From a recent reader e-mail: "After reading your review I went with a friend to Acqua (2192 Niagara St.). While there, I noticed a very small table with one chair pulled up to it. I asked the waiter if it was for a lone diner and he laughed and said they had had a very busy night the night before and they had just stuck the table and chair there (it was at the railing overlooking the marina. Perfect).
"I told him he should leave it for a single diner and told him my experiences being a lone diner, some good, some bad, one very bad at a restaurant where I was definitely not welcome at dinner time.
"I pointed out that it's to the server's benefit to have a table for one so that we loners do not take up a table for four, and the tip situation should this happen. In a short while, a waiter appeared with a table cloth, glassware and silver, and proceeded to set the small table for one!
"May other restaurants follow suit."
-- Mary, Williamsville
It would be great if they would or could, Mary -- for everyone. Sitting solo at a table meant for four can make a diner feel a little more solitary than he bargained for (unless he takes the easy way out and reads a book).
Also, as you point out, that kind of seating is not an efficient use of space for the management or for a server. That may explain -- but certainly not excuse -- the chilly reception a single can get at the restaurant door.
But as you also point out, there just aren't tables for one available in restaurants. What can be done if circumstances decree you eat alone? It's simple:
Dine at the bar.
And don't be embarrassed about doing it. Most restaurants will be happy to feed you there, and most offer the same menu at the bar as in the dining area.
That's true even in upscale restaurants. Paul Jenkins of Tempo told me that when he and Mark Hutchinson (of Hutch's) open their Remington Tavern and Oyster Bar in North Tonawanda this fall, the blueprints call for an extra long bar just for that purpose.
"Bartenders like people who eat there, especially on a slow night," Jenkins says. "It helps bring the check average [and the tip] up."
Another fine "eating bar" is 800 on Maple Road in Amherst. It's a comfortable place, and the pizzas are great.
Most bars offer TV, but you can get live culinary entertainment if you choose carefully. What's more fun than watching your food being made in front of you?
Any sushi bar will be happy to oblige.
Not into sushi? Let us not forget what may be its polar opposite -- beef on weck. Pick a bar where they cut that great round right in front of you and pile it carefully onto a fresh roll.
The Bar-Bill Tavern in East Aurora is one such place; venerable Schwabl's on Center Road in West Seneca is another. And maybe that sandwich tastes all the better for the show.
Send your questions and comments to longtime Buffalo News restaurant reviewer Janice Okun at firstname.lastname@example.org