A Costco run is incomplete without a stop at their food court. Let’s not pretend otherwise. There are numbers to back this up: The big box retailer is the 14th largest pizza chain in America, with just under 500 outlets nationwide. Want more proof? Costco sells over 100 million hot dogs every single year. That means they outsell all of America’s MLB baseball parks four times over. Which, okay, baseball has a season and Costco is open year-round. But still, that’s enough hot dogs for one in every three Americans.
Why is this so? The bulk king has the perfect balance of low prices, fast service, and palatability. Their hot dog and refillable soda has been the same price for 27 straight years. And $1.50 for that combo is hard to beat anywhere. Also, shopping for food that comes in massive boxes is soul sucking and a little food is sure to help revive you.
Over the years, Costco has added gooey pizza, chicken bakes, churros, and more not-particularly-healthy picks to their menu. But what’s the best item to snag from the Costco Food Court? We had to answer that question because, well, we all go there. Deep down, we all crave those sloppy slices of pizza, over-sized Hot Pocket knock offs, and salty water dogs.
A few caveats here. We’re not including trial dishes like the bowls of chili that are at some locations right now. Even though — Costco hack alert! — you can now make your own chili dogs at those locations. Still, they don’t make the list if they aren’t nationwide.
Okay, so let’s dive into a definitive ranking of the menu items at Costco’s food courts nationwide. Y’all can disagree with us in the comments.
13. Chicken Caesar Salad
Are premade salads ever any good? Honestly, have you ever bought a salad from a grocery and been all like, “OMFG that salad though!” Nah, we’re pretty confident that’s never happened in the history of pre-made grocery store salads — not even at Whole Foods.
So, we’re sorry to say that this has to take the bottom spot in our rankings. The chicken is oddly rubbery and too compressed. The romaine is okay, but lacks crunch. The shredded imitation parmesan is listless. The saving grace of this dish is the dressing and the fact that it’s slightly healthier than mainlining cheese, we guess.
We at Uproxx Life are longtime advocates of fried dough covered in cinnamon sugar. That being said, this is just a stick of fried dough covered in cinnamon sugar. Meh, state fairs and Spain do it better. Now, if this bad boy came with a dark chocolate dipping sauce, then we’d get more excited. Though, to be fair, $1 for a churro is a decent deal if you have a sweet tooth.
Costco hack alert! Order a small pump of the chocolate syrup used in the frozen coffee mochas in a dipping tub. Then dip those churros in that syrupy chocolate! You’re welcome.
11. Hot Turkey and Provolone Sandwich
Hum. There’s nothing wrong with a hot sandwich, per se. But the question kinda begs: Does this sandwich benefit from being hot? Sure, you get the melted cheese. But you also get warmed up turkey slices — which will never be as good as properly roasted turkey breast.
This feels like it’d be a bigger win as a cold deli sandwich with some cranberry chutney. Plus, it’s a newer item, so it hasn’t entrenched itself in our Costco hearts just yet. There’s no way it’s breaking into the top ten.
10. Chocolate Vanilla Yogurt Swirl
Yes, we’re putting ice cream this low. Costco’s swirl is perfectly fine even if it melts a little too quickly. And that’s it, really. There’s nothing special about an ice cream cone that’s done better at Dairy Queen. It’s perfectly suitable if you have a craving for an old school soft serve. Otherwise: Nothing to write home about here.
9. BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich
This is where things start to get a little murky. The brisket is actually nice on this sandwich. The bread works. The slaw has a nice tangy crunch to it. But that sauce… It’s like the chef took a 2-liter of Pepsi and reduced it with a 2-liter of Barq’s Root Beer and added some paprika as an afterthought. It’s so sickly sweet that it kinda kills the sandwich and the smokiness of the brisket is completely lost.
8. Cheese Pizza
Before you cast a stone, the rest of the menu is pretty close from here on out. A slice of cheese pizza is okay if you’re Kevin McCallister and this is 1990. But it’s not 1990. And you’re probably not Macaulay Culkin.
The main issue here is over cooking. Too often that cheese is just past the point of crisp and getting into charred territory. Next, the cheese and sauce ratio always seems to be off here. It’s sort of like they added enough sauce expecting there to be more toppings to hold everything down. Instead, you get a tectonic shift of melted cheese and soggy crust with blazing hot sauce acting as volcanic lube.
Costco hack alert! Take the cheese off of that pizza — it’ll come right off, we swear. And put it on a hot dog. You’ll have hot dog pizza. It’s amazing.
7. Polish Hot Dog
This is a tough one. The Polish does have more flavor than the beef dogs. Finely minced onions, garlic, and paprika add a very slight new dimension. But it’s so slight that heartburn may be the only noticeable difference from the regular dog. If that’s not a problem, then a Polish might be your jam for that extra hint of flavor that goes well with nice pumps of ketchup and deli mustard. It is a hot dog after all — so it’s never going to be that bad.
6. Very Berry Sundae
This dessert gets a bump for the berry sauce that it’s smothered in. The soft serve vanilla shines with the beery medley cut throughout. The real win here is that the sweetness is tempered in that berry sauce. It’s not sickly sweet.
You can argue that the Very Berry Sundae should have a higher ranking. We’re going to counter-argue that a big dessert dish like this is best served in hot months. Eating one in the winter just feels a little like overkill.
5. Costco Gelato
This one’s a fairly new addition to the Costco Food Court family. And we think it’s a winner. Let’s not pretend here. We’re talking about straight up ice cream — Italian market branding aside. But it’s legitimately good ice cream. And single scoop in a cone or in a bowl is the perfect end to a meal — whether you’re at Costco or not.
This one beats out the Very Berry Sundae because of size. A scoop or two of ice cream feels a lot more manageable than a bucket of soft serve.
4. Pepperoni Pizza
Fat is back. So stop dabbing that pizza with a napkin. The pepperoni pizza is a classic slice that works at Costco. The added umami and spice of the pepperoni fixes the blandness of the cheese slice. The weight of the pepperoni also seems to help tie the whole slice together and there’s less mess while eating.
3. Combo Pizza
One rung further up the pizza pie ladder is the Combo. This slice is the best of all worlds. You have your pepperoni and sausage mingling with crunchy onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, and a very light hand of olives. It’s got it all and it’s delicious.
One of the great aspects of the Food Court is that the price of pizza doesn’t go up by toppings. So, technically, you’re also getting more bang for your buck with a Combo slice. Wins all around.
2. Chicken Bake
This over-sized Hot Pocket has won the hearts of many Costco shoppers. The Bake is a combination of chicken breast, bacon, parmesan, mozzarella, caesar salad dressing, and green onion all wrapped up in a small pizza dough and baked. It’s oddly decadent and super filling. And it only costs $2.99. This monstrosity pocket is so big that it can easily be shared by two people. Or not. You do you.
There’s just something about all that melted cheese and caesar dressing mixed with bacon and chicken that works. It shouldn’t. But it somehow does. And that’s why it gets this high of a ranking. It’s the menu item we all never say we love, but always sneak one in whenever we’re at Costco on our own.
1. Hot Dog
There’s no way this slot wasn’t going to the hot dog. The big all beef dog inside a soft steamed bun wins every time. Sure, the $1.50 price tag absolutely helps propel the dog to number one. We’re not going to deny that. But it’s also a legit tasty hot dog.
There’s the heft and savory edge to the meat with the perfect sweet counterpoint of the bun. Pump some umami flavors on there with the ketchup and some tangy spice with the deli mustard and you’ve got a great hot dog in your hands. Throw some sweet and sour relish on there, even better. And — Costco hack alert! — if your outlet is selling chili, make everybody a chili dog ASAP.