I discovered Alpha Bar in Trinity term of my first year, and quickly became addicted, eating there at least once a week, and dragging friend after friend to my new favourite place. The bar serves both hot and cold foods, although the majority of people in seemingly endless line are standing patiently for their famous salads. If you arrive at 1pm, there will be approximately twenty people queuing and forcing you into a twenty-minute wait. Want to avoid this? Go at 12:30pm or 2pm.
Now for the prices: For the small salad (definitely filling enough) it is £3.95 for the vegetarian option and £4.25 for one with meat. The larger options are £5.95 and £6.25 respectively. You can choose two or three sides and one or two mains, depending on the portion size, one topping, and finally the option of seeds sprinkled on top. A new perk is their recently introduced loyalty cards which mean that after your eighth blissful meal, you will obtain one for free!
The bar sponsors a range of sides, from garden greens to butternut squash and from orzo pasta to puy lentils. As for the main, any cheese fiends will be glad to know alpha bar offers goat’s cheese, halloumi, feta and mozzarella in various guises. Meat options tend to change daily but range from chicken to beef. Toppings are also wide ranging, including red and basil pesto, hummus, onion marmalade and guacamole. Importantly, the servings are generous, always filling their brown boxes to the brim. Two servers usually work behind the bar, and guarantee smiles and helpfulness, especially if it is your first time there.
Now that you know the basic facts, let me answer the question: why are so many busy people willing to wait for their food?
First and foremost, it is extremely healthy. Between essay crises, cheesy chips at 3 am, and a budget that simply won’t stretch to cover both crew dates and regular vitamins, leading a balanced and nutritious lifestyle is challenging at Oxford. To this end Alpha bar is your remedy, with all its ingredients being natural, homemade on a daily basis, and catering a variety of vegetables and other wholesome goods.
Secondly, it is great value for money. Yes, it is probably true that if you were cooking at home, a meal would end up comparatively cheaper. Yet in terms of eating out, and eating quality food, this is as good as it gets.
Thirdly and finally it tastes amazing! Having something of an obsession with this place (if you hadn’t picked up on that already) I have tried practically every dish they have to offer. Everything has a unique and delicious flavour, and no ingredient is too overpowering or rich. As well as this, no matter what combination you choose, all the ingredients seem to fuse together perfectly.
Moving to negatives (although few) it is fair to say that the one major downfall of Alpha Bar, ironically also the testimony to its popularity, is the long queues. Considering most people in Oxford are always in some kind of rush, Alpha Bar can be tricky if you need to grab something on the go. They also do not accept debit or credit cards, although this is less of an issue, with Cornmarket Street being right outside. To finish, and potentially more of a niche point, the falafel they offer is quite dry and tasteless, although this is the only food they offer that I can criticize.
I hope you make a trip down to Alpha Bar today!