Restaurants are tricky to navigate for the solo diner. Taking a whole table to oneself can be awkward, especially in a really busy restaurant; it's hard to deny the irritation of a server who knows that one person is going to spend less money, and therefore tip less, than four. Sitting at the bar is sometimes an option, but kind of a crappy one—the company can be iffy (pushy old dudes who can't resist chatting up unattached ladies), not to mention that the barstool slouch does nothing for my digestion.
This is where the Press Club comes in. Recently opened next to Green Noise Records in the ever-charming SE Clinton Street hub, the Press Club bills itself as a place where the lone diner can eat in comfort, without feeling like a social leper for not having a lunch date. To that end, inside tables are limited to a handful of small two seaters, perfect for spreading out books, notebooks, or a laptop (should you accidentally arrive with a group of three, there are a few prime outdoor tables that overlook the bustling Clinton corner).
There's also an impressive array of magazines in stock, from the Paris Review and Tin House to Allure and Cycling Monthly, though a sign on the magazine racks sternly reminds customers that magazines are for purchase only. The overall effect is good taste, minus pretension—the earth-toned walls and the fresh flowers on the tables hint at adult sophistication, but no one's going to judge you for buying a copy of Blender.
I went for a solo dine one afternoon, packing a few books and planning to stay awhile. Even though I was the only person in the place, I was neither rushed nor ignored—the service was prompt without being over-attentive. The food is just what'd you expect for the atmosphere and price: gracefully executed though fairly basic, with a few yuppie flourishes.
While small, the menu is thoughtful, with appetizers including a house olive plate and an antipasto platter; the rest of the menu is mostly "gourmet" crêpes and sandwiches. My smoked salmon crêpe came with crème fraîche and dill, along with a delightful house salad (topped with two crunchy olive-oil drizzled breadsticks), which made for a satisfying little lunch. The turkey sandwich was the unexpected star of the menu, though, thanks to a truly kickass pesto spread that did wonders for the standard turkey and Swiss pairing. Other offerings like a mozzarella and prosciutto crêpe; a basil, tomato, and fresh mozzarella sandwich; and a hot salami sandwich looked poised to fall along the same crowd-pleasing lines.
The dessert menu was tiny, but the caramel custard tart I tried was delicious. The pastries all seem to be made elsewhere; given that savory crêpes are on the menu already, it would've been nice to see some dessert crêpe options—preferably involving strawberries, whipped cream, and Nutella.
Though the food is nothing to scoff at, the Press Club caters to the non-diner as well: you won't feel like an asshole hanging out for an hour just to have a beer and update your blog (the wine and beer lists are both fairly extensive and reasonably priced). All told, the Press Club succeeds marvelously at creating a comfortable, sophisticated space where any diner can enjoy a little unhurried, unmolested "me time."