Introducing "Schaefer," in which Eric Schaefer -- a local guy with a big (but discerning) appetite and a sense of humor to match -- takes on the Phoenix food scene.
Is there any better value in food than a hot dog at Costco? No, I say, there is not. Because for precisely $1.63, I just consumed a perfectly delicious all-beef hot dog on a wonderfully slightly soggy bun and topped it with onions, relish, deli mustard and sauerkraut. The sauerkraut is important, as it takes this dog from "average" to "really satisfying." You have to ask for it.
Even better, dining at Costco is a pleasure. It affords a certain degree of anonymity, as you squeeze in between strangers at the white plastic tables and gaze at people leaving the checkout lines. It's always fascinating to see what people bought. Today, in particular, I saw a lot of white-haired people buying Kirkland brand vodka in large quantities. I'm not sure if that makes the idea of getting older better or worse, but it was hard not to notice.
A hot dog at Costco is the great equalizer. Any notion of status is moot; we're all there together. I once sat next to the CEO of Dial Corporation; he may have driven away in a $100,000 Mercedes, but he spent $1.63 on his lunch just like me. Wealthy or poor, a hot dog at Costco appeals to all.
And, for what it's worth, the hot dog isn't second-rate. There was an uproar a few years ago when Costco switched from Hebrew National to its own private label non-kosher brand. I don't taste a difference and cannot detect any decline in quality. It's the perfect delivery medium for a load of raw onions and pickled cabbage -- sturdy, juicy, and efficient.
Sure, Costco offers other options ranging from a "Chicken Bake" (the name alone scares me) to a Roast Turkey Sandwich, but I stick with what works. I also admire the fact that Costco treats its employees well and offers them great benefits; many of their employees have been with them for over 10 years.
What's more American than buying 24 rolls of toilet paper, 64 ounces of mayonnaise, a case of beer, a few racks of ribs from the butcher, and throwing down a hot dog on the way out? Simply put: nothing. And as a bonus, you can also buy enough antacid to last a lifetime.