What type of meal format allows a solo diner to try a variety of dishes?

Occasionally I find myself dining solo for a variety of reasons. But being somewhat greedy, sometimes I still want to eat a variety of dishes/ food in the same meal. What type of dining format/ cuisines allow a solo diner to do that without taking home a bunch of leftovers? Buffets are an obvious one but I am trying to think of the ones not as widely known. Here are some that I can think of at this moment.

Tasting menus- French, American, and pretty much all cuisines.


  • tapas


  • kaiseki (from Kyoto)
  • omakase (Edomae sushi)
  • izakaya (yakitori)


  • thali (southern states)
  • sadhya (Kerala)


Dim sum, meze, and does banchan count? Ethiopian places often have combo plates, vegetarian or otherwise.

non-Spanish “small plates” - you know, the ones at the New American gastropub where you’re supposed to share but they’re never really big enough for sharing?

tacos - get 1 each of a variety of meats

ordering multiple appetizers instead of an entree

@small_h, I agree, banchan is a major bonus of going out for Korean food, nice to have all the extra flavors & textures to keep your mouth entertained

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Lebanese/Syrian/Palestinian mezze. Certainly my way of trying a variety of dishes if on my own (although not as much fun as with someone - so you can order even more)

In NJ some of the Mediterranean places do mixed dishes of meat/kebabs (greek, turkish, lebanese)

Maybe the champ will post up a pic or two lol @NotJrvedivici

Indian has combos and tandoor platters.

BBQ platters

Brazilian rodizo! (And also portuguese places around here.)

Japanese as mentioned.

The olive garden “tour of italy” …kidding, but yes Italian.

When I usually go to the China buffet I really don’t even hit the buffet area. If they have this near you, I just get different meat and noodle combos with different sauces, chili and garlic. I basically throw the guy a few bucks up front and ask him to cut me up some sirloin or duck that he has stashed in his drawers. So you get better meat and can try all different combos in one meal.

Most authentic Mexican places will do tacos with 2 different meats if you ask. So you can get 2 tacos with one meat and 2 or 3 with another.

Mixed seafood platters are common here, as at different “raw” bar plattera for cold and/or raw seafood.

Thai places around here usually have app specials to try a bunch of stuff. From the other night…

Well as my esteemed Jersian Mr. Johnny already commented rodizio is a pretty good way to try a wide variety of meats.

“Chinese” buffets as he also mentioned offer a wide variety of non Chinese entree’s.

Golden Coral is an excellent way to try a variety of food, albeit low quality.

Depending on your budget when dining alone if I’m in a restaurant and it’s not really too busy, I would ask the server/bartender if the chef felt like putting together a “best of” platter of his favorite dishes. ***Caution because you can be opening yourself and you wallet to exorbitant charges since you are completely at the houses mercy on how they charge you.

Happy hour specials are another good way to try a variety of things without getting killed on the check.

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Ethiopian usually offers a few combination choices.

I’ve found japanese restaurants are some of the most solo friendly, if not doing an omakase there always seems to be a nice selection of appetizers and individual sushi/rolls/sashimi.

+1 for korean, bibimbap actually is a good one since there are several components to the dish itself and then the various banchan- depends on the restaurant how generous those are

I feel like it’s getting harder and harder to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve “small plates meant for sharing” which are definitely solo diner friendly. And it depends where you are but i’ve been pleasantly surprised before just asking if i could order half portions of two different dishes

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I’m sorry for the grammar folks. I’m ready to chuck my phone off the bridge tomorrow. It just spelled phone as phonr :confused:

Let’s not forget anti past dishes. I love these and having different meat, cheese, olives and veggies is definitely a treat!

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You can DIY a meal by ordering several items from the appetizer, soup, sides, and salad sections.

I imagine there are still restaurants offering a true smörgåsbord in areas of America with a strong Scandinavian heritage.

In Netherlands there’s something called “rice table”. The dishes in small portions are actually Indonesian food.

I tried it once, maybe 20 years ago. Too much food, impossible to eat all. Ridiculous and wasteful if there’s only 2 of you. Give me small portions of Japanese food any day.

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Sure does. I have found that meze portions are usually not that small. So that’s pretty much the whole meal.

The curious thing about banchan is that I am happy to eat banchan alone, but of course that doesn’t work since banchan comes free…

Do you find that to happen often?

I had not thought to do that. How often are restaurants willing to do that, especially in California when you go?

Great ideas, folks. Keep them coming.

I will add gastropubs to the list.

It’s some years since I’ve eaten a rijstaffel - but it was my main reason for a couple of days in Amsterdam. I gather it’s a colonial meal, rather than something native to east asia. We ate it at what was the accepted “best” place (at least then) . Thoroughly enjoyed it - perhaps 20 dishes, mostly single bite. It was set out in order of chilli heat, so you didnt accidentally eat the really hot one before the milder ones. We may be back there later in the year (the partner has a significant birthday this year and has strongly hinted at Amsterdam as a destination) - and I’ll be wanting a repeat meal.

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The Andover Inn, a long-gone restaurant on the grounds of a private school in Andover, MA, had Riijstafel on Sundays. I went only once, as it was pricey, and loved the food, which was a surprise as I ignorantly assumed it would be European dishes native to the Netherlands.

Depends, I’ve been in and out of the business my entire life, so I know quite a few people. Knowing this I might get special treatment at “friends” places, but even if at an unknown place I would say it’s a 50/50 shot, out of that 50% of the time they see it as an opportunity to overcharge you!

Depends on the restaurant, I don’t do this often but i have in the past and was just a little extra friendly and asked nicely. Prime time in a packed restaurant is likely to be less successful than a random rainy tuesday.

That wouldnt be a common request in British restaurants (although I know a few Italian restaurants which offer some pasta dishes in either starter or main course portion).

We were in a small “locals place” the other week. The three diners on the next table asked if they could each have a half portion of the same dessert. The server declined “No, I’m sorry, that’s not possible”. (the unsaid obviously being what would they do with the remaining half portion). In the event, they then ordered a single full portion and shared.

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I am a huge fan of happy hours for small amounts of fancy food when eating solo. You can usually order off the regular menu if there is a particular dish you want to try. (And you don’t have to drink alcohol, simply have order a virgin something, aka “mocktail” according to annoying food writers.)

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