I Tried Costco's Controversial New Food Court Sandwich & It Was Massive & Tasty
Don't laugh: the new item triggered considerable online debate following its February debut at a single warehouse in Costco's home state of Washington, mostly due to its $9.99 price tag—a significant step up from the warehouse club's famously low-cost $1.50 hot dog combo and $1.99 pizza slice. The dialogue has only intensified in recent weeks as the new sandwich has suddenly appeared at more locations across the country.
So, naturally, I was quite curious to try this lightning-rod lunch item for myself when I spotted it at my local Costco in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Costco fans are a notoriously tough crowd, especially when it comes to their beloved food court. All year, shoppers have complained on social media about the paltry state of the menu and bemoaned the glaring loss of once-popular food items, many of which disappeared during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. The critics routinely comment on the diverse foodstuffs offered at Costco's international locations and wonder why U.S. shoppers are getting the short shrift.
To its credit, Costco has responded in recent months with several attempted improvements to the menu. It brought back the chopped onions that customers so dearly missed on top of their hot dogs. It also reintroduced a chicken Caesar salad to replace an earlier version it scrapped, much to customers' chagrin. The club even tried to answer its American members' worldly yearnings by adding an internationally popular mango smoothie to U.S. menus this summer, for better or worse.
But, the roast beef sandwich is a more ambitious move than any of those things, as strange as that might sound when discussing mere cold cuts on bread. Unlike longstanding American classics such as hot dogs and pizza, the new sandwich seems more aligned with today's sophisticated tastes—it's served on an "artisan roll," according to the menu description, and comes topped with roasted cherry tomatoes and onion relish. In fact, it almost feels like a shot fired at Publix and Wegmans, two regional grocery powerhouses both known for serving exquisite deli sandwiches.
Of course, none of that marketing or business strategy matters very much to Costco customers. They want to know if the sandwich is any good and, if so, is it worth paying nearly $10 for the privilege. I decided to dig in and find out.
After ordering from the self-service kiosk and paying $10.88 with tax, I waited about 10 minutes for my order. Unlike the pizza and hot dogs, which food-court customers can clearly see coming out of the oven and steamer, respectfully, the roast beef sandwich was prepared somewhere in the back, far out of sight. Eventually, it appeared, loosely covered in foil.
The Look: Massive. The sandwich barely fit on the flimsy paper serving plate and weighed over a full pound on my digital food scale. The roast beef appeared fully brown—no pinkish rareness to speak of—and piled high in the middle between veggies and condiments on top and bottom. A heavy coating of bright yellow mayo-mustard clearly seeped into the bread below, while pink pickled onions glared out from up top (a noticeable substitution from the fresh red onions depicted in the menu photo). The roll looked fresh, with that tell-tale spotting of flour on top, suggesting it comes from a legit bakery. It's not as shiny and glamorous as the sandwich depicted in the glossy menu photo, but frankly, neither is the hot dog.
The Taste: Rich and complex. The roast beef was moist, tender, and toothsome. Maybe not the most luscious slices I've ever tasted, but certainly not as dry as you might expect from a high-volume quick-service kiosk like the Costco food court. The roll was soft and doughy inside but rigid enough outside to hold everything together without becoming a crumbly mess. Juicy roasted cherry tomatoes brought some bright acidity to the whole construction. Unfortunately, there weren't many of these little umami orbs, and they tended to fall out of the roll as you bite your way through it. The lettuce and pickled onions added some pleasant crunch, while the two sauces seemed a bit out of balance. I'd prefer to taste more of the sticky sweet onion relish, and a lot less of the pungent mayo-mustard. But, overall, it's a pretty tasty, enjoyable sandwich. And filling, too!
I've tried every item on Costco's food court menu at this point—at least stateside, anyway—and the roast beef sandwich is far and away the closest thing to a proper meal. Costco doesn't post the nutritional facts for these foods, just the calorie counts. At 790 calories, the roast beef sandwich is only a bit more rich than the 710-calorie chicken Caesar salad—and the sandwich packs more kinds of vegetables, too.
Costco customers have been lucky to benefit from super-low prices on other food court items for so long. Amid all the other cheap standbys, the roast beef-related sticker shock is understandable. But you can't expect more modern options without paying modern prices. Even Subway doesn't charge $5 for a footlong sub, anymore—the sandwich chain now charges $13 for a 12-inch roast beef in my neighborhood. Meanwhile, a large roast beef sub at Wegmans costs almost $15!
In that light, paying $10 for a good-quality sandwich at Costco seems like a steal. And if you don't like it, well, you can always get the hot dog instead.