I ate everything at the Costco and IKEA food courts, and there's one big reason why you should go to one over the other

Irene Jiang / Business InsiderI went to the food courts at Costco and IKEA in Brooklyn, New York, to see how they compared.
  • Costco and IKEA are two warehouse stores that both furnish and feed America.
  • I went to the Costco and IKEA food courts in Brooklyn, New York, in order to see how the experiences compare.
  • Costco’s quality was more consistent overall, and it really excelled at providing cheap, filling fast food.
  • However, IKEA’s best dishes blew Costco’s out of the water, and IKEA generally offered more balanced meals and nutritional variety.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Costco and IKEA are two warehouses that Americans can count on to help fill their homes and their guts without breaking the bank.

Sure, the American middle class may be in decline, but at least you can always count on a $US5.99 plate of Swedish meatballs at IKEA or a $US1.50 jumbo hot dog at Costco.

IKEA and Costco are yang and yin, blue and red, foreign and homegrown. So in a battle of the food courts, which will win?

Will it be Costco, the warehouse-store-next-door? Or will it be IKEA, the intriguing Scandinavian warehouse?

Read more:

I ate everything at Costco’s food court, and it was clear that its trendiest items are also its worst.

Let’s go on a journey through the belly of the warehouse-food-court beasts. There, the truth will become clear.

Listed prices are from the Brooklyn locations of each store.


IKEA’s restaurant is impeccably groomed and dressed well, but casually, like it just woke up looking like this.

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As a visitor, you have to rely on mostly visual cues or prior knowledge to get around.

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Both the restaurant and its offerings reflect a stylish attention to detail.

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The menu is an open book. What you see is what you get, but you can pick and choose.

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The downside is that you must carry your food’s weight from the moment you order it. This can make checkout difficult if you’re overly encumbered like some hapless food journalists.

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Costco is not trying to impress you with its looks. Or maybe it’s not aware that’s even an option.

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Large pictures of food show you what you’re getting as well as how much it costs.

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Ordering is straightforward. You order from a register, then pick up your food from the pickup area. There are no trays to heft.

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You also have the option of ordering at a self-service kiosk …

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… eliminating all need for human interaction.

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BLACKBERRY SALAD, $US3.99 — IKEA has a salad bar, but I chose a pre-made salad consisting of spring mix, blackberries, walnuts, and blue cheese.

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Despite its quality ingredients, the salad doesn’t quite work well together. The blackberry seeds are tough to chew.

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CHICKEN CAESAR SALAD, $US3.99 — Costco’s chicken Caesar salad is made of simple, yet reliable ingredients.

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It tastes much better than IKEA’s salad, with the garlicky croutons and Caesar dressing carrying most of the flavour load. However, it definitely contains more calories and less varied nutritional value.

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VEGGIE BALLS, $US3.99 — IKEA’s veggie meatballs are chickpea-based and spiced with curry and a garam masala sauce.

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They’re mushy and strange. It’s as if someone who ate falafel once tried to make it without looking at a recipe.

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SALMON BALLS, $US5.99 — IKEA’s deep-fried salmon balls come with a lemon dill sauce.

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They’re dry, overcooked, and unappealing inside. This is probably IKEA’s worst salmon dish.

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MEATBALLS, $US5.99 — Served with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam, IKEA’s meatballs are arguably the restaurant’s main attraction.

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They’re soft and savoury, and they pair perfectly with their time-tested accoutrements.

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CHEESE PIZZA SLICE, $US1.99 — Pizza is to Costco as balls are to IKEA. Cheese is the only vegetarian option.

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It’s a greasy, salty, soggy slice that satisfies but leaves you feeling like you just doused your insides with warm cheese and dough. Which you did.

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PEPPERONI PIZZA SLICE, $US1.99 — Costco’s pepperoni puts the pep in my step with its salty, flavorful slices.

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They almost make up for the soft, doughy crust that is soaked in grease.

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COMBO PIZZA SLICE, $US1.99 — If you squint at this Costco slice from so far away that you can only see the toppings, you can almost convince yourself that it’s healthy.

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The bright and contrasting toppings are indeed the best part. However, the dough and cheese still leave a lot to be desired.

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SALMON DINNER, $US7.99 — Salmon is sort of a Scandinavian food, and IKEA serves it.

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There isn’t anything exceptionally Swedish about this dish, but the salmon is moist and the lemon dill sauce works well.

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GRAVLAX, $US5.49 — In contrast, almost everything about IKEA’s gravlax is Swedish.

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Read more:

I ate everything at IKEA’s restaurant, and one dish convinced me to go back.


From the salmon marinated in dill to the sweet mustard dill sauce, this dish hits all the best traditional notes and flavours in all of IKEA.

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CHICKEN TENDERS, KID’S MEAL, $US3.49 — IKEA also offers chicken tenders to appease children who don’t like food that isn’t fried.

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Read more:

I tasted french fries from 8 major fast-food chains, and the winner surprised me


But these are a must-skip: desert-dry, flavourless, and chewier than an old leather shoe.

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CHICKEN BAKE, $US2.99 — Costco’s chicken bake isn’t quite as storied as the hot dog, but it has seniority over all the trendier items.

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It’s a perfect Costco comfort food: doughy, creamy, meaty, and ridiculously huge.

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ITALIAN SAUSAGE, $US2.79 — You might have trouble fitting Costco’s Italian sausage in your mouth.

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It’s sloppy, meaty, and not much else. Fennel is the only discernible spice.

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HOT DOG, $US1.50 — Along with pizza, their partner-in-cholesterol-crime, hot dogs are the calling card of Costco’s food court.

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They’re just as massive, juicy, and delicious as they always have been.

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Read more:
I ate hot dogs from 5 major chains, and the best was also the cheapest


TURKEY PROVOLONE SANDWICH, $US3.99 — This swanky sandwich is Costco’s Sunday best.

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But while all the ingredients are there — bread, turkey, provolone, tomato, and pesto — the sum of their parts is less-than.

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MARZIPAN CAKE, $US1.49 — I was drawn to IKEA’s marzipan cake because of its enticing appearance.

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It tasted as good as it looked: light, fluffy, and with a hint of raspberry flavour.

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CHOCOLATE CONSPIRACY CAKE, $US2.99 — The name of IKEA’s chocolate conspiracy cake confuses me. Is conspiracy a flavour or a baking method?

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And the cake itself does not impress. Although it’s a reasonably soft and moist cake, it’s way too sweet and has a distinctly artificial aftertaste.

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CHURRO, $US1 — If a cartoon supervillain pointed their growth ray at a normal churro, it’d twist and swell until it turned into the mega-sized Costco churro.

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Read more:

I ate apple pies from 5 fast-food chains, and the winning pie blew me away


This Costco-sized sugary abomination is unreasonably delicious in every way. Crispy, sugary, and soft, this gentle giant could never offend.

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AÇAI BOWL, $US4.99 — The açai bowl is one of the items Costco added to its menu in 2018, arguably replacing the much-loved hand-dipped ice cream bar.

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It needs to crawl back into whatever hipster hole it spawned from. The açai tastes artificial, and mixing hard, crunchy things with soft, cold things is just distressing.

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VERY BERRY SUNDAE, $US1.65 — Costco offers silky-smooth vanilla frozen yogurt, which can be eaten plain or in a berry sundae.

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I ate soft serve from 7 major fast-food chains, and the winner surprised me


AÇAI SWIRL, $US2.99 — You could also get it with an açai swirl. But I’ll just pretend this one doesn’t exist. Have I made it clear how I feel about Costco’s açai offerings?

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DRINKS, free with meal — You can get IKEA’s specialty drinks from a machine.

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There’s a lingonberry drink, sparkling pear drink, sparkling lemon drink, sparkling raspberry drink, and IKEA’s own-brand cola.

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My favourite is the sparkling pear drink, which is sweet, fragrant, and refreshingly bubbly.

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FRUIT SMOOTHIE, $US2.99 — In 2018, Costco replaced its iconic berry smoothie with a fruit smoothie that costs twice as much but tastes half as good.

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MOCHA FREEZE, $US2.99 — But at least Costco still sells the mocha freeze, a coffee-flavored slushie that contains an energizing dose of sugar and caffeine.

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Both chains work best when they stick to the classics. IKEA’s meatballs and gravlax stand out from the crowd, while Costco’s pizza and hot dog are still the food court’s heavyweights.

Irene Jiang / Business Insider

Costco does certain things better than IKEA: its value for size is unbeatable, and its pizza, hot dogs, and churros are ideal for a quick-yet-filling snack. Its food is also relatively consistent; the quality hovers around “pretty good.”

Irene Jiang / Business Insider

IKEA’s quality has a wider range. Its lows are low, but its highs are high. Yes, you do pay more at IKEA, but you also get variety and a more balanced meal. It’s possible to walk out of IKEA’s restaurant without feeling like you’ve done your body an injustice, and for that reason, IKEA wins this comparison.

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