Costco is making its food court a little friendlier to vegetarian guests with updates to its menu. The bulk shopping destination is phasing out some of its meatier menu options in favor of new items like the “al pastor” salad and an acai bowl.
This increase in plant-based meals is all part of Costco’s mission to make the food court healthier. The strategy is a bit of a departure for the company, which has typically prided itself on pizza, ice cream, and the famous $1.50 hot dog and soda combo deal. But these changes have been a long time coming. Chief executive Craig Jelinek informed shareholders in January of the menu updates, acknowledging that "not everybody gets as excited about pizza and hot dogs as I do."
The company has already removed its Polish dog to make way for organic burgers, and Fortune reports that a barbecue brisket sandwich, chili, chocolate frozen yogurt, and berry fro-yo sundae have disappeared from some locations.
According to The Seattle Times, Jelinek told shareholders that the executive team decided to alter the menu after getting tons of comments on the food court in the store suggestion boxes. Some locations actually added the new veggie options earlier this year, as far back as January. A Costco in San Juan Capistrano, California, for instance, has been serving the acai bowl for nearly seven months.
So what exactly is in the new food? The al pastor salad is a mix of black beans, black olives, romaine lettuce, soy protein, pickled veggies, and a creamy dressing. Despite the name, it’s closer to Vietnamese cuisine than Tex-Mex, and if you ditch the dressing, it becomes vegan. The salad starts at $4.99 and contains 330-750 calories.
The acai bowl, meanwhile, starts with a purple-tinted acai smoothie base. It’s topped with strawberries, blueberries, banana chips, and Costco’s Kirkland brand granola, all for $4.99 and 330 calories.
But how is it? Some Costco fans on Reddit have criticized the salad’s excessive olives, but others endorse the item overall, particularly the soy protein. “Great alternative to the meat products they currently sell,” writes Reddit user Cloneuno.
The News Tribune in Tacoma, Washington also reviewed the salad, calling it “filling and mildly interesting.” Readers were split, with some praising the “fresh” and “tasty” plant-based dish and others complaining “the flavors are just not right.”
The acai bowl is certainly a hit on Instagram, where it’s already appeared in numerous posts.
After months of testing at select locations, the new menu is now permanent and nationwide. Will you try the acai bowl or al pastor salad on your next visit? Or did you sign the “bring back the Polish dog” petition?