The menu at the Costco food court is simple, and our food was ready in less than five minutes. Photo by Megan Gray.

A couple years ago, my sister put a sweatshirt on her Christmas list. And not just any sweatshirt – this one had the “Kirkland Signature” logo in big letters across the front. It was a statement of loyalty to the Costco brand, kind of like buying a favorite player’s jersey. (I bought her the sweatshirt.)

When Maine’s first and highly anticipated Costco opened in Scarborough this fall, I asked the family group thread if I should get a membership. Honestly, my mom should get a commission for the sale she made that day. My husband and I now have enough paper towels to last us a lifetime. My parents live in Indiana, and they usually stock up on bulk snacks when their four daughters converge on their house from our respective states. We did not travel to the Midwest for any holiday celebrations this year, so perhaps I was feeling just as homesick as I was hungry when we decided to stop at Costco for lunch last week.

I again turned to the family via text for advice. Should we join the throng at the café counter inside the store on our next visit? I got a string of replies from my mom. “Yes! They are great!” “Amazing value too!” “Dad concurs!” “Hot dogs are great.” “Their sundaes are good too!”

It was a dreary Thursday, but the parking lot was bustling. My husband and I flashed our membership cards and did a lap around the store for some free appetizers. We found free samples of frankfurters (a preview?), chicken tortilla soup, salami and salted cashews. Employees were in the process of assembling stations for yogurt, buffalo chicken wings and meatballs, but we decided not to wait around and spoil our appetites for the main course.

Costco uses kiosks instead of cashiers for ordering. Photo by Megan Gray.

The food court uses kiosks rather than cashiers. We waited in line for a couple minutes and then punched in our order on the tablet. The menu is simple – no funky toppings for the pizzas, only a few items and flavors – but it was almost welcome after taking in all the options in the massive store. We each got a hot dog, which comes with a fountain drink and costs $1.50. He also ordered a slice of pepperoni pizza ($1.99), and we got a vanilla and chocolate sundae ($2.49) and churros ($1.49) for dessert. Our total with tax was $9.49. Where else could we go on a lunch date for less than $10?

Our food was ready in less than five minutes. I filled my cup with lemonade, while my husband chose water, but the fountain offered a variety of Pepsi products. Many tables were occupied, but we found an open one. I overheard the two people eating next to us discussing their food. “This is my new lunch spot,” one said. “It’s a value,” the other agreed.

I sent a picture to my mom. She said, “I am now craving a hot dog!” I admit I had very low expectations, but my hot dog with ketchup was pretty good and definitely filling. I stole a bite of the pepperoni pizza and was again pleasantly surprised. When I surveyed my family, my uncle said his office sometimes orders Costco pizza as a popular treat, and my sister declared it “stellar.” My husband, who will not hesitate even for a moment to eat pizza that has been under a heat lamp at a gas station for hours, said, “It’s the best slice I’ve had for $1.99.” The sundae was a nice treat, but I would skip the churro next time because it didn’t add much, even if we did enjoy dipping it into our vanilla soft serve and chocolate sauce.

We both felt full and in need of a nap, but we went home instead of back to the beanbag chairs we passed on our earlier stroll around the store.

I do not predict that Costco will make Press Herald restaurant critic Andrew Ross‘ Best of 2024, and my loyalty still lies with my favorite locally owned spots. But I enjoyed my cheap and easy lunch, and more importantly, I felt the warmth of familiarity and family. A trip to Costco is a poor substitute for a trip to my parents’ house for the holidays, but I felt as if my mom and dad were going to roll up with their own cart and hot dogs any minute. Maybe I’ll put a Kirkland Signature sweatshirt on my Christmas list next year.

Our total with tax came to $9.49. Photo by Megan Gray

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