Costco food review: low costs, low satisfaction

Renowned wholesale store boasts high quantities, falls short in food quality
Costco food review: low costs, low satisfaction

As we sauntered into the Mountain View Costco, the gray walls of the warehouse matched the overcast sky outside. People stream in and out of the hangar-like doors pushing shopping carts as an attendant checks their membership cards. We surreptitiously blend into the crowd and pass into the store, commonly known for its big deals, big sizes and not big prices — a trademark of American suburbia.

But we did not come to Costco to buy a seven-pound tub of Nutella or a box of aubergine. We previously reviewed IKEA’s Swedish delights, and now, we decided to inspect Costco’s famous culinary offerings. Instead of rating out of five, our new and improved system features ratings up to six for improved accuracy.

Free Samples

Before trying the store’s hot dogs, pizzas and chicken bakes, we looked for Costco’s world-renowned free sample stations. However, the first sample stand we found was giving out Arm & Hammer laundry detergent — not the kind of food sample we expected. Disappointed, we eventually found stands serving almond milk — which tasted as bland as water — pumpkin seeds — which we found exceedingly salty — and tapioca pudding — which tasted as though it were pure sugar.

We were disappointed in the strange free sample appetizers Costco had to offer and suspicious of its decision to poison its valuable customers with laundry detergent. 3/6.

Hot Dog

After the appetizers, we found Costco’s fast food restaurant. Gaping at its electronic menu, we ordered everything on the menu (as acclaimed food critics would) and then waited our turn in line. Inside of a kitchen inside the warehouse, six employees bustled around pizza ovens, racks of hot dogs and smoothie machines.

When a customer arrived at the front of the line, a worker fulfilled their order with the pre-cooked food on the shelves while others cooked more food. Through this efficient manufacturing process reminiscent of assembly-line Fordism, the fast food workers were indeed fast and delivered each customer’s order quickly.

As Costco’s signature item, the $1.50 quarter pound (plus) all-beef hot dog was the first assailant of our taste buds. It was far cheaper than reasonable, even including a soda in the deal. And possibly large enough for a large American, a deal that no other restaurant can beat. With a meaty texture, the hot dog was firm on the outside and soft on the inside. However, the bun was soggy and required ketchup, mustard and relish from a stand on the side to add flavor.

The hot dog was a good deal, but nothing more than an average hot dog. Given the price, Costco’s signature item deserves a 4.5/6.


Costco’s pizza is another of its classic items. At $2.49 for a slice of cheese or pepperoni twice as large as an average pizza slice, Costco again offers a deal that cannot be beat. But we raised our eyebrows at the greasy mess of pepperoni covered in a sea of orange oil on our plates. The crust had already gone soggy and was smeared with grease, and the pizza sagged like a wet piece of paper.

The cheese tasted salty and the bread offered a bland aftertaste. The pepperonis were also soggy and were like miniature inflatable pools full of pizza grease, lacking the crispy sear that any good pepperoni pizza should have. We were thoroughly disappointed by the lack of quality, possibly because the slices are idly drowning in grease after they are baked but before anyone orders them. 2.5/6.

Chicken Bake

While the cheese on the pizza was certainly salty, the $3.99 chicken bake should more aptly be named the sodium bake. What should have been a roll of crispy bread stuffed with chicken pie turned out to be a glorified Bosco stick with a few chunks of dry chicken thrown in. When we took a bite, our mouths were blasted by the cheese’s intense saltiness, and we immediately reached for the water cup. Somehow, the chicken inside was still dry, and the bread’s blandness contrasted with the ungodly amount of salt used to make it.

The chicken bake is one of the most unique items on Costco’s menu, yet also one of the worst. Perhaps Costco should stick to traditional American fast food as bigger and saltier does not necessarily mean better, and the chicken bake is definitely not worth the price. 2/6.


After running the gauntlet of salty, greasy food, seeing the exorbitant amount of sugar covering the fried bread twist terrified us. Even with an electron microscope, it would be impossible to count all of the grains of sugar that overly saturated the $1.49 churro. Despite this, after the initial blast of sugar, the churro lacked sweetness. In fact, it lacked any flavor except for the chewiness and burnt aroma of the toasted bread. The burnt ends of the churro were even worse, tasting like hard lumps of burned, amorphous carbon. After many disappointments, it saddened us that even the churro did not meet our expectations. 2/6.


We rounded off our meal with dessert, a $2.49 strawberry ice cream sundae that comes served in a plastic cup. Amid Costco’s greasy menu, the strawberry ice cream (not the vanilla ice cream) is the only source of fruit you’ll find. The sundae was not actually made with strawberry ice cream, though. Instead it is made with strawberry jam and fruit pieces mixed with vanilla ice cream, which tasted as though it came from a Kirkland Signature carton. Cheap but generic and not the worst thing in the store, the strawberries didn’t make the sundae taste any more like strawberry ice cream. 3/6.


Unlike IKEA, Costco did not provide any entertainment, not even self-operated entertainment. We resorted to admiring the palettes of shaving cream and Starbucks coffee behind the metal chain link fence around the seating area and pondering the meaning of our lives.

We watched as a stream of people walked out of the warehouse through the exit just in front of where we sat, like a stream of consciousness flowing through the gates of time. No doubt these people had lives beyond Costco, perhaps even families and children whom they would return home to with the materialistic joys of their purchases. But here we were, eating mediocre ice cream sundaes in a warehouse and watching as life passed us by. 0/6.


In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. However, at Costco, the greasy, salty and questionably healthy food challenged our optimistic view of the establishment, even though its cheap prices are unchallenged. When we walked out, a light drizzle was beginning to fall from the clouds. A cold wind blasted us, but at least it was a relief from the overzealous hot grease. 2.5/6.

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