Every item at the Costco food court, ranked

Sure, paying for that yearly Costco membership affords you plenty of benefits, but none quite live up to what is arguably the very best benefit of all: Unlimited access to the food court and all its glorious offerings. 

The Costco food court has it all, and no matter what you're in the mood to eat — sweet, salty, savory, or tart — your craving will be satisfied. Along with the shockingly inexpensive hot dog and soda combo we all know and love, there's the deliciously greasy pizza slices and the açaí bowls loaded with antioxidants to consider. 

So which tempting option should you order? Aside from the one menu item that you should never, ever order (we'll get to that in a second), it's hard to go wrong, though some offerings are admittedly better than others. Here's how we think the Costco food court menu ranks, from worst to best. (Some limited or regional menu items may not be included.)

18. Cold brew mocha freeze

When the polish dog was axed from the Costco food court menu national outrage ensued, and for good reason — it was a darn fine polish. But if they pulled the plug on the cold brew mocha freeze? We'd write Costco a thank you note. 

The mocha freeze happens to be the one and only item on the menu that you should skip. Unless you like blended coffee that doesn't actually taste like coffee, and unless you like to chew your blended coffee drinks. Those creamy, dreamy blended coffee drinks you get at the coffee shops? Don't expect that. This is more like a mocha Otter Pop — a little too crunchy, a little too icy, and therefore a little too watery. And all that crystalized icy coffee is peppered with the occasional hit of super-sweet chocolate syrup. 

All around, not Costco's best effort, but hey, the $2.99 price tag can't be beat for a 16-ounce coffee drink if you just really need the caffeine boost. 

17. Cheeseburger

When it was announced that Costco would be testing Shake Shack-style cheeseburgers in a limited market, you could practically hear the drooling commence around the country. A burger made by Costco had to be amazing, right?

Now that the burgers are more widely available (though still not in every food court), we can confirm that the burgers are not, in fact, amazing. They're… fine. Not exactly a rave review, but it's only because Costco has set the bar so high for itself when it comes to their other food court offerings.

The burger comes complete with six ounces of beef, so it's got some heft to it, but will cost you $4.99, which seems like 5-star dining prices when you're used to the $1.50 hot dog and soda. Otherwise, it's unremarkable — the bun a bit soggy, the sauce forgettable. If you picked this up from a random drive-thru in the middle of a long road trip, you'd probably be thrilled, but Costco can definitely do better, especially for $5. 

16. Fruit smoothie

When the $1.45 berry smoothie got replaced with the $2.99 fruit smoothie (a substantial 106 percent increase), Costco food court-goers were not pleased. Never mind the fact that the new and improved smoothie boasts 20 fewer calories, no added sugar, no artificial flavors or colors, and four servings of fruit. And never mind that a 16-ounce smoothie would cost you considerably more anywhere else. People clearly don't like change.

It's hard to put your finger on exactly what blend of fruit is in the smoothie — there's still a definite berry flavor, to be sure. According to one in-the-know Redditor, the main fruit components are "blackberry, strawberry, pear, pineapple, and apple," which sounds about right. All in all, it's a decent fruit smoothie at a great value. Maybe it doesn't deserve to be ranked number 16, but it's only because there are so many other tasty choices — you know, the ones full of fat and sugar.

15. Chicken Caesar salad

Here's the thing — the only reason you order a chicken Caesar salad at a food court is because you feel guilty about all the cocktails and pizza rolls and bagel bites you consumed the night before. There's no other reason to explain why you would forgo deliciously cheesy pizza and ginormous hot dogs but to atone for your sins. 

But here's a little secret: This salad is massive, and yes, it's sheer size to cost ($3.99) ratio alone makes it a smart choice, but spoiler alert — your "healthy" choice contains almost as many calories as that cheesy slice. Sure, you could go easy on the toppings to lighten things up, but everyone knows the best part of any Caesar is the dressing, the Parmesan cheese, and the croutons, which just so happen to make up most of that calorie count. Nobody wants plain romaine with chicken.

Bottom line: Similar to the fruit smoothie, it's a good salad with a great value, but for our money (and calories), there are better choices. 

14. Açaí fruit bowls

You've got to do Costco in the morning — nobody likes playing bumper cars in the aisles with those giant carts after noon on a Saturday. But the problem with getting to Costco first thing in the morning is that your food court options are limited. Sure, you can grab a slice of pizza, but sometimes you're in the mood for something more breakfasty. Enter the açaí bowl. 

This sizable treat boasts a whole lot of frozen pureed açaí (which comes out of the soft serve machine), fresh blueberries and strawberries, almond granola, and banana chips. It's only $4.99, which is substantially less than you'd pay at a fancy juice bar. And it's tasty. The açaí bowl is this close to being ranked higher, except that all that açaí starts to get a little too tart halfway through. Pro tip: If you sub in the açaí and vanilla froyo swirl here, this bad boy is unstoppable.

13. Chicken bake

The chicken bake is basically Costco's answer to Hot Pockets if Hot Pockets were on steroids. It is huge — plenty of bang for your buck. And it's made fresh in-house, so bonus points for that. Plenty of lists out there rank the chicken bake number one. Not this list. 

The chicken bake is proof that the old saying "you can never have too much of a good thing" is a big fat lie. A few bites? Absolutely. The cheesy dough, the creamy Caesar dressing + bacon + chicken combo. It's definitely tasty. A few more bites? No thank you. It's too much of a good thing, and it begins to feel like a chicken bake brick in your stomach. Maybe at $2.99 those few tasty bites are worth it — some for you, some for the trash can. But there are so many other menu items that you don't want to share with the trash can.

12. Churro

Now we're getting into the middle portion of the list where the rankings become a bit interchangeable — depending on what you're in the mood for at that particular moment, any of these menu items will hit the spot. In the mood for sweet? The churro is a fine choice. You really can't go wrong with fried dough coated in cinnamon and sugar, can you? 

Costco's churros are crispy crunchy on the outside, warm and soft on the inside, much like you'd expect a churro to be. The big difference between Costco churros and other churros is the size and the price. These are incredibly long churros, plenty big for a couple of kids to split, and it will run you just $1. Do you know how much a churro at Disneyland costs? Over $5. And do you know what makes those $5 churros so much better than Costco's? Absolutely nothing (sorry, Disneyland).

11. Vanilla frozen yogurt

We've all gone to those frozen yogurt shops where you pay by the ounce. Somehow, even if you skip the toppings, and even if you go think you went extra light on the froyo, that cup rings up around $8. It never fails. Now, imagine how much Costco's hulking cup of vanilla froyo would run you at a pay-by-the-ounce place. We know it's served in a 16-ounce cup, but it's always towering well above the rim in an impressive swirl, so you're definitely getting more than that. Let's call it 18 ounces — that's probably going to cost a cool $9 or $10 anywhere else. At Costco you will pay just $1.35.

No, you don't have the option to add sprinkles or Reese's peanut butter cups or gummy bears, but you can (and should) enjoy it for what it is — perfectly sweet, perfectly creamy vanilla frozen yogurt on the cheap. 

10. Combo pizza

Placing any of Costco's pizzas in the number 10 slot might seem a bit sacrilegious — the warehouse store definitely knows how to make an absurdly delicious pie, there's no doubt about that. But the combo pizza just isn't as absurdly delicious as the others.

Yes, the combo pie is host to an incredible amount of toppings — the entire pizza weighs in at almost four-and-a-half pounds, for crying out loud. But that's problem number one: All the pepperoni and Italian sausage and green bell pepper and mushrooms and red onions and olives take a toll on the crust, and before you know it you're staring down at a soggy slice that now requires a knife and fork to eat (which we all know is blasphemous). Problem number two also lies with the plentiful toppings, which don't allow that burnt cheese effect to occur across the top of the pizza, and we all know the burnt cheese is the best part.

9. Hot turkey and provolone sandwich

Every once in a while, for some inexplicable reason, the $1.50 Costco hot dog just doesn't sound good. It's not too often that this odd phenomenon occurs, but in those rare cases, a hot turkey and provolone sandwich hits the spot. 

This sandwich sneaks up on you with it's tastiness. There's a substantial pile of tender oven-roasted turkey and the provolone cheese that gets nice and melty. Take or leave the tomato, it probably won't be ripe anyway. But it's the sliced red onion, which adds that hit of raw spiciness, the creamy basil garlic mayonnaise, and that toasted torta roll that prevents the whole thing from being basic and boring. It's still a fairly simple turkey sandwich, yes, but it's darn good in its simplicity, with a few unexpected flavors to keep things interesting. And of course, it's Costco, so the whole shebang will only cost you $3.99.

8. Very berry sundae

It's already been established that the vanilla frozen yogurt is a fine treat, though the one knock on it might be that you have none of the classic froyo shop topping options. That's where the very berry sundae comes in. 

For just 30 cents more, that plain cup of vanilla frozen yogurt becomes a very berry sundae, and it's an improvement worth so much more than that. Yes, for $1.65 you're treated to a creamy, dreamy, berry sundae that is so ginormous it's almost impossible to finish on your own. The hearty helping of strawberry sauce makes all the difference, and though you think it's going to be way too sweet, it's somehow just right when combined with the yogurt.

Word on the street is that some Costco locations booted the sundae from their menu in 2018 to make room for the açaí bowl, but it's still alive and well at other locations.

7. BBQ beef brisket sandwich

Where the cheeseburger misses, the BBQ beef brisket sandwich hits, even at its steep (for Costco) $4.99 price tag.

There's almost too much shredded brisket on this sandwich, if that's possible. In fact, it's even served wrapped in a cardboard ring to keep all that meat in place. But it's cooked to tender perfection, with all that smoky barbecue sauce to keep things juicy. The coleslaw adds a nice element of sweet and tangy crunch, and the bun is pillowy soft — which might be the sandwich's only problem. If you don't inhale this beast in minutes, all that juicy meat and barbecue sauce and coleslaw dressing take a toll on that pillowy bun. Things can get soggy in a hurry, so plan on channeling your inner competitive eater for this one. Or maybe flip the whole sandwich upside down and let the thicker top bun do some of the work for you.

6. Soda

Soda at number six, really? Absolutely, and for good reason (actually, several good reasons).

First of all, Costco serves only Pepsi products in their food courts. The company came to their senses a few years ago and made the switch from Coke. Everyone knows that Pepsi > Coke. Second, their carbonation to syrup ratio is nothing short of perfection. Your first sip practically smacks you in the face with its bubbly intensity, and every sip after that is just a dream — exactly the way a good soda should taste. Third — and this is to be expected since we are talking about Costco — it's dirt cheap. Where else can you get a 20 ounce soda for 59 cents? Certainly not from a fast food place, and even most vending machines these days are hovering around $1 for a can (which is only 12 ounces). Fourth, free refills. See, Costco soda has a lot going for it.

5. Beef chili with beans

One of the food court's newer menu additions is the chili, and it manages to hold its own against the old Costco favorites. 

For $3.99 you will receive a vat of beef chili peppered with kidney and pinto beans, bell pepper and onion, along with a container of shredded cheddar on the side. No joke, the tub holds at least two full servings of chili, if not more. It's hearty with a capital H — thick, creamy, and not at all watery. And it's great on its own, to be sure, but it's even better when you hack the menu for a chili cheese dog.

Think about it: Two hot dog and soda combos, along with an order of beef chili, and you're looking at a stick-to-your-ribs lunch for two with a $7 price tag. And you're probably going to have some chili leftover for the next day, too. Win, win.

4. Cheese pizza

Remember how the combo pizza just couldn't quite be described as "absurdly delicious"? Well, the cheese has "absurdly delicious" in spades. This pizza is truly a sight to behold.

How can a basic cheese pizza be so amazing? It's a pretty simple concept, after all — just dough, tomato sauce, cheese. Yes, that's true, but Costco takes the whole cheese thing to the next level. Thanks to the one-and-half pounds of mozzarella and provolone that covers each 18-inch pie, this is one of the cheesiest cheese pizzas you'll ever eat. 

The real game changer though, is that when the pizza takes its trip through the super-hot, super-fast conveyor belt oven, the surface of the cheese burns just a little bit, in just the right places. With each bite you get that toasty, nutty flavor that comes along with burnt cheese, and if it was socially acceptable to scrape all that heavenly burnt cheese off the pizza and eat it by itself, more people would.

3. Açaí and yogurt swirl

When Costco discontinued its chocolate frozen yogurt to make room for the frozen pureed açaí that would run through the soft serve machines in its place, customers were not happy. But one taste of the açaí and vanilla frozen yogurt swirl would make them forget all about that chocolate froyo, guaranteed.

Combined with the vanilla frozen yogurt, the açaí's tartness — which is precisely what keeps the aforementioned açaí bowl from being better — is mitigated. And then there's the perfect texture. You might think that the super creamy froyo swirled together with the icier açaí wouldn't work, but oh, it does. And where the chocolate and vanilla swirl could be over-the-top sweet, this new and improved swirl is just right. 

At $2.99 it'll cost you $1.64 more than the plain vanilla, but don't forget how massive this cup of froyo is. The sweet and tart experience is well worth the price.

2. Hot dog

It seems like a bit of a slap in this iconic hot dog's face not to give it top honors, but since there can't be a two-way tie for first, a very close second has to do. 

Costco's $1.50 hot dog and soda combo is by far the food court's best value (a price that hasn't changed since 1985). A whole meal for under two bucks? That just doesn't happen, and especially not at this quality. The Kirkland hot dogs are legit — they weigh in at more than a 1/4 pound, and they're made with 100-percent beef, which means you don't have to wonder about what sketchy mystery ingredients are lurking inside. And it also means they taste far superior to any cheap grocery store hot dog you're going to buy. 

Moral of the story: In all the food courts in all the lands, the Costco dog is almost impossible to beat. Almost.

1. Pepperoni pizza

Allow us to introduce the crème de la crème of the Costco food court: The pepperoni pizza. 

Costco has managed to take the standard pepperoni pie and turn it into something incredible. Sixty slices of pepperoni grace each 18-inch pie, which by most pizzeria standards is larger than a large. And for that supersized extra meaty pizza, all you pay is $9.95 (or $1.99 per slice). No matter how many coupons you have for your local pizza joint, you're not getting that kind of deal.

What makes this pepperoni pizza so fantastic is that it takes everything that's great about the cheese pizza, but adds thinly sliced spicy meat. That meat gives off a little fat when it's cooked, and yes, the pepperoni pizza can be a bit greasy, but in the best way possible. All that cheese (some of it burnt), all that pepperoni, and all that grease mean that each bite tastes like you're getting away with something. It just doesn't get any better than that.