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Solo Dinner Gone Wrong

I have no problems eating alone at a restaurant. I do it often enough that it no longer phases me. I’ve learned to grab a seat at the bar and chat to the staff, or sit a small table in the corner with a book or magazine. When I don’t have those I’m happy to just flip through my photos on my camera, and on the rare occasion there is free Wi-Fi, I’ll use the time to chat with my family back home. For the most part, I have it figured out and solo dinner isn’t awkward.

However, when I was in Vienna April 2014, and decided to get my first real meal in a few weeks, I didn’t bring anything with me. No book or magazine. I left my camera locked in my bag, and there was no Wi-Fi. Alone, with no one to talk to, all I had to do was eat; so I finished my meal in near-record time. It didn’t help that I was starving, after 6 hours on the train it was all I ate all day. Or that it was really, really good. Basically I ate so quickly that my mom would have been shocked. Of course she wasn’t there to be shocked, so that role was left to my server.

‘All done!?’ my Austrian server asked me as he stared at my nearly empty plate. I nodded, telling him it was delicious and I was stuffed. He smiled and took my plate, leaving me alone again with only a couple more mouthfuls of my beer. Of course the little bit of beer I had left disappeared quickly too, so after about ten minutes I asked if I could have my bill.

“No.” was the reply I got.

Shocked I just stared at my waiter, who smiled back and told me I ate too quickly and needed to sit back and relax. Unsure of what to say he just walked off back to the kitchen leaving me alone with nothing to do and no one to talk to.

My massive meal...and yes I ate most of it

My massive meal…and yes I ate most of it

I literally twiddled my thumbs for another 20 minutes before I was brave enough to ask again. This time he conceded, only to give me my second surprise of the night as I pulled out my credit card.

“Cash only.”

The thing is, I didn’t have any cash. I had just come from Budapest so I had a few forints floating around my wallet, but hadn’t hit an ATM yet for some euros.

So now, not only did I look like an idiot because I ate too quickly, but I couldn’t pay either.

Shit.

Explaining what happened I asked about the nearest ATM. He pointed me in the right direction and I passed over my passport as assurance I wasn’t running out on him. It was pretty late by now, and he told me I could come back tomorrow, but I was only in Vienna on an overnight stop, off to Slovenia early the next morning. So I needed to find an ATM ASAP if I wanted my passport back.

I had horrible thoughts about running around the entire city trying to find an open ATM but I was in luck, the second bank I tried had an ATM out front that would accept my Canadian debit card. Seeing as I needed Euros anyway, I took out 200. Of course, it spit out 2, 100 euro bills. Not the stack of 20s I had hoped for.

Rushing back to the restaurant I stumbled through the door, yelling triumphantly that I had the money. The wait staff, pretty much the only people left at this point, laughed at me as I handed over a 100 euro bill for my less than 20 euro bill.

“Do you have anything smaller?” he asked,digging around for the proper change.

“No…” I said, embarrassed yet again. I watched as he dug out 5 euro and 10 euro bills trying to make up over 80, and I panicked.  I was rude and ate fast, couldn’t pay properly, and now was a nuisance with my money. In my embarrassment I told him just to give me back 70 euro, leaving more than a 50% tip.

Budget friendly? Definitely not. But I like to think I walked out of there with at least a shred of dignity!

19 Comments

  1. Crysta on June 9, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Ah, the adventures of travel! You definitely came away with a story, anyway!!

  2. Karisa @ Flirting with the Globe on June 9, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Ha! This is totally something that would happen to me! 🙂 However, had he given you your bill when you asked for it, he wouldn’t have been waiting on you!

    • Hannah Logan on June 9, 2015 at 8:34 pm

      haha exactly! Ah he was pretty good about it, or at least he thought I was entertaining!

  3. Natasha Amar on June 10, 2015 at 1:19 pm

    I can only imagine my paranoia about leaving my passport behind had I been in your situation. I would have been a nervous wreck!

    • Hannah Logan on June 10, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      Funnily enough I was the one who handed it over as proof I would come back. I was too embarrassed to have them think I would dine and dash on them!

  4. Shirley on June 12, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Hi Hannah! Just discovered your site and it is wonderful. I thought you might want to know, however, that I tried to subscribe and it repeatedly advised me that there was an error and to try later.

    • Hannah Logan on June 12, 2015 at 8:06 pm

      Weiiiiiird. Thank you though (for your kind words and the heads up!) I will look into that asap

  5. Tami on June 13, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    Crazy experience! I would have been so frustrated — grr! But it’s worth it to have a great story to tell!

    • Hannah Logan on June 13, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      It was a little panic-inducing at the time in terms of no cash, but definitely funny now!

  6. Sarah Ebner on June 13, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    Great story!! Not sure what the lesson is, but we always make sure we have cash and cards after something similar happened to us in the Netherlands once. I just remember traipsing around, looking for a place to eat which took cards. We were starving!

    • Hannah Logan on June 13, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      haha at least you were smart enough to look first! There was a HUGE sign in the window that said cash only and I totally missed it!

  7. Emma @ Adventures of a London Kiwi on June 14, 2015 at 6:05 am

    Oh, that is tough – maybe he thought he was helping your digestion by making wait – or something else weird lol!

  8. Hannah Logan on June 15, 2015 at 11:19 pm

    Haha I’m glad to make you laugh! It was an interesting experience. I used to be teased for being a slow eater but I guess eating alone speeds things up quite a bit!

  9. Diana - MVMT Blog on February 2, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Did you ever find out why he said no to giving you your bill the first time? Glad you got it figured out eventually – I’ve totally been in just as awkward (if not more awkward) situations before so I know the feeling!

    • Hannah Logan on February 2, 2017 at 5:53 pm

      Haha its so awkward! I think he thought I just rushed and needed to relaxed. Technically going out to eat is supposed to be enjoyed and I just wanted in and out haha. Definitely a funny memory though.

  10. […] *For a laugh, read this awkward story about my wiener schnitzel dinner gone wrong in Vienna. […]

  11. […] One of the biggest downfalls of solo travel is eating alone. I’ve gotten used to it over the years but still try to make sure I have a book to read, or stop somewhere with wifi so I can check Instagram or facebook. Worse case I’ll just scroll through the photos on my camera while I eat to give me something to do (especially after my awkward solo dining experience in Vienna). […]

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