There are few food halls as beloved as Costco's. It's an indelible icon of our time: the unchanging Kirkland Signature branding, the irresistibly convenient location just beyond the checkout lane, and of course, the $1.50 hot dog that hasn't changed in price on the food court menu since 1985. With its uber-quick American comfort foods at (mostly) rock-bottom prices, it's a hard bargain to pass up on any trip out to the wholesale warehouse chain.
Much has changed for the retail giant's food offerings in more recent years. In 2020, Costco cut back a large portion of its menu amid the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering only hot dogs and pizza to go. In late 2021, Costco discontinued the cult-followed combination pizza from its food court menu. The days were dismal for a while there, but it seems like Costco is back to business, adding new items and featuring some mainstays. But what, you may ask, is worth your wallet and your stomach at Costco's food court these days?
We tried every item on the present menu and ranked them in order from worst to best, so you don't have to. (Please note that some limited or regional items may be missing.) We did our best to judge each item by taste, value, and replay value. Some of our beloveds were just as good as we remember, other items caught us off guard for better or for worse, and, unfortunately, a few were incredibly disappointing.
11. Cheese Pizza
To our dismay, the slice of cheese pizza was by far the worst item we tasted on Costco's food court menu. We don't know if it was an off day or if nostalgia had rose-tinted our food memories, but this pizza was capital-B bad. We're also unsure how it is possible to get cheese, bread, and tomato sauce so utterly wrong, but we live to tell the tale.
The melted mozzarella cheese looks well-caramelized and rather appetizing until we examine the pie from an angle and notice the layer of sepia-colored grease that slicks the surface. Compared to the pepperoni, there is much more oil on the cheese pizza. Gross. Next, we check the sauce coverage on the dough by lifting up the layer of melted cheese near where it meets the crust. We find that there is only sauce on the uppermost third of the slice, leaving the rest of it dry under the cheese.
Upon tasting, our suspicions were confirmed, if not proven worse than expected. The pie is somehow simultaneously greasy, dry, stale, and devoid of flavor. It just tastes like old, melted cheese that coats the teeth, lips, and hands in a sheen of oil. The crust is hard and dry, as though it had been left out for hours. We expected more from one of the largest pizza chains' food court, but unfortunately, it doesn't get worse than this. Though only $1.99, we argue that no amount of money is worth this slice of pizza.
In second-to-last place: the braided, cinnamon sugar-coated, extra-long churro. This Mexican fried dough dessert has designated its place at Costco for quite some time now — having even made a fanfared comeback on its food court menu back in 2021 — though we aren't sure why. There is really nothing redeeming about this churro, despite its good looks.
When we think of a good churro, we think of a freshly fried, steamy, airy noodle of dough. A good churro should be slightly crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and full of flavor. Sadly, Costco's churro, at $1.49, is none of these things. It's pretty, yes: the iconic braided twist is symmetrical across the length of this very long baguette-sized churro, but its aesthetic pleasantries unfortunately don't translate to its flavor or texture.
Biting into Costco's churro is akin to getting a mouthful of sand at the beach. It's dry beyond belief, the moisture-less pastry absorbing whatever saliva might be lingering on your tongue. Its dryness is matched by a dull, stale taste, as though it had been fried several days ago. There is a hint of cinnamon there, but even that tastes like it had been sitting in a spice cabinet for over a decade.
(Please note: Taste testing took place over the course of two days, coincidentally at the exact time that Costco swapped the churro out for its successor, the double chocolate chunk cookie. We feel it is only right to include the churro on this list.)
10. Fruit Smoothie
Costco's food court fruit smoothie made a comeback in the fall of 2023 after the mango smoothie (very briefly) replaced it on food court menus that summer. It's easy to see what others might see in this smoothie: It's refreshingly cold, not overly sweet, and not as overbearing as some of the other rather caloric options on the menu are. But while Costco's fruit smoothie isn't quite awful, it makes it here on the list because it isn't good, either.
Nothing can make a smoothie better than fresh, ripe fruit — especially a medley of berries. Unfortunately, this beverage doesn't quite transport us to foraging in the summer berry bramble, but more importantly, it doesn't really taste like fresh fruit all that much. The strawberry flavor is definitely prevalent, but it tastes more like frozen fruit puree. The artificial flavor is compounded by the fact that the smoothie isn't as well-blended as we would have liked it either. It's a bit slushy, with the liquid falling out of suspension from the frozen parts, rather than being nice and smooth. Perhaps whatever smoothie mix Costco is using at its food court doesn't have as much pectin in it to keep it thick.
Despite our criticisms, the fruit smoothie isn't disgusting. If you're really craving something refreshing and on the healthier side, this will scratch the itch just enough to be satisfactory. For only $2.99, this smoothie is budget-friendly, and that's exactly what you're going to get: a budget smoothie. We can live with that.
9. Cold Brew Mocha Freeze
At the top of the bottom of our list is Costco's cold brew mocha freeze, a food court item which admittedly hasn't gotten much positive feedback since it took over the cheaper mocha freeze. We happen to agree with much of the criticism about this drink but can contend that it's not the worst frozen coffee beverage on the market.
To our surprise, this blended mocha is thicker and more consistent than the fruit smoothie. The thickness is the same throughout, akin to that of an Icee or Slushee dispensed fresh from the machine. The cold brew, made from Kirkland Signature beans, is strong and robust in flavor at the back of the palate, but it comes after a sickly saccharine wave at the front. Whether this comes from the gobs of chocolate syrup that spiral the walls of the cup, or from the cold brew mixture itself, is up for debate. But whatever it may be, the sweetness is just a bit too overbearing, making it nearly impossible to get through an entire cup by oneself.
This drink may be better shared as a coffee-flavored dessert rather than a boost of caffeine on the go. The sugar content in the drink alone is likely to slow you down. But, at $2.99, it's not a bad option if you are a fan of coffee desserts and are looking for something to split with a friend. We could see ourselves ordering it once in a blue moon.
8. Rotisserie Chicken Caesar Salad
This next item segues us into our middle-tier category. If you're one of the many fans of Costco's very cheap rotisserie chicken, the rotisserie chicken Caesar salad might beckon to you when searching for a quick and healthy lunch option. We were excited to try this because, despite staunch criticism by some, Costco has some of the most popular rotisserie chicken on the market. We weren't wowed by this salad, but we weren't disappointed either.
We gleaned, upon first glance, that the salad is rather barebones. There's not much else besides shredded pieces of rotisserie chicken breast and thigh meat atop a bed of sliced romaine lettuce, alongside some shredded parmesan and a packet of Caesar dressing. The croutons pictured in the food court photo are suspiciously nowhere to be found. As a basic deli-style chicken Caesar salad, this salad ticks the boxes. The rotisserie chicken is the star of the show, which is to be expected. It's as tender and juicy as always. The lettuce is fresh, crisp, and blemish free.
But the chicken salad lands itself in the "mid" category not because of its staples, but because of its lack of attention to detail. The Caesar dressing and cheese are pre-packaged, which is fine, but this definitely detracts from the few ingredients the salad has. The missing croutons is a bit of a faux pas as well, especially as it's worth noting that, at $6.99, the salad isn't the cheapest thing on the menu.
7. Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae
You can order ice cream at Costco in two forms: alone in a cup or in a sundae. We forwent trying the ice cream cup and instead went with the whole sundae in order to try both the ice cream and the toppings. In the case of the vanilla sundae, the ice cream is supreme, while the accouterments weren't quite what we were looking for.
First thing first: The retail giant is due its roses for its soft serve. Whereas many soft serve vendors use a packaged mix in their machines, Costco's food court uses Kirkland Signature Super Premium Vanilla Ice Cream. This ice cream has a high fat content and has little overrun, meaning there is a higher cream-to-air ratio than standard ice cream. When spun through the soft serve machine, the Kirkland Signature ice cream becomes impossibly thick yet fluffy, creating a texture that is as light as it is thick.
Unfortunately, we find that the ice cream is more or less ruined by the chocolate syrup in the sundae. Just like the cold brew mocha freeze, the sundae is made much too sweet by the addition of chocolate syrup. It's not that it isn't tasty — it is — but the saccharinity is nearly unbearable, lowering the edibility factor of this dessert. The sickly sweetness makes it impossible to finish. Thus, you're better off saving your money and paying $0.50 less for the cup of naked ice cream, sans chocolate syrup.
6. Roast Beef Sandwich
One of the newest items on the menu, Costo's food court roast beef sandwich has been making some waves in the wholesaler's fan base since it was introduced to the public in early 2023. At $9.99, the same price as a whole pizza, it's the food court's most expensive single item. Some on the internet have even begun speculating about the sandwich's ostensible discontinuation. Whether the rumors are true or not, is the sandwich worth its salt and its price tag?
Yes and no. Costco's roast beef seems like it's trying to strike a middle ground between a hot roast beef sandwich and a cold deli one. The sandwich is huge: Cool slices of roast beef are served on a large ciabatta roll and dressed with onion relish, a mayo/mustard blend, lettuce, roasted cherry tomatoes, and red onions. It's served cut in two, but each half is easily enough for one person, making the sandwich a great option for sharing.
Overall, it's a pretty tasty sandwich. The fancy-ish accouterments like roasted cherry tomatoes and onion relish make the sandwich taste more complex and interesting than many of the other Costco food court items. The roast beef is cooked nicely and holds its moisture well, and the artisan bread is rather fresh. But our concern is with the price tag, which lands the sandwich dead center on our list. Delicious as it may be, because it is so pricey, we're unlikely to order it very often.
5. Strawberry Ice Cream Sundae
We mentioned the delectable vanilla ice cream at Costco's food court, and the same goes for the strawberry. There are a few reasons we ranked this sundae higher on our list than its vanilla counterpart, the first of which being that the strawberry ice cream is even fluffier and more delicious than the vanilla. The strawberry flavor in the ice cream is not artificial tasting in the slightest, and it's delicate at that.
We ordered the strawberry ice cream sundae with the strawberry syrup topping, which, to our extreme relief, is much better than the chocolate syrup. The strawberry syrup has real pieces of strawberries in it, which makes it taste like more of a jam than a syrup. The topping is threaded throughout the ice cream swirls from the bottom to the top of the cup. The syrup is still pretty sweet, but it's a lot more edible, and actually tastes very similar to whatever is put in the fruit smoothie. We actually like the flavor a whole lot more in ice cream than we do in the drink.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with this sundae — it's a lot of ice cream for $2.49. If you're a strawberry superfan, this one's for you. Otherwise, it's a lot to finish on your own, which may steer us toward the cup of strawberry ice cream in the future. That said, there is replay value with this one — if not alone, then definitely with a pal.
4. Hot Dog And Drink Combo
Now that we've made it to the best of the list, please give it up one time for the Costco hot dog: It's an admirable nod to tradition that this quintessential American staple has lasted at the same value on the same menu for as long as it has. The unwavering buck-fifty combo's sticker price has remained uninflated since 1985, surviving as is on Costco's food court menu even through a change of CEO and reportedly some (hopefully good-natured) death threats.
It's true, the Costco hot dog is the ultimate all-American deal. For only $1.50, you get a rather large all-beef frankfurter and a fountain drink of your choice. The sausage itself is surprisingly more flavorful than we'd expect out of a run-of-the-mill hot dog. It's super smoky and moist (albeit a bit greasy). Optional free toppings include chopped onions, sweet pickle relish, mustard, and ketchup to load on at your discretion. Plus, you can refill your 20 oz. soda for free.
Hands down, the hot dog and drink combo at Costco is the ultimate bargain, virtually unheard of these days in this market, even in the cheapest eateries across the States. Despite being just a sausage in a bun with a free drink, its value is what brings us back to the hot dog so often, and what earns it number four on our list.
3. Pepperoni Pizza
While we struck out with the cheese pizza, we had higher hopes that the pepperoni pizza wouldn't lead us astray. If you look around at other diners at the food court tables, you'll notice that the pepperoni is ordered a lot, and for good reason. The first thing we notice about the pizza is the sheer amount of pepperoni slices on one single slice. This is not a smattering nor a speckling of pepperoni, as one might expect of any old pizza slice — oh no. This is a housing shortage in the pepperoni neighborhood. Our slice comes out with (count 'em) 11 slices of meat, and we are ever so grateful to the Costco food court pizza robots and employees alike for it.
We are also grateful that we have none of the same issues with this slice of pepperoni that we did with our dismal slice of cheese. There is a fine coating of sauce spread out beneath the surface of cheese and meat, reaching from crust to tip. The amount of grease feels proportional to the amount of spicy and savory pepperoni that adorns the slice and can be easily dabbed away by a napkin if desired. The crust is hot, fresh, and crispy on the outside, and chewy on the inside.
Costco's pepperoni pizza is an icon for a reason: If it's ever missed, we've never seen it. At only $1.99, the same price as the cheese slice, the pepperoni slice is truly a no brainer.
2. Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie
Well, well, if it isn't the new kid on the block. Costco recently — and coincidentally, while we were working on this list — swapped out its churro for a huge double chocolate chunk cookie on its food court menu. But to say this cookie is huge is an understatement: it is pizookie-sized-sized. As with any new item on any menu, we went into this taste test with grace. It's very possible, we thought, that this cookie might need some time to be perfected. It might not be the best, but we're trying it for the sake of the reader, so it must be done.
In short, we are blown away. Despite some high-altitude Costco locations reportedly experiencing quality control issues with the new food court menu item, our cookie is baked to perfection. About as wide and as thick as our hands, the cookie is fresh and warm and slightly crisp on the outside, with a gooey and melty interior. Clearly made with plenty of butter, the chewy dough melts on the tongue as soon as contact is made. It's a textural wonderland, and the flavors are exactly what a chocolate chip cookie should strive for: well-sweetened dough, bittersweet chocolate chips, and just a slight hint of salt.
We can't believe we're putting this brand-new menu item almost at the top of our list — especially above the tried-and-true pepperoni pizza, but here we are. If you don't believe us, you'll have to try it for yourself.
1. Chicken Bake
As we reach the top, we want to note that this number one spot was a tearing decision to make. Really, it is possible that any of the other top three items could have snagged this spot, depending on the day. But it's also possible that the chicken bake, with its secret weapon inside, is the single best item on the menu at Costco's food court.
We like to think of the name "chicken bake" as an undersell. What the chicken bake really is, is more or less a chicken Caesar calzone. Inside a massive baguette-sized (why is everything at Costco so big?) roll of pizza dough smattered with cheese are pieces of rotisserie chicken breast, more cheese, bacon, and Caesar dressing. You'd be hard pressed to find something like it many other places, and for as cheap as $3.99.
The chicken bake tops the list for its overall success in all categories. First, it is delicious. The well-established tender rotisserie chicken melds in a saucy and cheesy medley with creamy Caesar dressing inside a neat little dough package. Like most items, it's best when hot and fresh. It's like a gourmet hot pocket, but much larger. Despite the size, it travels well and can be easily eaten one-handed on the go. Finally, what truly rings the bell for this calzone is the massive bang for your buck, as the chicken bake can easily be made into two meals for the price of half one (or less).
Read the original article on Tasting Table.