The most popular items at the Costco food court, ranked

Costco — some go for the deals, some go for the samples, some go for the food court. Me? I say "Why not?" to deals, a hearty "No thank you," to samples (sorry, too many horror stories there), and a vehement "Heck yes!" to the food court. In fact, even before Costco first dates were cool, my husband and I dined (saying "dined" makes it fancy) there for our first lunch. What can I say? I'm a cheap date.

While I've never met a menu item at the food court that I didn't like, I certainly have my opinions on where they rank — as do all Costco food court fans. Here are my favorites, and the ones I can live without.

Now, there is photographic evidence out there of Costco food courts in other cities touting menu items like chicken strips and French fries, cheeseburgers, and chicken wings — photos that mock me, reminding me of these unattainable-to-me budget-friendly tasty treats. Unfortunately, I can only rank the foods at my local Costco — and those that are widely available across the map. 

So the next question is: How absurd is the idea of a Costco-centric cross-country road trip? (Before you answer, know that Canadian stores have poutine.) Until then, I'll be inhaling these ever-popular foods every time I go shopping for 700 rolls of toilet paper.

1. Hot dog

The virtues of the Costco hot dog are many, and the only sensible placement of said hot dog is at the top of this list. Really, at $1.50 (with a drink!), you shouldn't need any more information. But here's a tidbit: These babies are not your typical tiny, mystery-meat weiners tinted a strange shade of pink. They're all beef. And they're big. Not only do you get 1/4-pound dog, you get 8 percent more than most 1/4-pound hot dogs, because Costco loves you and wants you to be happy.

2. Pepperoni pizza

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the New York and/or Chicago pizza die-hards, I'm going out on a limb here to say that a slice of Costco pepperoni sits at the top of my pizza ranking list. (Since I live in California, cut me a little slack?) It's the right amount of cheese, the right amount of pepperoni grease, and has a just-right floppiness I can't get enough of.

3. Cheese pizza

You've got to be in a really cheesy mood for this one — they do not scrimp here. It seems cheesier than the other pizza selections by at least twice. But the best part, hands down, is the way the top-most layer of mozzarella starts to burn just a little, creating a glorious crust of dairy goodness.

4. Polish sausage

The hot dog versus polish debate is a hot topic in my household, and I will admit that the Polish sausage does hit the spot when you're in the mood for a hot dog, only fancier. But do you know what doesn't hit the spot? The Polish sausage burps. Do with that information what you will. (And add sauerkraut at your own risk.)

5. Churro

How much is your typical amusement park churro? According to my research, they're hovering around $5 these days. Now I love fried dough covered in cinnamon and sugar as much as the next guy, but I'm not OK with paying 500 percent more for a Disneyland churro than a Costco churro. Especially when the $1 churro at Costco is huge and delicious. Maybe the Costco food court is the new happiest place on Earth?

6. Chocolate and vanilla frozen yogurt

Really, you can skip the amusement parks and boardwalks all-together and just hit up Costco for the same treats. Doesn't that sound fun, kids? For just $1.35, you can be the proud owner of a cup of fro-yo the size of a small trash can. Do yourself a favor and go for the swirl.

7. Chicken bake

There is not now, nor will there ever be, anything bad to say about chicken, bacon, cheese, and Caesar dressing enrobed in dough. Not one thing.

8. Soda

In my experience, the best way to rate soda is whether or not they help a hangover. Certain soda fountains give you that extra pop, where the carbonation practically smacks you in the face. That's the hangover cure soda, and Costco's got it in spades. Add a greasy slice of pizza and you're on the road to recovery.

9. Mocha freeze

Not that Costco is knocking on my door for business ideas, but if it were I have two words: coffee bar. There are rumored to be a few stores that do this, but I've yet to see one. For now, the mocha freeze will have to do. It's a little icier than the standard coffeehouse frappes, but it doesn't require you to take a second mortgage out to support your habit. Win.

10. BBQ beef brisket sandwich

This beast of a sandwich really embodies the Costco "more is more" rule. It's a lot of brisket. It's a lot of BBQ sauce. And it's a lot of cole slaw, which happens to be its crowning glory. Think about sharing this one (and grabbing a tall stack of napkins).

11. Combo pizza

In my estimation this is the least good pizza option, but certainly not not-good. It's got your typical combo toppings and if that's your thing, you'll be a happy camper. (I just happen to be more of a greasy pepperoni/burned cheese girl.)

12. Berry smoothie

About once a year, usually around January 1, I tend to stock my freezer with all kinds of fruit with the intention of being super healthy. "Smoothies every morning!", I proclaim. After approximately one smoothie, the fruit goes forgotten until next January when I have to chip it out from the back of the freezer. Cut the pretenses — nobody believed you anyway. Just buy a smoothie every time you go to Costco instead.

13. Chicken Caesar salad

There is zero wrong with this salad, except for the fact that it is not a hot dog or pizza. Once you get past that, you're good.

14. Hot turkey and provolone sandwich

This is your basic turkey and cheese, classed up a bit with basil garlic mayonnaise and a toasted torta roll. But before you choose this sandwich because you're trying to be calorie conscious, know that a slice of pepperoni has 30 fewer calories. You're welcome.  

15. Very berry sundae

Same as the vanilla fro-yo but add a berry swirl and feel good about your "healthy" choices.