I miss eating alone.
I mean, when you live alone during the time of COVID, you do that a lot. Too much. Way too much.
So let’s get to what it’s really about: I miss sitting at the semi-circle bar top of Cosmo’s, eating broth-drowned dumplings by myself.
Everyone who’s been knows Cosmo’s is great — or at the very least, if they’ve met me, they know I’m a fan. And of all the places unable to be open in any capacity right now, this one is a huge loss.
While there’s something special about this East Dallas spot, it shares plenty with other establishments people favor as their home bar.
Sure, anyone who goes to Cosmo’s and regularly orders from Jackson Tran’s menu is also missing the kimchi tots, the vermicelli and the pho.
The difference between ordering excellent noodles to go from somewhere else to have at home isn’t just the fact that it comes in Styrofoam. While eating at home and sitting at the bar both involve a solo diner slurping noodles from a portion that’s probably too much for one person, there’s life in a bar.
We all miss things about Normal Time — having a job, going to work, your coworkers if you’re one of those people, time with family. My biggest loss is watching the world happen around me.
When you're alone at a restaurant, you don't have someone with you for conversation, but you have the company of life happening in the background. You're free from distraction to people-watch. Plus, you can order a ridiculously large bowl of noodles free from judgment by companions. Don't mind the looks from strangers as it's delivered to you: That's healthy jealousy.
Take the scene at Cosmo’s. Let’s face it, I’m not that alone. Three employees in front of me know my name, they all know I’m going to want a gin and tonic, and Jackson knows what kind of gin is going in it. No surprising song comes over the speakers because the jukebox selections are wonderfully consistent (though diverse enough) among the crowd here. An acquaintance just waved because “Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy” has come on, and they know I’m a dedicated Queen fan (as apparently everyone here knows after I've had a certain number of gin and tonics).
I suppose I can buy some frozen tater tots, bake them up, top them with homemade kimchi and some gooey yellow cheese of some kind. Then take my kimchi tots to the closest trail and people-watch. But it’s not the same.
I want to order the mi xao at the counter. “Anyone joining you?” No, no one is except this giant egg noodle stir fry, please.
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Hours later, around 11 p.m., industry people will start to walk through the doors after their shifts to get their own plates involving the excellent broth that comes out of the kitchen.
But before then, I’m happily alone, surrounded by strangers, each living their own lives but among others, sharing in the slightest way — by those of us eavesdropping — but man, does that seem way more important today than it ever did.
One day, we solo diners will slurp noodles again. Not in the way that we’re doing it now, with the dog eagerly waiting below for some piece of heaven to fall. But in the way that we eat alone, while the world moves all around us for us to take in with every bite.