Solo Diner's Week at Dirt Candy
86 Allen St btw Broome and Grand Sts, Lower East Side
The Place: A vegetarian restaurant that features a special annual pre-fixe meal for solo diners during the week of Valentine’s Day. It’s basically a Galentine’s gift to yourself and it’s genius.
The Time: Tuesday February 12, 8pm. I made this reservation the second I saw that Dirt Candy does a SEVEN COURSE meal just for solo diners. I’ve been to Dirt Candy before, but only for brunch, and this is an experience I couldn’t pass up, especially after going to that disastrous place that doesn’t let women sit alone at their bar.
The Vibe: Kind of like upscale crunchy granola, in a good way! Everything is very clean and crisp; white brick walls with delicate flower murals, soft lighting, magenta accents everywhere. There’s a small bar in the front and plenty of tables throughout the space, but the real show is the giant open kitchen with a “chef’s counter.” I’m seated at the corner with a clear view into the kitchen. I’ve recently been spending some time snacking while binge-watching old seasons of Top Chef and this is like the same thing - I’m eating while watching other people cook. But now, I actually get to eat what they make! It is so exciting. It’s also exciting to see several other solo diners. We’re spaced out across the counter, yet it feels like we’re all connected in some way, y’know? Now I’m sounding like crunchy granola.
The Bartender: Kyle is my server and effectively my bartender because he keeps pouring me more sparkling rosé. He is lovely and makes me feel welcome and cared for. He also calls utensils “supplies,” as in, when he’s giving me a new fork and knife, he says “here are some supplies for the next course.” I love.
The Drank (and the food!): I repeat, this is a SEVEN COURSE MEAL portioned out for one person, with a complimentary glass of wine. It’s $80, which yes, is a lot of money to spend on one meal for yourself. But Dirt Candy is a no-tipping restaurant, so you know you’ll actually be paying $80 at the end of it, and you get SEVEN COURSES and a GLASS OF WINE. Plus, you’re taking yourself out for Valentine’s Day baby! If you’d spend $80 on someone else for this ridiculous Hallmark holiday, you better damn be willing to spend that much on yourself.
So my complimentary glass of wine is that delightful sparkling rosé, which Kyle tells me is made in the style of champagne but not made IN Champagne so it can’t legally be called champagne because, as he says, “the French like rules.” This extravagant meal starts with two “snacks,” house greens with other yummy stuff and celeriac tots, great way to begin. Then I’m given a bonus course, monkey bread with smoked garlic butter, and it’s just as good as it sounds. Course #2 is a fennel tagine served in a tiny dish with a cute little hat. Course #3 is butternut squash ebelskivers, which is a Danish pastry that I only know because it was a technical challenge on the latest season of the Great British Bake Off and every baker failed at them (can you tell I’m a fan of competition cooking shows?). This one though is absolutely delicious. I’m starting to feel kinda full right about now. I check out the wine list, just out of interest, and I see that they only serve wine made by women! That’s so badass. Then I’m served Course #4, long beans with yogurt, almonds and herbs, and I’m told to push the long beans off the skewers and mix everything together. Tbh, it’s a little difficult to mix, so I fuck that one up. But it’s still tasty. Course #5 is a carrot slider in a carrot-slider-sized box. So cute, so messy, so good. Course #6 is Chinese celery pasta with oyster mushrooms in a peanut broth. I am so full by this point, that I’m kind of glad I don’t like celery. I eat the broth (super yum) and some stuff around it, but sadly leave most of it in the dish. Because dessert! Course #7 is dessert, actually two desserts so really this is like an eight course meal. One is cauliflower funfetti cake and the other is carrot meringue pie. Come on! Can someone roll me back to Brooklyn now?
Was I Hit On?: Nope. When I first get here, I’m seated near a solo woman who is just paying her bill. After I tell Kyle I would love that complimentary sparkling rosé, she leans over to me and says “It’s so fun!” We chat a bit and end up exchanging Instagrams (hey Elsabeth!). A few more seats down from me is a man who seems to know how to eat everything way more elegantly than I do. He also has an iPad for seamless simultaneous eating-and-reading, whereas I have to put the novel I’m reading down about, oh, seven bajillion times. I might have to take a page out of this guy’s book if I’m going to keep dining alone like this.
Should You Drink (Eat) Here Alone?: Absolutely, no question. Dirt Candy has been doing Solo Diner’s Week for eight years and I just learned about it a few weeks ago. The restaurant itself is excellent but the fact that they take such good care of solo diners in this way sets it apart from others. It’s a very special experience. Whether you’re single or not, go on a date with yourself to Dirt Candy for Valentine’s Day. You deserve it.