Eating and reading is almost (if not more) enjoyable in restaurants than it is at home – thank god for restaurant bars, and tables for one. Who hasn’t, on occasion, while stuck at a table with someone you had nothing to say to, gazed with envy at the guy sitting alone at a restaurant bar, happily stuffing his face and getting sauce on his new issue of The Economist?
Some restaurants are better – in terms of reading and the solo eater – than others. I’ll never forget the time, back in the mid-90s, when I was traveling for a story and ate dinner alone at a good, small restaurant in Savannah, Ga.
I don’t remember what I ordered. But I do recall that the headwaiter, when he saw I was by myself, brought over a tray of magazines – The New Yorker, Business Week, The Atlantic Monthly – and asked if I’d like to read one while I ate.
Yes, I said. Yes, I would.
I’ve never seen this act of grace and kindness repeated in any other restaurant – although these days I’m not foolish enough to enter one alone without something to read.

That’s my kind of restaurant. (Thanks for the link, Bonnie!)


  1. For a short while a long time ago, around 10 pm after work I would sit and read while I waited for my bus at a country-western bar. After less than a week, the proprietor came up to me and said, “Hey, this isn’t a library, you know”. I said “Well, I’m drinking a beer, OK?” He said “Yeah, but you’re bad for the atmosphere. People come here to have fun.” I found a new place to wait.

  2. Michael Farris says

    Random commentaries:
    I don’t like to eat and read in an eating establishment. I’ve done so on more occasions that 99% of humanity (travelling for a living for total period of about 5 years will do that) but I still think it’s inelegant.
    I do love to eat and watch certain kinds of tv as well as eat and use-the-internet (we need a new verb ‘surf the whatever’ is hopelessly outdated).
    Off-topic: in my undergraduate days, my favorite place to study was the campus bowling alley. The noice/distraction level was at just the right level to make me have to focus past it to get any work done (silence is deadly for my work habits).

  3. I was recently informed that my habit of reading while I eat was suboptimal and would have to be eliminated at least drastically curtailed, because it was both symptom and cause of a greater problem: lack of interest in the quality of my food.

  4. The late comic Bill Hicks has a hilarious routine that starts with a story about sitting with a book in a truck stop and having the waitress ask him “What you readin’ for?”

  5. Ginger Yellow says

    I was in Nashville, Tennesee last year, after the show I went to a Waffle House, I’m not proud of it, I was hungry. And I’m alone, I’m eating and I’m reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me: “Tch tch tch tch. Hey, what you readin’ for?” Is that like the weirdest fucking question you’ve ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading for. Well, godammit, you stumped me. Why do I read? Well… hmmm… I guess I read for a lot of reasons, and the main one, is so I don’t end up, being a fucking waffle waitress. Then, this trucker in the next booth gets up, stands over me and says: “Well, looks like we got ourselves a reader.” What the fuck’s going on here? It’s not like I walked into a clan rally in a Boy George outfit, godammit, it’s a book!”

    I do the read and eat thing all the time, but then I’m a compulsive reader. If I don’t have something to read I get bored just walking down the street.

  6. I do the read and eat thing all the time, but then I’m a compulsive reader. If I don’t have something to read I get bored just walking down the street.
    Same here—I carry a shoulder bag wherever I go partly so I can be sure of always having reading material. And I often read while walking down the street, which has brought jibes from uncomprehending onlookers; one thing I loved about living in NYC is that I would often cross the path of others doing the same thing.

  7. From The meaning of Liff (Douglas Adams & John Lloyd)
    GREAT WAKERING (participial vb.)
    Panic which sets in when you badly need to go to the lavatory and cannot make up your mind about what book or magazine to take with you.

  8. Not only do I like to read while eating, but, looking at the other end of the process, I think that you can judge the level of civilization in a house by whether there is a bookcase in the bathroom, and what is in it.

  9. David Marjanović says

    Same for me. Eating alone is not a sufficient occupation. Many a time did I fall asleep at my mother’s breast, I’m told, simply because I hadn’t learned how to read yet.
    And yes, I, too, sometimes read while walking.

  10. I’m disillusioned! A friend of mine has always told that waitress story as if it happened to him.
    I read when I eat, but only when I’m alone. I used to read while I brushed my teeth, but have grown out of that.

  11. When I was an undergradute student at Cambridge (England) I picked up a second-hand copy of Dylan Thomas’ “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog”, from a stall on Market Square, and thought I would read it as I walked to my vacation job at Chivers’ Jam factory, about three or four miles out of town.
    When I finished the book and looked around, I realized I was completely lost. I had to knock on the door of a house nearby to find out where I was. I had walked at least two miles past the factory. I didn’t go to work that day!

  12. That’s a great story! Reminds me of the time I stepped into a bookstore while waiting for the bus to come because it was raining, idly picked up a copy of William Goldman’s Magic, and wound up reading the whole thing, then having to explain why I was late for dinner.

  13. It’s very bad for your health. And for mine too, because I do it all the time.

  14. I gave up reading while walking decades ago, but I do still feel the usual compulsion to read while eating. And of course when I travel, or even drive any considerable distance, I like to have an emergency copy of Hamlet not too far away. Can’t be too careful, these days.

  15. Lots of restaurants here provide the day’s paper. That’s nice.
    I don’t feel the same way about reading while walking. About about of the people in midtown read their text-messages while walking or driving. That is not at all nice.

  16. I meant to say about half of the people.

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