Bad Dining: Costco
by The Editor
We avoided Brand Depot for the entirety of its existence. The idea of trekking out to the airport to shop in substandard outlets simply appalled us but, to be honest, the thought of heading to Costco with its clientele of tracksuit-wearing, wagon-driving bogans buying 50-packs of toilet paper seemed even worse. Having dipped our toes in the water at Frank and Beans a week earlier, we were truly afraid of what it might mean to dine at the American wholesaler.
Arriving on a Saturday was our first mistake. It was so busy in the carpark we felt as though we were walking all the way from the Qantas Club back to the entrance to Costco. A constant stream of trolleys as wide as the people pushing them made their way in and out of the venue. There was simply no option other than to join the slow crawl into the belly of the beast. Avoiding a stack of some 500 snow jackets immediately within the entrance, we headed quickly for the checkouts only to emerge on the other side near the ‘cafe’.
The first thing that struck us was the collection of picnic tables, perhaps twenty in all, that dotted their way along the wall between the cashier and the tyre shop (yes, you read that correctly). Some even had a picnic umbrella, perhaps to protect customers from the electric lighting some 50 feet above their head. The whole area was packed – barely a single seat at a single table appeared available. This was frightening stuff.
Approaching the counter a man wearing gloves, a face mask and a high-visibility jacket took the order. It was easy to get the feeling we were operating in the nuclear power plant from The Simpsons. Forget the sumptuous, sensual cooking featured on television shows such as Masterchef or MKR, this was simply functional cooking with food produced at the greatest speed with the lowest cost and minimal risk.
We gabbed a hotdog (with a accompanying large cup of Coke) and a Bulgogi – a type of Korean Chicko Roll, although made with barbeque beef. Total cost: $7.48
The hotdog was presented wrapped in foil and without delay, but we would have to wait momentarily for the bulgogi. When it appeared, presented on a crappy paper plate from the 1970s by a kitchenhand who appeared suddenly at a dispatch window, we looked at it without any sense of excitement. At least Chicko Rolls come in a colourful wrapper. Sighing, we retreated to a spot on a park bench stopping only to fill our paper cup with post-mix cola.
Every spot we could possibly find was filthy. Resigning to the fact we would have to tidy out own dining space we sat among the jumbo trollies and screaming kids to eat. The batter of the bulgogi ($4.99) was tastless, however the beef was heavily sauced with some sort of interprestation of gravy. The spring onions lifted the dish as best it could, but couldn’t fight past all the oil in the batter. The strangest part of the experience was simply the fact it was on the menu at all.
Not so much the hotdog ($2.49), as it stood proudly between contemporaries such as pizza and sundaes. Given the price our expectations were exceptionally low, but even we were unprepared for the simple tepid frankfurt nestled in an unbuttered bun. As it turns out there was a condiment station nearby where one could add all manner of multicoloured sauces (and onion) in order to bring some form of moisture to the table. It was sweet relief to our tiring jaws.
There really isn’t much more we can offer on the experience. Put simply, don’t do it. Ever. This was a truly horrible meal that made our lunch at Ikea feel like a trip to Noma. Fortunately, four days after the event, we are presenting no noticeable ongoing symptoms. If we fail to post again before the weekend, call the police and a doctor, but not in that order.
Have you been unfortunate enough to eat at Costco, or even found some ridiculous bulk product at a price you couldn’t resist? We’d love to hear of your highs and lows. No doubt there are many!