"We do not live by bread alone. We must be reading, too." -- Tom Raabe, Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction
There are two kinds of people: those who hate to dine alone and those who can see its bright side. The latter group must be composed primarily of readers. I share most meals with my wife, but I still manage to read several books a year in restaurants. I always keep a book in the car for this purpose (as well as for waiting rooms and, here in the Tampa Bay area, drawbridges).
"Indeed, there is something about reading in a restaurant that is borderline romantic." -- Tom Raabe
"We can't kill half a day dominating a booth and drinking coffee or whatever else. We actually have to eat something." -- Tom Raabe
There's the rub. Sometimes all I want is a quiet place to read, not a meal. I sometimes stop into a tea room in the afternoon for this purpose, although my favorite such place is too far away from home to make this practical. Bars are too dark and usually too noisy.
"How do we place our book in an accessible location on the table and make it stay open while wielding our cutlery? That the real problem." -- Tom Raabe
I have two main criteria for the books I choose for restaurant reading. First, they must be books that I'm not going to mind too much if, or rather when, they get splattered with soup, sauce or whatever. Second, they must be books that will stay open by themselves. I don't like to eat one-handed. I want a book I don't have to touch except to turn the page. There are surprisingly few books that fit both of these criteria.
"A good motto to operate under in these conditions is 'A book for the wait, a mag for the plate.'" -- Tom Raabe
With messy food or a pristine book, this is a good strategy. I sometimes read a book while waiting for the meal, then work a sudoku puzzle during the meal. This, however, requires the same hand I need for my fork.
"Reading in bars is fraught with innumerable dangers." -- Tom Raabe
Actually, reading in restaurants, even nice restaurants, can be dangerous, too. Once I made the mistake of finishing my meal, paying the check, putting down a tip and leaving my book on the table while I went to the restroom. When I returned, the book was gone. I tracked down my server, who said she thought I had just forgotten my book. She returned it to me, and all was well. I was not so lucky recently at a Steak 'n Shake in Largo, Fla. The check was still on the table and I hadn't yet left a tip when I put my magazine down and went to the restroom. When I got back, the table was cleared. When I quizzed the server, she said she thought I had left. She checked, but the magazine by this time was in the trash, covered with mayonnaise. The check, unfortunately, was still in perfect condition.