To dine alone, or not?


Dining club offers singles a chance to meet new people over a nice dinner in a low-key setting with no pressure.

By Zuzana Freeman/Special to The Malibu Times

I remember the days when I was single, looking for love in all the wrong places. Hanging out in bars and clubs, meeting guys who were just out for a quick fling. All I wanted was to settle down and get married, or at least have a relationship that lasted more than three dates. Maybe even have a family someday.

Well, at the age of 32, I finally did get married to a lovely Texan who’d lived in California for 20 years. And yes, it was the happiest day of my life. However, I wish I’d known about the Single Gourmet dining club during those long, lonely evenings when all my coupled friends were going out to restaurants, and I was sick of staying home alone staring at my frozen dinner for one.

Whether or not you’re looking for romance this Valentine’s Day (and deep down, aren’t all singletons looking for true love, even though they may never admit it?), the Single Gourmet Club is a brilliant idea. Indeed, it’s a club that’s been around for 15 years. Forget impersonal online dating. How do you know that sexy man or woman in the photograph they e-mailed you isn’t really 10 years younger and 100 pounds lighter? Or married with kids? Thinking about speed dating? How are you really going to get to know someone in two minutes? A chance to meet new people over a nice dinner in a low-key setting with no pressure? Now that’s a much better concept.

The Single Gourmet is a great way for single men and women to get together for an evening of fun, friends and fine dining at the best restaurants in Los Angeles and Orange County. Events have been held at the local restaurants as well; Granita for one. Sure, you could eat at any of these restaurants on your own, but would you really want to-alone?

This club is neither a dating service or a matchmaker. Love, however, is sometimes on the menu! Indeed, as organizer Irene McCarthy, who is currently single, explains, “We’ve had about two marriages a year over the past 15 years.”

The Single Gourmet plans several events each month. A typical evening begins with your arrival between 6.30 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. to mingle prior to dinner. Representatives of the club make seating assignments at tables of six or more people. The size of the group ranges from a small gathering of 20 people to a large group of 60 or 70 people. The multicourse menus are previously arranged and usually offer a choice of entrees. Wine is sometimes included.

Last week, I attended one of the Single Gourmet events (not looking for love, of course, as I am happily married), a dinner at the restaurant Meson G on Melrose, to see what kind of people the club attracted.

I arrived at about 7 p.m. and was immediately introduced to a friendly group of six people sitting on a comfy sofa. Most expressed the desire not just to look for love, but also to enjoy the fine-dining experience with those who had the same interest. They all echoed the idea that it’s a great way to get out of the house and meet not just ‘the one’ but to make platonic friends as well.

New member Bharti Sawhney from Calabasas, an attractive woman in her late forties, explained why she decided to join the club. “I was married to the president of a company, which meant that we often took clients out to fine restaurants,” she said. “Now that relationship is over, I miss that part of my marriage. It’s boring to go out for dinner by yourself. When you’re newly separated, you don’t want to go out with your married friends.”

Elizabeth, a well-groomed businesswoman from the San Fernando Valley who runs a mental health company and declined to give her age, said she has been a member for six months. “I have a very busy schedule and this gives me a chance to go out and meet new people in a relaxed setting,” she said.

After introductions and informal mingling, the gathering at Meson G, consisting of seven men and 11 women, sat down for a delicious dinner of Spanish Mediterranean influence. Conversation flowed easily around my table of six-three men and three women-although the guys looked disappointed when they found out I was married (at least that’s what I like to believe; being married doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a little attention now and then from the opposite sex). Sam, 49, a divorced Bel-Air psychiatrist who has an 11-year-old daughter, was very charming and proceeded to tell me all about his extensive travels and love of bowling. “You never know who you might meet. It’s a matter of chemistry,” he explained, although he did say it wasn’t easy. “We’re no closer to finding it [the secret to everlasting love] in the 21st century than we were 2,000 years ago.”

Nils Tanaka, 47, an emergency room doctor from Santa Barbara, has been a member for 10 years, and although he hasn’t met ‘the one’ yet, he remains positive. “I’ve dated some of the ladies I’ve met here on occasion, but have not had a long-term, permanent relationship,” Tanaka said. “If I meet the right person, it will happen.”

John, 49, a lawyer from Redondo Beach, explained that he’d just rejoined after one and a half years. “I missed it,” he said. “You meet a lot of people from all walks of life. Who isn’t looking for love?”

The Single Gourmet attracts business and professional, single men and women in their late 30s to 50s. Men in their 60s are also encouraged to participate. An additional benefit of membership is reciprocity between chapters throughout the United States and Canada. If you travel, you can dine with singles in most major cities.

Smart business-suited Carol Cantagallo from West Covina, who did not want her age mentioned, said, “I’ve met psychologists, doctors, attorneys, marketing managers and people from the entertainment business during the two years I’ve been a member. I know I can always count on a good dinner with good conversation. If I meet someone special tonight it’s a bonus.”

Tall, fit, army reservist, Jeff Carter, 37, a member since October, explained, “It’s a great way of meeting new people without the stress of trying to get a date-and I only have to pay for myself! I’ve dated one lady who has turned into a really good friend, and I have a date tomorrow night with someone I met in November.”

For those who don’t want to dine alone this Valentine’s Day, more information can be obtained about The Single Gourmet Club by logging onto at or by calling 310.838.6292.