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Dining alone, Midtown rumors and bouillabaisse

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This week, we're checking the mail and doing some updates.

Reader Harold wrote to inquire about restaurants where he might feel comfortable dining alone. Harold says he feels self-conscious dining alone or guilty for taking a table all to himself in a popular restaurant. He wonders what alternatives there are.

I personally love to dine alone. I can take a magazine and a book to dinner with me and read without having to make small talk. I can graze on weird food without anyone making barfing sounds. On those rare occasions I actually feel social, it can even be fun to talk to other strangers dining alone.

On the other hand, I know any effort to dine alone in some restaurants turns into that famous scene from Steve Martin's The Lonely Guy. I instantly detest those hosts who, when you ask for a table, look over your shoulder as if someone is missing, and say, "Just one?"

"Yes," I usually respond meekly. "I just lost my spouse to cancer."

My usual advice, if you are alone and uncomfortable taking a table, is to eat at the restaurant's bar, if a seat is available. One of the most pleasant in our area is at Watershed in Decatur, a restaurant that just gets better and better. If you eat at Watershed's bar, you'll be entertained by Ian Smith, herewith declared Wine God of the Week. Ian knows wine like few people in our city and I've heard him wax poetic, gesturing like an American Sign Language interpreter, as he describes a wine's qualities.

Scott Peacock's food continues to please us. A new dish of chicken braised with thyme, onion and garlic and served over rice in a bowl ($14) recently made me nostalgic for my South Carolina mother's similar "chicken bog." Another new dish is a whole fish roasted Greek-style with garlic and oregano, served with big lemon croutons. The fish changes and so does the price ($25 when a striped bass was used recently).

Another great place for eating at a bar and meeting folks as you dine on exceptionally good food is Eno on Peachtree in Midtown. Its creative menu of Mediterranean grazing food makes it a novel choice. Just down the street is Andaluz, the city's best tapas restaurant, with a very large bar.

Of course, a sushi bar is an ideal place to dine alone and make interesting temporary friends. The best is Soto but, if you're not up to breaking your bankroll, you'll also enjoy swilling sake and popping baby octopus at either location of Hashiguchi. The new Sushi Yoko also is gaining some favorable reviews.

For lunch, the bar at Sundown is my favorite in town. Besides great food by Eddie Hernandez and Rhoads Fern, you get to be entertained by the host, George, herewith declared Taco God of the Week. For dinner, you can do tacos at the bar at the restaurant's sister operation, Taqueria del Sol.

If you're feeling hip and in the mood to wear black, try the bar at the new Trinity downtown, next to Eyedrum Gallery. It's light, creative New American cuisine. Honestly, many restaurants in town provide bar seating now and, in a city full all week long with conventioneers and sales types, any restaurant that makes you feel uncomfortable for wanting a table alone, is making a big PR mistake.

Consider the disgust suffered by the Albany man who ordered a pizza from Domino's a few weeks ago: "After delivery of the pizza ... the man said he felt something sharp poking him in his throat," the Albany Journal reported July 13. "After dislodging the sharp material, which he first thought was a sliver of hard plastic, he realized he'd bitten into a human toenail or fingernail."

"'It may have even been a toenail. It was big enough and thick enough to be a toenail. It was really long and yellow,'" the paper went on, quoting the man. After speculating at some length about how the object ended up amid the pepperoni, the Journal concluded:

"Domino's is reportedly taking steps to prevent the incident from occurring again. If the businessman is correct and the pizza was sabotaged on purpose, heads will surely roll."

Thanks to reader Bill of Buckhead for passing that along.

An anonymous source informs us that 10th and Myrtle has closed but will reopen soon as a tapas bar. The restaurant has suffered from mediocre reviews and criticism for its noisy Sunday tea dance, which it had to discontinue.

Yes, it's true that there recently was a complete shake-up in kitchen staff at Spice. Rumor is that the food, for all its prettiness, wasn't selling and that the cost-sales ratio was abysmal. Incidentally, the restaurant has, um, erected, another phallic billboard across from its Juniper Street location. As in the former billboard, the phallic chili pepper is no match for the overwhelming female anatomy, making it another disproof of penis envy.

This is from CL contributor Randy Trammell: "My father-in-law, a bouillabaisse freak, is coming into town for a visit in a few weeks. The last time he was here we went to that little bistro in Little Five Points that has since closed [Cafe Boheme]. I know there are two French restaurants on North Highland. Would either suffice to impress a king fish gourmand? Any other suggestions?"

The new Rue de Paris is quite delicious, though there was no bouillabaisse on the menu a few weeks ago. (I don't know of another French restaurant on North Highland.) I would call Soleil in Buckhead to inquire if Jacques is making bouillabaisse these days. His has routinely been the best in the city.

E-mail or call Cliff Bostock's voice mail, 404-688-5623 ext. 1504, with your dining comments.

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