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Love eating alone? A solo dining restaurant just opened in Toronto

Yunnan Noodle Shack in Toronto

Introverts, meet your match.

Wooden panels separate cubicles, call buttons let diners choose when they interact with restaurant staff, and phone stands sit on every table, making it completely socially acceptable to put headphones in and watch Netflix.

“In North America, eating alone is sad,” Andy Su, co-owner of Yunnan Noodle Shack with his wife Jane Yu, told CTV News Toronto, miming air quotes around the word sad.

“It doesn’t have to be.”

It’s an unconventional combination – the dim lighting of a spa, the cubicles of a library and the breezy music of a jazz club – but it works.

“We just want to be the background, the customer is the main character,” Su said, sitting in one of his restaurant’s cubicles ahead of the grand opening this week, located downtown on Baldwin Street near Beverley Street.

Su and Yu moved to Canada from China more than a decade ago. Back home, eating alone is common, particularly at lunchtime, Yu explained. But apart from ramen counters, the couple noticed solo dining didn’t exist in Toronto.

“It’s so good when you can truly feel yourself again. Probably somewhere inside of you, someone is screaming, ‘I’m here! Why’d you leave me in a dark spot for a long time?’ Have a conversation with yourself,” Su said.

Yunnan is named after Su’s hometown in southwestern China and the menu is based on dishes from there – minced pork chili or slow cooked pork shoulder paired with rice noodles, hot and sour wontons, and a pan fried egg with in-house pickled cabbage and cold rice noodles for the non-meat eaters.

Before Yunnan, Su went to law school and Yu was an early childhood educator. But as Yu put it, quoting Tom Hanks in "Forrest Gump", “Life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you're going to get.”

The couple is aiming to open a “Yin” to the restaurant’s solitary “Yang,” next door, hopefully in June.

Su paints a picture of a Chinese bakery where they serve handmade rice balls with lemon tea. A social scene spills out onto the stairs outside where live music accompanies chatter.

“On the stairs, people are chatting. Inside, people are thinking,” he said. Top Stories

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