The tables in the food court at my local Costco are a veritable sea of paper plates dripping with oversized slices of pizza, populated by a fleet of foil-wrapped hot dogs and chicken bakes. Those three items are so popular, so widely consumed, you’d think that’s all the food court sells. But there’s more to the menu than this trio (not a lot more, but still). It’s high time we shed a little light on three other items you’re probably overlooking.
1. Açaí Bowl, $5
There was quite a kerfuffle when Costco replaced the popular Polish dog with this healthy and not even remotely similar option last summer. But there’s only so much room on the menu board above the registers, and something had to go (and it wasn’t going to be the hot dog). Although this cool and fruity smoothie bowl isn’t much of a sausage replacement, it’s a darn tasty treat at the end of a long shopping excursion. Topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries, plus almond granola and banana chips for welcome texture, it’s a refreshing belly-filler you’d be wise to split with a friend.
Pro tip: If the tartness of the açaí soft-serve smoothie is too much for you, ask them to fill the bowl with the açaí and vanilla fro-yo swirl instead. It’s way better than the gloppy and too-sweet berry sundae.
2. Turkey and Provolone Sandwich, $4
You can’t go wrong with this sandwich. The chewy ciabatta roll gets slathered in pesto, then stacked with a generous inch of sliced turkey, with a couple of slices of tomato and red onions for contrasting brightness, and provolone for melty, cheesy goodness. It’s as good as you’d get at a neighborhood café.
3. Vegan Al Pastor Salad, $5
If you’re craving something fresh and crunchy, instead of melty and gooey, you’re usually stuck with the chicken Caesar salad. But this longtime staple is boring! The vegan al pastor salad is a definite improvement — although oddly branded. It’s not reminiscent of any al pastor flavors I’ve ever encountered, and the “banh mi vegetable” description is just a weird way of saying the carrots and onions are mildly pickled. Still, it’s a tasty salad. You get a generous pile of spicy soy curls nestled on a bed of crisp romaine, with olives, red bell peppers, shredded pickled carrots and onion, plus a creamy, slightly smoky and spicy dressing to doll it all up.
Bonus: Costco’s Seasonal Items
4. Beef and Bean Chili, $4
To call this item a cup of chili is misleading. It’s practically half a pot’s worth. The 20-ounce serving can easily feed two people, which makes it perhaps one of the healthiest items on the menu. The full bowl has 450 calories and 20 grams of fat, but divide that in half and you’ve got a fairly healthy lunch option (just don’t look at the sodium content, which is off the charts). Taste-wise it’s a solid version of the chili genre — not too thick or thin, bright with tomato, and packed with bell peppers, ground beef, and kidney and pinto beans. They even serve it good and proper with diced white onions and shredded cheddar cheese. It’s great when spooned on Costco’s famous hot dog, too.
5. Beef Brisket Sandwich, $5
A thick pile of shredded brisket bathed in a classic, slightly sweet barbecue sauce gets piled on a soft, pillowy bun with a scoop of cool and crunchy coleslaw for brightness and crunch. If that sounds irresistible, that’s because it pretty much is. Sure, you can get a better brisket sandwich at a real barbecue joint, but in the cavernous, fluorescent landscape of Costco, this beast of a sandwich is a delicious alternative to the usual pizza and hot dogs.
What’s your favorite item at the Costco food court?