For some, there's great comfort in grocery shopping: the mundane routine of it all, the satisfaction of checking everything off your list, scoring a great BOGO deal, and oftentimes some bonus treats tossed in the cart. For the grocery store-obsessed, Costco is a culinary playground. The wholesale enterprise originated in Seattle back in 1983 and provided a swinging door for folks interested in starting a retail business, as anyone can join the Costco family with an annual membership card. However, scoring incredible deals on bulk purchases is just half the appeal. The other half is the famed Costco food court, dishing out combo meals for less than two bucks.
The Costco food court is like the light at the end of the tunnel. On a busy shopping day, the dining hall is everyone's happy place. We're nostalgic for this grub because it brings us back, not just to a time when life felt a little easier but when the dollar went a whole lot farther. While Costco's various locations showcase different deals and specialty products, a unified experience prevails across all storefronts.
Namely, pizza, hot dogs, and burgers, but many of the classic dishes can be reimagined with a little ingenuity. Not to say this child-like food isn't enough to satisfy Costco shoppers, but manipulating food court items with these clever hacks is just too tempting. While I maneuvered these ten hacks at the Brooklyn location in Industry City, these techniques should be pretty universal.
Pizza-Wrapped Hot Dog
Costco's quarter-pound hot dog could be the food court's claim to fame. Not just for its juicy taste but for the endless discussion of its price tag. The hot dog and unlimited soda combo has been a mere $1.50 since day one, and it will stay that way as long as former CEO James Sinegal has something to say about it. As legendary as the Costco hot dog is, the piping hot pizza might triumph. The food court sells 18-inch pies for about $10 and hefty-sized slices at two bucks. If you can't decide between a hot dog or a slice for lunch, why not both?
Predictably, the traditional bargain dog is served simply plain on a bun, wrapped in tin foil. Although, if the standard hot dog isn't enough to satisfy your cravings, there's a secret swap to amp things up. Lose the hot dog bun and opt for a slice of cheese pizza instead. Some may call it a pizza dog, while others have deemed it the "Costco taco." Regardless of the name, it satisfies the same cravings. Cheesy hot dogs aren't a new phenomenon by any means, but most leave the hot dog on the bun. This trick specifically involves rolling the slice of pizza around the hot dog to make the ideal handheld in-between meal.
Root Beer Float
There may be a few items that have come and gone over the years, but visually, the food court menu is stuck in the '80s. The saturated photos and bold blue typography are evocative of carefree outings like carnivals, drive-ins, and roller rinks. The menu has the basic old-school American comfort foods but is missing one of the most celebrated: the root beer float. Although they do have all the components. With a soft serve machine, a lot of things are possible, but Costco doesn't like to boast about that.
A simple order of vanilla soft serve and a soda will set you back almost $3 and provide everything you need for the perfect nostalgic root beer float. After ordering a soda, you'll be handed a jumbo Pepsi cup to fill up. The self-serve setup allows you to grab your soda at your leisure with as many refills as desired, but the real bonus is being able to concoct your own masterpieces. Taking advantage of the soda dispenser might trigger feelings of adolescent mischief, but not to worry, Costco staff doesn't seem too concerned with how playful members get with drink mixtures.
Go ahead and scoop your whipped vanilla ice cream right into the ginormous Pepsi cup, and then top it with fizzy root beer. You can try to see how long the ice cream can stay intact without becoming one with the soda, but some like to mix it up right for a cream soda.
Chicken Caesar Salad Wraps
Costco's food court doesn't mix it up much, but when they do, it makes headlines. The resistance to change makes new menu additions all the more exciting, and the rotisserie chicken Caesar salad was a welcomed surprise. Everyone loves Costco rotisserie chickens, considering they're perfectly cooked, served sizzling hot, and only $5. Given the food court's menu doesn't focus on health, it's actually kind of notorious for the opposite; some greenery on the menu was refreshing. This newer item is a little on the pricey side, at least compared to the other bargain items under five bucks, but you can stretch your $7 further by transforming your salad into wraps.
When you start considering all the culinary creations that can be made with Costco's products, it can get a bit overwhelming, not to mention bumping elbows with too many people on a busy afternoon. Even if you can snag a table, you don't want to toss on your apron and prep a whole meal right in the food court. But with one savvy addition, you can easily create the meal you want. One rotisserie chicken Caesar salad can become four or five chicken salad wraps, depending on how hefty your wraps are. Just snag a pack of tortillas before heading to the food court, and you can make culinary magic happen right at your table.
Unfortunately, the food court is lacking when it comes to frozen treats. There is a soft serve machine, but that's about it. Costco keeps it classic as expected with the tried-and-true trio of flavors: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Offering milkshakes would slow Costco's counter staff down considerably, especially at the rate they're pulling pizzas out of the oven, and it hardly seems there would even be enough room to squeeze another blending machine back there. Thankfully for milkshake fans, Costco's soft serve lives up to its name and is extremely easy to mix up in any recipe.
A cup of soft serve can be jazzed up with a variety of Costco's sugary confections, but the churro makes for the perfect cinnamony pseudo milkshake. An order of one or two churros will transform a $2 cup of ice cream into a gourmet treat. You can even add a layer of chocolate by upgrading your soft-serve to a sundae. For 50 cents more, Costco offers hot fudge-drizzled ice cream. Given the churros are only $1.50 a pop, your money goes a long way with this clever trick. Plus, with the spoon-like shape of a churro, you can mix it up on the move, so you don't need to cut into your Costco journey.
Cheesy Hot Dog Chicken Bake
If a cheesy pizza hot dog bun isn't novelty enough, some Costco members have stumbled upon a new monstrosity known as the "Jochizza."This wild concoction is the work of an artful surgeon, and it didn't take long for it to go viral.
It involves a few meticulous steps that may seem like overkill, but any new combination made from Costco's limited menu is a reason to celebrate. The creation is the Costco Taco 2.0 and consists of all the food court hits: the $1.50 hot dogs, a slice of cheese pizza, and the chicken bake. To create the infamous Jochizza, you'll first slice the chicken bake on one side to act as an elaborate bun for the hot dog or just take a bite off the top and insert the hot dog. Then the chicken bake hot dog is topped with all the cheesy goodness that can slide right off a slice of pizza.
The chicken bake isn't incorporated into many Costco culinary hacks because it has so much to offer on its own, but apparently, the creativity never stops in the food court. It is a soft dough stuffed with a unique blend of chicken, bacon, green onions, a smorgasbord of cheeses, and creamy Caesar dressing. It's reminiscent of the foods you'd see at 7-Eleven or a ball game but much more substantial. Plus, at only $4, it's a slam dunk. They're so beloved that Costco even sells them packaged in the frozen aisle.
Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich
Another creative approach to an order of soft serve incorporates some of Costco's newly released mouthwatering cookies. Ice cream sandwiches may not be on the menu, but all the puzzle pieces are. An order of ice cream and two cookies is all you need to form the perfect ice cream sandwich. The sandwich doctoring may be a tad, er very, messy, but it's totally worth having sticky hands for. One order of your favorite ice cream or a sundae if an extra jolt of flavor is desired, and two cookies are all you need for the perfect hand-held pick-me-up.
Costco's Double Chocolate Chunk Cookies recently landed in the food court but sadly hasn't made its way to some of the nearest warehouses yet. If you're unlucky, you can opt for the second-best thing. Costco aisles are stocked with any kind of cookie imaginable, but you'll want to head over to the bakery corner to find that freshly baked essence you're looking for. Those cookies were likely just baked earlier that day and will fill the void. Word on the street is these cookies are replacing the Churros, so act fast with that Churro shake.
Mocha Freeze Vanilla Shake
Costco's Cold Brew Mocha Freeze is chocolately decadent and packed with caffeine. The drink swirls all day in its machine, which results in a slushy-like consistency that's refreshing and very chuggable. The slushy-like beverage is not for the faint of heart, with a reported 220 mg of caffeine, but it's definitely an exciting way to get the day started. The only thing it's missing is a creamy swirl, which is easy to add with the help of Costco's powerful soft-serve machine.
Order a cup of vanilla soft serve alongside the Mocha Freeze and mix it all together to create a rich cold brew milkshake. An extra cup could be helpful for the stirring process, but taking a few chugs will make plenty of room to bulk up the freeze with soft-serve. If you want to lean more on the milkshake side, just play around with your ice cream to Mocha Freeze ratio to create your perfect caffeine boost.
Diced Onion-Topped Hot Dogs
What was once a celebrated hot dog topping in the Costco food court is now something of a secret. Some overhanging Costco menus may still showcase its iconic hot dog with a hefty portion of onions, but the condiment table got a little lonelier over the past few years. Once COVID prompted tight health regulations for businesses, Costco had to keep its hot dog toppings secured behind the counter. Now, the folks at the food court counter typically have little ramekins of diced onions stacked behind them. They'll be happy to toss one your way if asked, as long as you don't catch them after a busy hot dog day.
It might seem like a blasé addition to the condiment dispensers, but hearts broke when diced onions left its ketchup, mustard, and relish companions. It really takes the hot dog from backyard BBQ to a meal fit for a king. Apparently, some Costco food courts still have cups of sauerkraut hidden away as well if you're lucky enough to get your hands on any yet.
Utilize Free Samples
Becoming a member of Costco comes at a price, $60 a year to be exact, which means members are always looking for ways to ensure they're getting their money's worth. Aside from the stellar bulk deals, Costco is known for its plethora of free samples. At nearly every corner, you can expect to be greeted by a friendly face offering little bites of products surrounding the shelves.
The joy of Costco's food court is its simplicity. The no-fuss menu means more room for innovation, as everything serves as a perfect foundation for experimenting. When meandering through the store's sections, get creative as you clock everything that's being offered. Think outside the box; anything can be a topping or a mix-in with the right attitude. For example, douse your chicken bake in hot sauce, add pineapples to your pizza, or sprinkle bacon bits on your hot dog. The possibilities are virtually endless and could provide some inspiration for tomorrow's dinner plans.
The only con of Costco's $10 pizza is the wait. A crowded day at the warehouse could easily pass for a zoo. Between the large carts, tight corners, drawn-out lines, and quick hands fighting over what's left on the shelf, it can feel like a battlefield during rush hour shopping. However, with a locked-in list and some confidence, Costco can be mastered, even with a fresh food court pizza in hand. A pizza can take up to 40 minutes on a hectic day, which, unless planned perfectly, can seriously put a damper on the day's schedule.
A lot of shoppers are in the dark when it comes to Costco's pizza ordering procedure and aren't aware that whole pizzas can be called in ahead of time. If you ring Costco 20 to 40 minutes before you plan to indulge, you won't get stuck waiting forever or be forced to circle the store an extra few times. The bonus with this method is being able to pay for your pre-ordered pizza at the register. That way, once you arrive at the food court, you can just run up to the counter with your recipe rather than jumping in line at a kiosk. It's understandable if you need to dive into that piping hot pizza stat, but if you can hold out until home you can recreate the once-loved Costco supreme pizza with toppings at home. Unfortunately, the food court only serves up cheese or pepperoni these days.
The Ultimate Ice Cream Sundae
No disrespect to Costco, but the food court's idea of an ice cream sundae falls short. For one, the soft serve machine only dispenses vanilla and strawberry with just chocolate or strawberry syrup to choose from. Albeit delicious, Costco's options are limited. A true sundae is bigger than necessary with multiple flavors and mixins. With a little doctoring, Costco's sundaes can be taken up a notch to meet higher ice cream standards. There may only technically be two soft-serve flavors and two syrups to work with, but there are more combos than the average Joe would expect.
At some local Costcos, you can order a vanilla sundae with chocolate sauce alongside a strawberry sundae with strawberry syrup. Mixing the vanilla and chocolate sauce whips up the perfect chocolate flavor which goes beautifully with the layered strawberry flavors. If there are any negatives to Costco's soft serve, it would be the tiny cup it's served in. Typically I'll splurge on a 60-cent soda to cleanse the palate, but in reality, it's only to score the big Pepsi cup. An extra large cup makes the artisanal process much easier.
Cookie Ice Cream Flurry
Considering the bulk of these hacks are livening up Costco's sweet food court options, it's clear that's where it's lagging. It's not that the food court doesn't have the means to create extraordinary desserts, but more they don't have the time. Luckily, we shoppers do. Much like the pseudo-Churro sundae, a cookie ice cream flurry can be made by merging an order of ice cream and one or two chocolate chip cookies. If the new Costco chocolate chip cookies haven't made their way to your Costco yet, don't fret. This makeshift shake can be concocted with plenty of other sweet offerings in the Costco aisles.
Depending on your local Costco's menu, you may have to choose between a churro or cookie-packed ice cream cup, as it doesn't seem like any locations are carrying both freshly baked options at the counter. However, never forget about the bakery corner. While these cookies will be pre-packaged and not burn-your-tongue fresh out of the oven, they'll be just as tasty and crumble into creamy soft serve within minutes. You're free to demolish your cookie into oblivion; some prefer big cookie chunks that create more of a flurry rather than a blended shake.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.