Costco Reigns Supreme When it Comes to Tasty Cheap Eats

The Strongsville Gourmet has no qualms about downing a quick dog.

It’s always fun to do fine dining. To sit at a nice table, read through a big menu and receive wonderful service from a friendly waitress or waiter.

Fun but expensive.

Sometimes, cheap eats is the order of the day. Save a few bucks, but still indulge in a quick, tasty meal; even if it means standing in a line and eating on the run.

One of my favorite cheap-eats haunts is Yes, I said Costco.

At my previous full-time gig, Fridays were a half day, which left me with an afternoon to kill before my better half came home for the weekend. It quickly became a tradition for me to head over to Costco to browse their DVD and electronics sections, pick up some flowers for Mrs. Shamray (hey, there really are some nice flowers there), and grab a cheap meal because I just spent most of my pocket change on the flowers and DVDs.

It’s really hard to beat their hot dog and Coke special. It’s only $1.50 for both (now, that’s some cheap eats and drink), and the hot dog is nearly the size of two normal wieners. You can either pick an all-beef hot dog or a Polish one. I’ve ordered both and I’m hard-pressed to tell the difference. Somewhere in the past, I made the decision that I prefer the Polish one, but that just may be my heritage coming through.

Granted, this may not be the greatest hot dog of all time, but it’s certainly a filling one. Best of all is the onion grinder where you can add freshly chopped onions, my favorite hot dog topping. (I swear I easily dump about a quarter of an onion on my dog.) There’s also several pumpers filled with catsup, two kinds of mustard and relish, my second-favorite dog topping.

I have to admit, I’ve got a bit of a fascination with the soda fountain at Costco. The machine quickly shoots out the pop into your cup with a striped appearance: half clear soda and then the color of the syrup. I’ve shot a short video clip to show the effect. (Go on. Click on it. You know you want to see it.)

I admit, the atmosphere and seating aren't anything to write home about. The tables are small but practical. If you want something a little fancier, then grab a table that has an umbrella.

I once had an elderly gentleman decide to sit down at a table I was eating lunch at. There were other empty tables around, he wasn’t eating anything and he appeared to be fine, so I’m not sure what was up. I tried making small talk, but he just gave me an odd glance. Hey, I tried to be social. Anyway, you never know who you’ll meet at Costco.

Sometimes when I’m really hungry, I’ll also pick up a slice of pizza. It's also a bargain at about $2. (Sorry, no soda included.) It’s surprisingly good, with a nice chewy crust. It comes plain, pepperoni or combo, which is really more like a deluxe with pepperoni, sausage, peppers, onions and mushrooms. Mmmm. Of course, I almost always go for the combo, but occasionally I’ll get the pepperoni.

When I feel the need for a sweet finale, I’ll get a churro for a buck. It’s a Spanish dish (a little class at Costco!), and is basically a long piece of fried dough sprinkled with sugar. Hard to beat that combo.

I’ve tried the berry smoothie ($1.45), which is very good. There’s also a mocha freeze.  Other “cheap eats” include a chicken Caesar salad ($3.99), a chicken bake ($2.99) and carne asada bake ($3.79).

You need a membership to partake, but there are plenty of deals to be had (cough, DVDs, cough), besides the cheap eats at Costco to make it worth your while.


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