Change #102: In Montreal, The Woman Eating Alone At Wienstein & Gavino’s

I planned to eat alone at a local vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa called, Pure Kitchen. It was a place I wanted to try and as hubby’s not a fan of vegetarian food, it seemed like the perfect solo dining place. But every time I attempted the challenge, my hubby and I would end up dining together at some other eatery.

Nonetheless, the challenge of dining solo was becoming more and more troublesome for me. Another reason for my hesitation in completing this challenge: I didn’t relish the fact of eating alone at a sit-down establishment. As well, most nights by the end of the day, I already consumed waaaay too much food. So one more meal to shove into my mouth and down to my tummy, vegetarian or not, at times was nearly impossible.

LBM has had a paw issue for the last month. It’s required epsom salt soaks, antibiotics, and countless runs to the vet. We love him, so we don’t mind. We just want him to get better so he can play ball-ball, greet other puppies, and meet on Saturdays again with Sheila, Kodie and Kenzie.

However, what this also meant is that we rescheduled our vacation one time, and then cancelled again when Hershey still wasn’t well enough to kennel. With no vacation in the near future, I decided as I scheduled the week of September 25th – 30th as vacation from work and this was my 2nd request, I was taking it. I had already woken up multiple mornings in the I-want-to-cry-because-it’s-dark-out-at-4:30AM-now, and I knew I was close to imploding for other unimportant reasons. Hubby and I decided that we would take separate trips this one time, as we both needed a break from the daily routine.

I scheduled one night away in Montreal during the week. I decided as I would be alone (hubby was home tending to our adorable chocolate lab) the solo eating challenge could be completed. The place I decided it would happen: Wienstein & Gavino’s. It’s my favorite restaurant in Montreal.

Wienstein & Gavino’s is a lively, hopping place that bustles with energy. When you enter the restaurant if you’re not in a good mood when you arrive, the energy will easily make you happy. This was also a place that was introduced to me by a wonderful, fantastically amazing friend that always had good ideas. As I think back to the things she introduced me to they include: Wienstein & Gavino’s, Hush Puppy shoes, and a local salon in Ottawa that I still go to more than a decade later. There are other things I’m sure, but right now, those are the ones that come to mind.

The first night in Montreal I made my way up the street and located Wienstein & Gavino’s. (With a little help from the hotel staff who pointed me in the right direction.) Once there, I made a point of announcing, “Table for 1” to the hostess without even being asked. She gave me my table number and instructed me to head up the stairs to the second level. Hopeful that I might get a table by the window where I could stare down at pedestrians that walked the streets, I climbed the steps.

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When I got to the 2nd level I told the man my table number and said again, “TABLE FOR 1.” (Yeah, I was going to own this solo dining experience!) The man smiled awkwardly at me, and with a sideways glance, quickly scooped a single menu and hurriedly ushered me to my table.

There was something in his demeanor that seemed to signal he pitied me. I felt like shouting, “I HAVE FRIENDS!” I’m doing this for a blog! But decided that would be an indication that I did NOT own this solo dining experience and quickly abandoned the thought.

I was seated along a wall (damn, no window seat to pretend I was one of the judges from the Muppets) and positioned right across from the main area where servers picked up their food, dispensed bread, and refilled water. I wondered if placing me there was a strategic choice on their part of a must-not-forget-about-those-eating-by-themselves situation.

The staff at Wienstein & Gavino’s are attentive, and race around at an incredible speed all the time. So I don’t think a lone woman eating by herself changed that. But, my waiter seemed more hesitant in not knowing how what to say to me.

I was served a full loaf of bread, and I ordered a glass of wine (I wasn’t going to order a drink because my stomach was a little upset most of the day, but decided a glass of wine would scream, I am not in a rush!) and ordered a main pasta dish of penne al sole. The taste of the wine was good, and the food was deliciously scrumptious as usual. Much to the annoyance of my queasy tummy, I still eat 3/4 of my meal.

The waiter was attentive asking me if I wanted pepper and parmesan (oh, yeah!). When he misheard my joke about how I can’t have enough pepper on my food, and thought he heard I wanted more, he quickly clasped the pepper grinder for the 2nd time, and added more to my plate. I didn’t argue with him.

I deliberately savoured my wine, bread and penne dish. Well after the time I set my food aside, I casually sipped my drink. My speedy waiter took care of me, and at one point after asking me if I needed anything and I said I was good, he spun around, and nearly crashed into a waitress. (Oops…nice that we all feel uncomfortable).

The area I was seated in had three tables for 2 lined up along the side of the wall. I was seated in the middle. In front of me was another woman dining alone. Behind me as I looked back, was a couple.

The woman in front of me held something. I tried to casually lean to the left and glance at what the woman was doing. At one point I was certain I saw a flash. I suspect she had her phone out and spent a portion of the quiet meal time catching up on emails, reading the news, or perhaps interacting with people on Facebook.

My phone was forbidden. It was a rule I set for myself because it would be too easy. I have had breakfasts solo before, and I spend many breaks at work on my phone. Trust me on this, clutching that rectangular neon-lit box makes all the difference to how singular you feel.

And that was the reason it was forbidden. I watched the groups of people gathered together around countless tables. I grinned at a large group of people who raised their wine glasses and clinked them together.  I noticed people in groups all around me laughing, and the couple that quietly in an unassuming manner chatted together.

Would I do this again? Not if I don’t have to. While I enjoyed eating my meal and taking in everything that was happening around me, leaving 3/4 of a glass of wine, and 1/4 of my half-eaten food without providing an explanation; I missed not sharing this experience with someone.

After all, food always tastes better when shared with others. But that being said, if I must dine solo, I know now that I can.

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How does a girl prove that she eat at a restaurant without taking a picture of the food? With the receipt, of course!

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