It's no secret Costco food courts have some of the tastiest, cheapest grub this side of the wholesale shopping cart. But have you ever taken the time to really look at the stuff? Aside from minor regional variations such as bulgogi bakes in Japan or poutine in Canada, the heart of the Costco menu has always consisted of a few dependable, oddly comforting-after-a-buying-a-year's-supply-of-Kirkland-toilet-paper staples.
We're talking golden, Caesar and bacon-filled (if steadily shrinking), chicken bakes and forearm's length churros. It's kind of beautiful, really. Best part, prices haven't really changed since 1991 (six years after the Costco hot dog cart was first introduced in 1985), so today, you can get all the membership-only goodness for only around $20. Come on, free samples can only fill you up so much.
Pepperoni, Cheese, and Combination Pizzas
Two words: Greasy, and Shameless. Technically the 15th largest pizza chain in the U.S. as of 2011, Costco's pies have practically no structural integrity whatsoever, their big, flappy triangles practically drowning in their own cheesy oil. But like the rest of the money, you really can't complain when slices are under $2 and whole pizzas under $10. Just remember to grab extra napkins.
Price: $1.99 slice; $9.95 whole
Berry Smoothie and Latte Mocha Freeze
For a quick fix, the Berry Smoothies and Mocha Freezes are excellent walking' around accoutrements. Sure, they're 200 and 320 calories respectively (more if you ask for a drizzle of chocolate in the mocha), but for all the walking and lifting you'll be doing, you probably need the fuel.
Chicken Caesar Salad
Not everyone can afford to indulge in warehouse-sized junk food whenever they go shopping. For those people, Costco is kind enough to toss over at least one green, leafy bone. The Chicken Caesar Salad is large and portable, served in a nifty reusable container so you can bring it home for lunch the next day. Bonus points: caesar is what they use as cream inside their famous chicken bakes, so if you close your eyes, you can almost pretend it's the same thing. Eh, almost.
Hot Dogs and Polish Sausages
Full disclosure: I couldn't tell the difference between the regular all-beef hot dog and the Polish sausage when it came to taste. I believe the Polish had more pepper? Regardless, at a $1.50 combo with 20 oz. soda (and free refills), they're both a long, meaty testament to everything Costco stands for.
Let me say this first: if you like your heart, it might be best to walk away while you still can. When it comes to Costco's chicken bake, if you hate Caesar dressing and bacon and slightly burnt bread in dizzying quantities, you're going to hate everyone for over-hyping it. If you love all those things, you might just die a slow, delicious death. The size of the hefty hot pockets have steadily dwindled over the years, but there's still nothing more quintessentially Costco.
This thing is as long as an arm, seriously. Try dipping into your chocolate yogurt swirl or mocha freeze for a little extra nuance.
BBQ Brisket Sandwich
It comes cuffed in a strip of thin white cardboard, presumably to keep the Sloppy Joe-like insides from bursting out, which are nestled on a bed of cool and creamy cole slaw. One of the newer menu items, the BBQ Beef Brisket sammy is peppery and sizable — perhaps not enough to receive cult-status, but there's really only so many hot dogs and chicken bakes a heart can take.
Hot Turkey & Provolone Sandwich
Likewise, the turkey provolone sandwich is tasty but a little odd to look at. Strings of waxy cheese hang uncomfortably off the side of the pesto and garlic toasted torta roll. It's definitely a step up from the bizarrely bland carne asada bake it replaced about two years ago, but you're probably better off with the tried-and-trues.
Berry Sundae and Chocolate Vanilla Yogurt Swirl
At the end of a successful Costco binge, it's a rare stomach that can still handle the store's massive desserts, the berry sundae and yogurt swirl (or in in some instances, the chocolate dipped ice cream bar). But then, if your goal is to not have to dig into your precious Costco loot for at least another day, there's no sweeter, more indulgent way to do it.
Price: $1.65 sundae; $1.35 swirl