Some people love Costco for its budget-friendly selection of groceries. Others are loyal Costco shoppers thanks to the pharmacy. Or maybe they love the giant packs of household essentials, such as toilet paper and disposable plates. And some people love Costco for its deals on electronics. Whatever the reason you find yourself at your local Costco, there’s one amenity every kind of shopper can enjoy: the Costco food court.
Whether you’re spending $10 or $1,000 at Costco, there are plenty of reasons to love the Costco food court and the delicious food that’s served there. Want to know the best reasons to spring for that slice of pizza or to stop for a hot dog the next time you shop at Costco? Read on to check out all the things we love most about the Costco food court.
1. It’s consistent
Nobody would argue the food at the Costco food court is the very best. But most shoppers agree it’s consistent. That’s comforting, whether you want a slice of pizza or a serving of ice cream. And it’s more than can be said for many of the fast food places you might be tempted to hit on the drive home.
As the Daily Meal explains, you can “visit any Costco in America when you travel and it’ll look just like the one in your own city, right down to the food court.” The blog adds, “Some food courts are inside and some are outside, but the menu will be essentially the same.”
2. But there’s always something novel on the menu
The Daily Meal reports though you can count on getting the same dependable foods at every Costco food court, regardless of the season, the store does keep one menu spot open for rotating items. “These have included a turkey wrap, carne asada bake, hot turkey and provolone, and barbecue beef brisket sandwich.” You can always opt for one of the old standbys if the seasonal option doesn’t appeal to you. But if you find yourself craving something novel, you have that option, too.
3. Costco locations abroad even feature local items
We can’t quite envision a scenario in which you’d travel abroad and really, really need to head to Costco. But if you do find yourself in that situation, you’ll likely discover that in addition to the familiar menu items, the Costco food court features a few local items, too. According to the Daily Meal, “There’s a bulgogi bake in Japan, poutine and Montreal smoked meat in Canada, meat pie in Australia, jacket potatoes and cottage pie in the U.K., and in Hawaii (still a part of the U.S.), you’ll find saimin, a local noodle soup.”
4. Food court staff will give you a nutrition printout
When you eat at a restaurant or fast food chain, you usually have to do your own research if you want detailed nutritional information for the items on the menu. (That often translates to squinting at small print on a smartphone.) But the Daily Meal reports at the Costco food court, you can get a nutrition printout that has the stats for every item on the menu. That way, you can easily compare options.
5. You don’t always have to be a Costco member to eat there
A Costco membership can pay off. But if you’ve decided a membership isn’t for you, you don’t necessarily have to swear off the Costco food court. It all depends on whether the food court is located inside the store or outside the main entrance. If it’s inside, then unfortunately, it’s for members only.
But if your Costco location of choice positioned its food court outside the main entrance, then the general public can also eat there. Your best bet for finding one of these Costco locations, according to the blog Rather Be Shopping, is to head to a Costco in a warmer climate or one positioned inside a shopping mall.
6. You can supplement your meal with free samples
You’re not limited to what’s on the food court menu when you grab a meal at Costco. One of the most fun things about shopping for your groceries at Costco is getting to try the free samples. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should annoy the sample person and grab an entire tray of that appetizer you love. But if you ask nicely, you can probably get an extra sample to enjoy with your meal.
7. Or you can pair Costco food court items with other hot foods
Sample caveats aside, you can definitely pair your Costco food court items with other hot foods you’ve bought at the warehouse store. Costco’s famous $4.99 rotisserie chicken — an item whose price the company seems intent on keeping the same — makes a delicious and budget-friendly, if messy, item to eat in the food court. Or you can go the healthier route and supplement your food court buys with fresh fruits or vegetables.
8. The prices are surprising — and not in a bad way
Sticker shock is a term we’re all familiar with. And we empathize with everybody else who’s experienced it because nobody likes being surprised by exorbitant prices. So the prices at Costco’s food court will surprise you — but in a good way. After all, can you name any other place where you can always buy a hot dog and a soda for $1.50? How about a slice of pizza for $1.99? Or a chicken bake for $2.99? It’s hard to beat those prices.
And Costco customers will assure you food court prices at the chain rarely, if ever, change. In fact, the hot dog and soda combo has remained at $1.50 since the deal was introduced in the mid 1980s.
9. Costco does everything it can to keep prices down
Speaking of those surprisingly low prices, the Daily Meal reports Costco does everything it can to keep food court prices down. That includes switching to Pepsi products after Coca-Cola increased its prices.
And it includes the company making its own hot dogs. The Costco food court switched from Hebrew National to Costco’s own Kirkland Signature brand in order to avoid raising prices. That might be part of the reason why Costco sells roughly 100 million hot dogs annually. (According to the Daily Meal, that’s four times the number sold at Major League Baseball parks all season.)
10. Everybody loves the pizza
Thrillist ranked everything in the Costco food court and found the best item on the menu is the pizza. Nobody would call Costco pizza great. But as Thrillist explains, “It’s a product of its time and place. And its place is Costco, its time is whenever you have a minute to pull your overstuffed cart over. It serves this moment in your life near perfectly.” Lucky Peach characterizes Costco food court pizza as “so awfully and immodestly good.”
Plus, Costco technically counts as one of America’s largest pizza chains. Costco has about 400 locations in the U.S., and almost all of them sell pizza. So Delish reports that “with around 400 locations in the U.S., Costco is the 15th largest pizza chain in America, even outnumbering places like California Pizza Kitchen.”
11. The hot dogs earn good marks, too
In its “official Costco food court power rankings,” Lucky Peach also had a lot to say about the hot dogs on the menu. The magazine gave high marks to the quarter-pound PLUS Polish dog and preferred it to the all-beef hot dog.
Though they look the same, the Polish “is more garlicky and slightly spicy; and the option to include a mouth-puckering wad of absolutely free sauerkraut makes this dog best in show.” It comes with a 20-ounce, refillable soda cup, and at $1.50, it “is one of the best lunch deals you’ll find anywhere in the Western world.” You can’t argue with that logic.
12. The chicken bake is pretty inventive
Though it’s undoubtedly one of Costco’s more popular items, the chicken bake is a pretty divisive item. As Lucky Peach puts it, “You’re either with us or against us. You’re either on team chicken bake, or you’re not.” This calorie-laden meal consists of a “hot, foot-long tube sock of dough stuffed with chicken, bacon, and Caesar dressing.”
The story goes that staff at Costco HQ were looking for ways to use existing ingredients to create new items. So they used pizza dough, plus chicken and dressing from the chicken Caesar salad to devise the chicken bake. As Lucky Peach tells it, “One day someone said, essentially, ‘What if we turned a Caesar salad into a calzone?’ The rest is history. History that can sustain a man for at least half a day for just $2.99.”
13. There’s 1 healthy — or healthy-ish — item on the menu
Lucky Peach notes there’s one healthy item on the Costco food court menu — or, perhaps more accurately, one that at least pretends to be healthy. And that’s the chicken Caesar salad.
“It definitely is, if you exclude the dressing and croutons: a mere 270 calories and 10 grams of fat,” Lucky Peach says. “With the whole shebang, however — lettuce, grilled chicken, Parmesan cheese, tomato, garlic croutons, generous portion of creamy Caesar dressing — that’ll add roughly an additional 500 calories and 50 grams of fat.”
14. Long lines happen, but they ensure fresh food
Want to sample the food at the Costco food court when it’s at its freshest? Then, don’t shy away when lines get long. In fact, that’s the best time to try the churros. (Lucky Peach reports “when you get a hot Costco churro, ain’t nothing better.”) Delish talked to Costco employees to get the inside scoop on the warehouse retailer. The publication found out when the lines at the Costco food court are long, that “indicates that they’re going through food fast, and cooking it even faster.”
15. You can pay for your food at the same time you pay for your warehouse purchases
This might not save you the wait at a busy Costco food court. But according to Costco-savvy Redditors, you can pay for the food you want at the food court right in the Costco checkout line. “When you purchase something at the register, say you would like to add a hot dog to your order. They add it. You go straight to pick-up and show them your receipt,” one user advises.
Another person, who actually works at a Costco food court, just adds the caveat, “Please, for my sanity, don’t expect to be served immediately if there’s a long line just because you prepaid.”
16. After you make it through Costco, you deserve some food
After you’ve spent hours navigating the aisles of your local Costco (and before you and your cart take to the obstacle course that is the crowded Costco parking lot), you deserve to sit down for a few minutes and recharge your batteries. Sure, you won’t find much health food at the Costco food court. But are you really going to break open the industrial-size packs of kale and quinoa as soon as you get home? Probably not. So you can at least save your wallet the hit of the McDonald’s drive-thru or a Chinese takeout order by grabbing something to eat before you’ve even left Costco.