While sources like Elite Daily and Huffington Post might champion the merits of eating alone, one can’t deny the pleasures of dining out with someone else or even dining in at a sombody’s place. But how do you do this in a city where you’re traveling solo? Or a place where you’re new and haven’t made any friends? In the past few years, social dining apps in the international scene, such as EatWith, Grouper and HomeDine, have made it possible to never eat alone (as long as you can afford it). Although those particular apps have yet to make their way here, a Korean start-up called Anispoon opened up two years ago, allowing foreign expats to share a meal with locals. Their motto, as described on their website, is: “discover a home cooked meal from the worlds around you.” They also list the profiles of chefs, the type of meal they’ll be preparing and prices. The chefs range from Koreans who have spent time abroad to foreign residents from countries such as Norway, Italy and Uzbekistan—giving you the chance to engage in some cultural exchange and enjoy some authentic home-cooked food. You’re also given the option to dine at a private residence or host a dining experience at your own home. (www.anispoon.com)
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to ask the Italian ambassador to Korea where you could find the most authentic Italian food in the city. “Actually….” he started out hesitantly, “it’s my kitchen.” I couldn’t help but recall this anecdote while dining at Iolanda’s home. After meeting her husband and three children, my coworker and I sat with her and her husband where we were served 1 glass of wine, bruschetta al pomodoro, involtini di peperoni (pepper roll with tuna), zucchini flan with gorgonzola cheese, pasta all'amatriciana, tiramisù, Italian strawberry tart and Italian coffee for a steal at 35,000 won. Speaking with Iolanda, I got a sense of how well she knows her ingredients and how much preparation goes into each dish. The thought of her involtini di peperoni still makes my mouth water and her pasta all'amatriciana was the first time I had pasta noodles in Korea that wasn’t overcooked. It was some of the most delicious Italian food I’ve had in my life (though I did keep wondering if I should offer to help wash the dishes). And the stories and conversations only helped it to be even more so. Reservations for parties of 3 or more.
Other social dining options
Interested in making new friends? If you’re into meeting people with whom you share common interests, Zipbob is one social dining experience that takes it much further than just eating. On the Zipbob site (only in Korean), you can do everything from explore different neighborhoods to participating in art activities and volunteering. They also offer age-specific meetings. (zipbob.net)
This social dining concept eliminates the need for the line, “Let’s go somewhere quiet to talk,” as focuses on meet-ups that center on conversation. Anyone may host a “talk party” and the talks can cover anything from lectures to conversations on new dating conventions to book clubs, with the occasional social dance here and there. Since all of the discussions are in Korean, this one may be difficult if you don’t speak the language. However, most are free or under 10,000 won, which means you don’t have anything to lose by trying (talking). (talkparty.net).