But the largest legend, at least for Northwestern students, is the supposed existence of an Einstein Bros. Bagels on campus. Being a sophomore whose typical meal is whatever meaty substance sits in approximately 30 gallons of grease at 1835 Hinman, the prospect of nourishment not capable of instantly destroying my arteries was enticing.
Yet, nobody I know has ever been to this fabled bagel-institute, thus throwing its existence into serious question. After yet another tastes-like-carpet-sample meal, I decided enough was enough. I was going to find the elusive Einstein Bros. Bagels and solve this mystery once and for all.
One fateful day, with the sky gray and no good daytime television to watch, I decided to find the fabled chain restaurant nestled up north. Fearing I would not return from my expedition, I kept a journal of my travels, so that future explorers, craving a toasted bagel but lost on their journey, could be aided by my efforts. And so it began:
My voyage into the unknown begins at the all-too-familiar Hinman, where I am searching for information. I hope someone, anyone on South Campus has walked the mysterious halls of Pancoe and can enlighten me, even slightly, as to what I might find there. Having not eaten a Hinman breakfast since October of 2005, I had no idea what to expect, and went in thinking the dining hall would have the same attendance as an “Emily’s Reasons Why Not” fan convention. Surprisingly, there are almost double the amount of students I expected: a robust eight. One must surely know of Einstein’s existence up north!
“No, I’ve never heard of it,” Weinberg freshman Emily Murawski says from the ISRC section of the dining area.
Murawski says she frequents the Einstein Bros. Bagels in Evanston, saying she’s usually closer to there than to anywhere on north campus.
Hoping to find someone who could verify that the Pancoe bagelry wasn’t the next bonsai kitten, I maneuvered myself to the other side of the dining hall, where I found Kim Lewis, clad in a pink shirt and spreading butter on an English muffin. Surely a fan of breakfast breads would know about an Einstein’s on campus.
“I know about it vaguely,” the School of Communication freshman says. “I just know there is one.”
Like Murawski, Lewis says she just goes into Evanston to quell any bagel urges. Her current class schedule doesn’t help, either.
“If I had classes [up north], I would go,” she says. “But I don’t.”
I can’t afford anymore time to gathering knowledge. Like the great explorers Lewis and Clark before me, I will go into my venture blind, unsure of what sights I will see or perils I will encounter.
The bane of my college career: discussion section. If only my $40,000 just instantly got me my diploma, life would be perfect. Alas, my quest will have to wait 50 minutes.
What’s the point of discussion sections? All that ever happens is a recap of what already went down in class and an occasional deeper look into some dense reading half the class ignored because Grey’s Anatomy was on. Really, the only people who get anything out of this are the socially-deprived chatterboxes who LOVE to show off how much they know about political science because nobody was reading their politically-charged Livejournal. JUST SHUT UP.
Wait, this journal is about bagels. Ignore this entry.
The sky is overcast, nothing but a blanket of grey covering the Earth. I have just passed the library, and am now officially in north campus territory. The playful, liberal-arts heavy spirit of the south has been replaced with the mechanical, almost robotic postures of its northern cousin. I don’t know what to expect in this land, but I fear it will change me for good.
I have reached the sprawling labyrinth that is the NU Technological Institute. I truly believe every building on north campus is connected to Tech, so there is surely a bridge or a tunnel or a Warp Pipe to Einstein’s. Of course, finding said passageway to Pancoe will be difficult, as trying to locate an exact door in Tech is like trying to find a bathroom at Epcot Center. I march through the front doors.
I decide to stop at Tech Express to collect my bearings before my trek into the unknown. Here, I reason, is the perfect place to find someone who can verify Pancoe’s existence. Grad student Ted Yeh holds the answer I crave.
“I’ve been there, like, twice,” he says.
Victory! I now know this Einstein’s Bagels is, in fact, real and my jaunt has gone from wild goose chase to legitimate mission. Yeh goes on, saying what he feels about the bagel stop.
“It’s a good study area,” he says.
Yeh says the school could promote the food hangout better, with signs perhaps. I second this, as it would make my quest easier and prevent an ending like “The Mystery of Al Capone’s Vault.”
Tech is surprisingly barren today, the only sound reverberating through the halls the squeaks of my wet sneakers. I see a sign: “Pancoe [picture of arrow pointing left].” I follow its directions, pacing through the dimly lit corridor adorned with flyers for various Bill Nye-esque science experiments. I spy a door. I open it.
I have now reached an odd open-air area. Straight ahead of me is a door. To my left is a door. To my right is a bridge… which leads to a door. So this is my deciding moment. Which door will I choose? If I choose correctly, I will be showered with praise and bagel schmear. If I choose wrong, I will be subjected to a life of wandering the dimly lit halls of Tech forevermore. I eye each door nervously. This is the greatest decision I’ve faced since the “Vote for the next M&M’s color” contest back in the day.
A man carrying what appears to be a cheap Garfield cup one would typically buy at McDonald’s alongside their Quarter Pounder with Cheese combo meal emerges from one of the doors. I trust him. I enter the door.
(At this point, I lose track of time)
I have never seen this hall before. Pipes jut from the ceiling. I walk by rooms stocked with equipment straight out of Battlestar Galactica. No signs point to Pancoe. I am completely lost. I have failed to leave a breadcrumb trail, meaning I am completely doomed. I take a left.
After several more minutes of aimless walking, I make an incredible discovery. A second Tech Express! A breakthrough. Sure to win me a Nobel Prize, at least. As I bask in my triumphant discovery, I notice that this duplicate dining area resembles the other one almost exactly. I notice the people here resemble the people at the other Tech Express as well. After several seconds of deep thought, I realized I have been punk’d and that this is in fact the same Tech Express as before. I carry on, fazed but not defeated.
I am back in the open air spot. I realize my Gomer Pyle-eque cunning won’t be enough. I need help. I approach a fellow smoking a cigarette by one of the doors of doom, and ask him where Pancoe is.
“Pancoe iz, down ze stairs, to ze left,” he says in his best Pepe Le Pew voice.
I follow his French-garbled instructions, and wander around for a bit. I stumble about a parking lot, until I spot a sign affixed to a second-story window.
“Einstein’s Bagels” it proclaims.
Sweet providence! I’ve found Pancoe. I enter the front door, and head up a flight of stairs.
So it does exist. It’s smaller than I imagined, but beautiful nonetheless. After my epic journey across the NU campus I am not only rewarded with a sense of accomplishment, but also free bagel and schmear samples. I decide the bite-size bagels aren’t enough, and I require real sustenance. I order a lemonade and an ultra-exciting plain bagel with butter (toasted), keeping with my philosophy that the best things in life are the blandest. I get my breakfast bread and sit down at a table, which is unfortunately as shaky as any relationship involving Paris Hilton.
I devour my buttery treat, and notice I’m surrounded by about 30 other people, most of them buried in books or other study materials. Junior Steve Hall, for one, is focusing on problem sets that look like Line Rider courses to me.
“This is the most convenient place to study,” he says. “It’s a nice place, lots of space.”
Like me, this is the McCormick student’s first time at Einstein’s. However, he’s just taking a break between classes, while I’m pretending to be the NU version of Columbus. Hall says he would definitely come back to Pancoe, especially on Fridays, when his schedule is at its most chaotic.
Hall says he also understands why so few Northwestern students know of Einstein’s existence.
“The problem with this place is it’s out of the way for a lot of students,” he says.
Which is a shame, because the Einstein’s Bagels in Pancoe is a welcome escape from the usual dreck served up by NU Cuisine, and a very relaxed atmosphere. I hope to stop by Einstein’s more, even if it isn’t frequently, just to take a break from the usual routine and enjoy an unexciting plain bagel (toasted).
That is, as long as I don’t get lost again and just decide to stay at the “second” Tech Express. Man, what a discovery that would have been….
Photos by Patrick St. Michel