The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Friday, Dec. 8, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Next, please!

One sun-dried tomato bagel with cream cheese and hot sauce. Toasted? Yes, please. For here or to go? To go. This little exchange costs me $2.53 every single time, but it’s always worth it.

When you’re starved, and ravaged by hunger, where do you go? To “the Alps,” as I like to call it. There’s usually a terribly long and daunting line, but you persevere — it’s the hunter-gatherer instinct in you.

As you wait in line, you are secretly observing the behavior of your peers during a test of their patience, seeing how well they hold up against the pressure of waiting, watching what they do to entertain themselves.

The people in line with you are usually unknown faces, but somehow during the wait, you become united in the linear construct.

You finally reach the end and give your order. For some reason, hot sauce on a bagel earns suspicious glances from your comrades. You pay and leave with your order and a tacit farewell.

When the deal is done, you unwrap your hot buns and feast on the sight of them. There’s always some cream cheese hanging off the edges, and the wrapper has a funky color from the hot sauce. Somehow the taste is always consistent, from first chomp to last.

I’ve always hated bagels. They have a weird, hard yet smooth texture that makes me feel like I’m biting into a helmet, and for some reason, I can never spread my cream cheese evenly. They’re like healthy, tasteless doughnuts that have gone stale because no one wants to eat them.

But for some reason, Alpine bagels are different. It tastes good, but beyond that, it brings us together. It’s a phenomenon unique to UNC that students brave the never-ending line for a few moments of sustenance.

Granted, this may say something about the number of non-dining hall eatery options there are close enough to campus to run to between classes. Maybe some of us are only bagel fans out of necessity.

But the bagel is not just food — in a way it is the glue of our school. All sorts of students frequent Alpine religiously, joining in the same meal despite their varying beliefs. The bagel culture brings together these people in a way no other on-campus dining option does. The purchase of bagels is one thing that’s uniform across all classes.

As a freshman, I would imagine that by senior year, these bagels would lack the allure they had in my first year. But upperclassmen keep coming back. Each customer personalizes their food, manifesting their idiosyncrasies.

This succession of individual orders forms a diverse collective that represents all the oddities on campus. And just as people change from year to year, so will their orders.

I express gratitude for the condiments that flavor the intimidating demeanor of this sometimes overwhelmingly large school.

Although the cups could be constructed out of sturdier material and the ice machine always seems to be empty, I am thankful for the privilege of access to the flowing fountains of high fructose syrup and a shared experience with my peers.

Saffa Kahn is a columnist for the Daily Tar Heel. She is a freshman undecided major from Chapel Hill. Contact Saffa at

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.