- I went to the Costco in New York’s Sunset Park, Brooklyn, neighbourhood to eat everything on the food court’s menu.
- I tried cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, combo pizza, a chicken bake, an Italian sausage, a hot dog, a chicken Caesar salad, vanilla fro-yo, an acai swirl, a berry sundae, a churro, a mocha freeze, a fruit smoothie, and an acai bowl.
- The older menu items were miles better than the newer ones, and the acai desserts were the worst of the new items.
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Costco’s food court is a wonderland for every suburban kid dragged along on a Saturday shopping trip – and for the parents doing the dragging.
It’s a veritable Venus flytrap of unbelievably cheap, filling, and reasonably tasty fast food designed to encourage shoppers to stuff their stomachs and their shopping carts.
But over the years, Costco has made some changes to its food court, many of which were met with significant backlash. My mum has been a die-hard Polish sausage fan since the ’90s, so when they suddenly vanished from the food-court menu, there was a period of mourning in our household.
And as America gravitated toward recent health-food trends, such as acai, bowls, and acai bowls, those too began to show up uninvited to Costco’s food court, much like your “broke” hipster cousin who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and “visits” you to use your washing machine and eat your quinoa.
What makes acai healthier than other fruit, especially if you blend it into sugar and mix it with fro-yo? And why did Costco replace the Polish sausage with an Italian one?
In pursuit of answers, I travelled down the Hudson River to the heart of consumerist darkness: Costco Wholesale in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. My goal? To taste every single item on the Costco food-court menu.
I was not prepared for the onslaught of food to come. But like a “Game of Thrones” character dead set on surviving the Battle of Winterfell, I clawed my way through hordes of hungry shoppers and, against all odds, made it through to the other side.
Brace yourselves. The lineup is long and full of digestive terrors.
Designwise, not much has changed since I was a kid. There are still giant pictures of each food item with enormous price tags plastered above the ordering counter. However, the lineup itself is different.
You can still choose to wait in line and order the old-fashioned way, from a human being …
… or you could avoid all human interaction by ordering on a screen.
I took great pleasure in pressing all the buttons on this screen.
The seating area remains as spartan as it ever was. This is Costco, where environment matters less than the value you’re getting.
The condiments station appears to have remained exactly the same for decades. Straws are still acquired through a push dispenser, onions through an old-fashioned crank, and there’s still the good ol’ condiment lineup …
Before I lived in Chicago, I used to put all these things on my hot dogs (or Polish sausages, RIP). Now, I know which to skip.
On the table: cheese pizza, pepperoni pizza, combo pizza, chicken bake, Italian sausage, hot dog, turkey-provolone sandwich, and chicken Caesar salad. They were out of al pastor salad.
CHEESE PIZZA SLICE, $US1.99 — I popped a lactose pill and started with a cheesy slice.
It was soggy and heavy with grease.
This was an incredibly hearty slice with a pleasant balance of cheese and tomato sauce. However, the cheese wasn’t very elastic, and it tasted like it had been cooked by machines — which it was.
PEPPERONI PIZZA SLICE, $US1.99 — Another pill, another slice.
The crust was soggy, too.
The pepperoni was wonderfully salty and bursting with flavour, but the puffy inelastic cheese is weak. Still, it was overall a thin and satisfying slice.
COMBO PIZZA SLICE, $US1.99 — This was my mum’s favourite when I was a kid and hated vegetables. I’ve since seen the errors of my ways, and now it’s my fave, too.
It was a much heavier slice than the other two, although it was slightly stiffer.
That’s because it had a much thicker, doughier crust than the other two kinds of pizza. It was definitely way too doughy and kind of undercooked, but the combination of toppings is amazing. Lightly roasted onions and peppers and juicy spiced Italian sausage especially made this slice stand out.
CHICKEN BAKE, $US2.99 — The chicken bake is probably a foot long and beats Subway’s $US5 deal by $US2.
I got the chicken bake only a few times as a kid, but it had all the components a kid wants in a food: bread, cheese, bacon, and cream. And chicken.
Cheesy, bready, and bacony, the chicken bake is a hearty, heavy Hot Pocket on steroids. It’d taste even better if the crust was crispy instead of doughy.
ITALIAN SAUSAGE, $US2.79 — The Italian sausage is to the Polish sausage what Randy was to Eric on “That ’70’s Show” — a replacement for the show’s star that fans never welcomed into their hearts.
It was wet, sloppy, and hard to pick up.
It was way too salty and too meaty, and its limp veg wasn’t enough to temper its overwhelming meatiness. Fennel was the only discernible spice in the sausage. Bring back the Poles!
HOT DOG, $US1.50 — A relic of simpler times, Costco’s massive hot dog proves that size kind of does matter.
For simplicity’s sake, I put only mustard on this one. Usually, I also dress hot dogs with relish and onions.
A juicy, flavorful dog enveloped in a fluffy, slightly sweet bun with a hint of texture. I’m convinced this is the perfect food, at least since the untimely demise of the Polish sausage.
TURKEY-PROVOLONE SANDWICH, $US3.99 — This is a more recent addition that caters to what’s trendy: food that looks “artisan.”
Costco shouldn’t try to be something it’s not.
The bread was hard and disappointing, although the tomato and provolone did work really well together. A hint of pesto was a nice touch, although this fell short of its deli counterpart.
CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD, $US3.99 — Chicken, croutons, tomatoes, chicken, and cheese. Time for another lactose pill.
The Caesar dressing took this salad from glum to yum.
The tomatoes were a great addition to an otherwise unexciting salad. The croutons were garlicky and the cheese was … there. But the chicken was exceedingly dull. Like many other menu items, the salad delivers more on bulk than on reaching its full flavour potential.
After that salad, it was time for dessert. I ordered a churro, a berry sundae, vanilla fro-yo, an acai swirl, a very berry smoothie, a mocha freeze, and an acai bowl.
VANILLA FROZEN YOGURT CUP, $US1.35 — Costco’s fro-yo is reminiscent of simpler times, back when fro-yo was the epitome of a healthy dessert.
Silky soft, it felt more like frozen custard than frozen yogurt. But the distinct sour undertones gave its true identity away. It was just sweet enough.
ACAI SWIRL, $US2.99 — The addition of acai into a frozen-yogurt cup more than doubles the price. The first of its kind and a harbinger of acai things to come …
The yogurt tastes creamy, but the acai tastes artificial. Much like Jon and Dany in “Game of Thrones,” this coupling feels forced and unnatural.
VERY BERRY SUNDAE, $US1.65 — An older and cheaper model of the acai swirl, the berry sundae is a classic.
And it works infinitely better than its newer counterpart. The berries were airy, sweet, and inoffensive, and paired well with the creamy yogurt. Altogether, it’s a soft and dreamy spoonful.
CHURRO, $US1.00 — This twisty pastry is also a classic old-timer.
Crispy outside and warm and soft inside, it was absolutely delicious. It was light, doughy, and coated with the perfect amount of cinnamon sugar.
MOCHA FREEZE, $US2.99 — My dad’s favourite Costco drink since the ’90s.
It’s sugar and coffee. What’s not to like? If only the ice crystals were slightly smaller, it would have a slightly less gritty texture.
ACAI BOWL, $US4.99 — I was sceptical. Cold makes crunchy things crunchier, and biting into something that’s sour, cold, and crunchy all at once is my dental nightmare.
Independently, the ingredients are great. The acai sorbet itself is refreshing, and the toppings are crunchy and sweet. But together, they’re cruel nonsense.
FRUIT SMOOTHIE, $US2.99 — In 2017, Costco replaced its classic $US1.45 berry smoothie with a fruit smoothie that costs more than twice as much.
And it tastes half as good. Sure, it has “real fruit chunks,” but it just tastes like a sloppy, oversweet mess — like fruit jam blended into ice. A significant downgrade from what was once a reliably refreshing, addictive drink. I’m actually mad about this one.
Costco’s new menu items that are tailored to trends fail categorically. The new items brought in as healthier or more artisan alternatives to old classics don’t deliver the comfort, value, and reliable quality that Costco’s food court is loved for.
Costco’s classics are still the best foods at its court. The hot dog is the same as it ever was, which is a good thing.
And the churro, too. Rest in peace, Polish sausage, hand-dipped ice cream bar, chocolate frozen yogurt, and very berry smoothie. You will live on forever in our hearts and memories. Unless Costco decides to bring you back — and we hope it will. What is dead may never die.
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