We tried everything at the Costco and Sam's Club food courts. Here's who won.

The food courts at Costco (left) and Sam's Club (right) are remarkably similar, but which is better?

This battle was much closer than I expected.

A few months ago some friends and I tried all the items on Costco’s food court menu, then ranked them. Later on, a friend told me how Sam’s Club had a similar — specifically, a nearly identical — food court. I’m all about giving everyone a fair shake. So, in the interest of equality, I reassembled my team of Costco taste testers and ordered everything on the Sam’s Club food court menu — actually, two or three of everything; we’re thorough.

Which food court emerged victorious? Read on.

SHARED ITEMS

Walking into Sam’s Club, it’s like you’ve entered an alternate Costco dimension. Everything looks nearly exactly the same. Even the food court. By comparison, this Sam’s Club and its food court seemed a bit more run down. Admittedly, I didn’t expect the food to be very good.

Based on our visits to these two specific food courts — the menus may change slightly depending on time and location — they have six items in common: pizza, frozen yogurt, berry sundaes, Polish and beef dogs, churros and chicken Caesar salads. Costco has six items that aren’t on the Sam’s Club menu (the Chicken Bake, Hot Turkey Provolone Sandwich, BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich, Berry Smoothie, Gelato and Latté/Mocha Freeze). Sam’s Club has five (the Crispy Chicken Sandwich, Ham and Cheese Sandwich, Pretzel, Yogurt Parfait and Icee).

Of the items they both shared, Costco’s pizza, berry sundaes and frozen yogurt were definitely better. Sam’s Club won when it came to the hot dogs, churros and chicken Caesar salads — by a fairly wide margin. Kudos to Sam’s Club for serving the undoubtedly superior Nathan’s Famous hot dogs.

Among these shared items — and especially with the pizza and hot dogs, probably Costco’s biggest sellers — things were neck-and-neck.

UNIQUE ITEMS

This is where things got interesting. Some of Costco’s best items are unique to Costco. The Chicken Bake is a strange, calorie-packed gift from heaven. The Berry Smoothie is unquestionably a must-slurp. Have you tried the Hot Turkey and Provolone Sandwich? You really should.

Sam’s Club nailed it with its Icees, which come in red cherry, blue raspberry and Coca-Cola flavors. Same for its big, soft, chewy, just-right pretzels, which you can order with or without salt. The parfaits were a mixed bag depending on the type of fruit they contained (blackberry, raspberry or a raspberry/blueberry mix), and the chicken and ham sandwiches were forgettable.

Further complicating things, Sam’s Club serves Coke products, while Costco only has Pepsi products. If you’re a Coke or Dr Pepper junkie, this could tip the scales. Food for thought.

AND THE WINNER IS …

I didn’t think it would be this close. It seems cliché to say — both competitors did such a good job here. But this isn’t youth soccer. There can only be one winner.

The winner is …

… Costco!

Here’s the thing: Costco has better main courses. The pizza, Chicken Bake and Hot Turkey and Provolone Sandwich are a mighty trifecta. Sam’s Club had a better hot dog and salad, but the collective power fell short in comparison. It was close, but these signature items are what sealed Costco’s victory. Sam’s Club made a final push with its excellent pretzel and Coke products. It just wasn’t quite enough.

The real winner, truth be told, is all of us. These respective food courts sell their stuff for very, very cheap. Our trips to each store, in which we ordered two or three of everything on the menu, rang up a bill of only $50 each time. I can’t overstate the value here. Ours is a land of abundance, and Costco and Sam’s Club are shining examples.

Daily Herald features reporter Court Mann can be reached at (801) 344-2930 or cmann@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @CourtMannHerald

Court Mann covers music, the arts and features for the Daily Herald.

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