Restaurant of the Week: Costco


This week’s restaurant stretches the definition: Costco, with locations at 11800 Fourth St. (at I-15), Rancho Cucamonga, and 9404 Central Ave. (at I-10), Montclair

When a few budget-conscious friends invited me to lunch at Costco, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I’m not a Costco member and I didn’t even know you could eat there. But they said anyone can eat at the cafe, which is on the patio, and that the $1.50 hot dog and soda special couldn’t be beat.

So a group of us met at the Rancho location, pictured above, which is across Fourth from Ontario Mills. You line up, place your order at a window from the very basic menu depicted in giant blow-up photos on the block wall above, get your food and sit at the one of the plastic benches on the utilitarian, hose-it-off-before-closing-time patio.

I got only the 1/4-lb. hot dog and 20-oz. soda, $1.62 with tax, to relish the novelty of the cheapest lunch I’ve had since Del Taco halted its three tacos for 99 cents deal.

The hot dogs and Polish sausage are Hebrew National, all-beef. I had the Polish and asked for the off-menu sauerkraut, one friend’s tip.

The dog didn’t live up to the hype and didn’t taste like anything other than a hot dog, but for the price, it was outstanding.

Curious about the $1.99 pizza slices, I visited the Montclair Costco, pictured below, a few days later. This time I got the frozen yogurt chocolate and vanilla swirl ($1.35) as well as a combo slice, and no drink. Total: $3.61. While these prices, and the 59-cent soda with free refill, are eye-poppingly low, my guess is that with its high volume and low overhead, Costco still makes a profit.

The pizza slice was only average, which still made it better than some pizza I’ve paid more for. The swirl was tasty but as it came in a 5-inch-tall plastic cup, there was enough for a whole family.

It would take only three more visits for me to try every type of food on the menu: the chicken caesar salad, the turkey wrap, the berry sundae, the berry smoothie, the ice cream bar and the most mysterious item, which is called the chicken bake. It seems to contain chicken, cheese and bacon, all deep-fried into a hot dog-like form. It’s oddly compelling.

Social critics will grind their teeth at hearing that at $3.99, the salad and turkey wrap, the healthiest items, are the most expensive other than a full pizza, thus encouraging us all to stuff our faces with hot dogs and chicken bakes.

The two Costco cafes are identical except in Rancho there were ropes to funnel us through in one line, whereas in Montclair we lined up at individual windows, like we were at a ballpark. Also, in Rancho the patio has overhead heaters. Perhaps corporate HQ thinks Montclair has a naturally hotter climate. (This text was written in 2008 and the photos taken in 2014, when the rope lines appear to be history.)

Both locations are good for people-watching if you take an academic interest in the type of people who shop at Costco. In fact that thought was just crossing my mind in Montclair when a mother with two children in tow passed by pushing a shopping cart containing one item: a crate-like box of diapers with the number 264 on the side.


Facebook Twitter Pinterest Plusone Linkedin Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email
  • Scott in R.C.


    I highly recommend the Berry Smoothie. For about a buck and a half, it’s tasty and CHEAP!!

    When my dad visits Costco, he usually doesn’t bother with the food stand, but instead goes inside the store to do the sampling of the promoted foods for sale. He normally can get out with a full belly without spending a dime!!

    Thanks for the reviews, although this one was a bit surprising.

    [Expect the unexpected at The David Allen Blog! — DA]

  • Thomas Leak

    For your next Costco run, Go east young man! You should try the Fontana location. It’s rarely crowded and they allow you inside the store, which is a good thing on those windy Fontana days!

  • Dominick

    You should have vouched for the regular all-beef Hebrew National hot dog.

    They’re much tastier in my opinion and contain none of the raccoons, old boots, opossum, and other tasty things Farmer John likes to put in his.

    [It was a mid-grade dog, certainly better than an Oscar Mayer or Farmer John but not as good as one with a great casing for that “snap.” The Costco dog can’t be beat on price and it’s a better dog than one would expect from a warehouse store’s el cheapo patio. Howzat?– DA]

  • rpinrc

    Saturday morning, hit all the food samples for free. That is far better known than their snack bar.

  • Don J

    Well now Dave in the name of journalistic non-bias you gotta go to Milliken & 4th and compare the Sam’s Club snackbar.

  • John

    Everything from Costco is good. You can’t beat their quality. Thank you for the fun review. I linked this page from my website. 🙂

  • peacepixie

    Since moving to an area of the country that doesn’t have a Weinerschnitzel or anyplace else to pick up a hot dog on the run, I’ll take a Costco or Sam’s dog any day!

    Top it with relish, mustard and onions and with a soda, it is a bargain that can’t be beat!!

  • Mario

    Costco’s pizza is very tasty, big and inexpensive at $10. It rivals and in most cases is better than the large pizza chain stores. I have gone to Costco just for the pizza on many a night instead of the the Pizza Huts and Dominoes of the world.

  • Calblazer

    I pack my Costco Cash Card with loot to always be ready for the culinary budget delights! One must not neglect to mention the Mocha Latte Freeze in lieu of the Berry Smoothie! For $1.45 why would you go to Starbucks!

    As for Sam’s supposed snack-bar equivalent, I would rather procure my food at an AM/PM mini-market! (That’s not a compliment!)

  • Pasadonuts

    DA: We just went to the new Costco that just opened in San Dimas on Friday! Very nice and clean … and not very crowded. The eatery is in the inside of the store, so no need to be outside in weather like this!

  • Nancy

    The Chicken Bake is just that, “baked,” not deep fried. It’s pizza dough that it is wrapped in. It makes for a wonderful lunch.

    [That sounds less unhealthy than deep-fried. I couldn’t really tell from the photo what it was. Thanks for the explanation, Nancy. — DA]

  • Annie Muss

    The chicken bake may “sound” healthy. Cut it open though and the melted cheese and caesar dressing flood out in a heart-clogging 1,000-calorie tsunami of fat and sodium. Tasty though, no denying that.

    [You had me at “1,000-calorie tsunami.” — DA]

  • Charles Bentley

    I see all these suggestions on alternative Costco stores to visit, but for someone like me who is not a member I have to believe those locations with the indoor snack bars also ask to see your card before you can enter. That’s why friends suggest going to Montclair (or Rancho) is better for those of us who don’t (and won’t) pay for membership.

    That’s the question for you, David. Or are you a card-carrying Costco customer?

    [I’m not, and I have no idea if you can walk into San Dimas (or wherever) and eat if you’re not a member. Readers? — DA]

  • carol lasagna

    What are the ingredients for the latte/mocha freeze