Oh, I did have fun yesterday when my friends Anita and Kay and I dropped everything and ventured up to the new South Loop Costco at 14th and Ashland. (Yes, according to Costco 14th and Ashland has been annexed to the South Loop.) We went to see what this Costco thing was all about. Or at least I did; they sort of knew already.
When we started out on the Number 12 bus at State, going west on Roosevelt, the thermometer was inching toward breaking Chicago's all-time record of 105 degrees
. But by the time we got off a few minutes later at Ashland, there was a deluge. We got soaked and we were freezing while waiting for the number 9 to take us just a couple of more blocks south to Costco heaven. Believe it or not, we contemplated the buying of sweaters at Costco. But needless to say, things warmed up again pretty soon after.
Ordinarily, of course, my hearty friends and I would walk to the area of 14th and Ashland from our abodes in the South Loop if we had a reason to go there. There and back. But the extreme temperature and the flash flood prevented us from our daily multi-mile constitutional.
(Which we took after eating dinner at Zapatista's
back in the eastern part of the neighborhood after the Costco experience. And so shell-shocked from the weather, I actually thought I saw a funnel cloud in the distance over the lake as we strolled north along Michigan Avenue. Turned out it was a spouting Buckingham Fountain set against a cloud.)
But I digress. Back to Costco.
Anita and Kay got membership cards, free gift cards, special credit cards, etc. But I became what is known as a Costco "guest." And I could buy things at the checkout with my American Express card (no Visa or Master) as long as Kay and Anita were by my side.
We strolled and strolled into parts of American culture that I never knew existed. Like a huge refrigerated room filled with fruit that was about four times bigger than a typical very large luxury condo in Museum Park
And then there was display after display of restaurant gift cards worth $100 being sold for $75. They come in cardboard sleeves as big as a typical kitchen tabletop in one of those typical South Loop condos. I've never seen anything like it. I guess this prevents the stealing of the gift cards.
And the samples!
We ate and ate and ate. Beer chips, Nestles chocolate milk, hamburger patties, hummus, salsa, crackers and cheese. And more. Everywhere we looked there were samples! The servers hawked them like they were at a Middle Eastren bazaar--screaming out what these samples had to offer: "gluten-free, fat-free, delicious, kosher, whole-grain, great price!" Stuffing ourselves silly, we decided we loved Costco. And to pay them back for everything we ate, we bought big containers of a lot of the stuff we tried.
Which brings me to something I learned about Costco: All the packages look small because the place is so big. However, when you get your box of crackers or your jar of salsa home, you realize it doesn't fit in any of your South Loop cabinets. Or in your South Loop fridge. You realize you have bought enough crackers and salsa to feed an army. Even though the price is right. How do you store this Costco stuff!?!?
But I am still going back because Anita said this as we left: "You know, there were vast areas we never even saw, big parts of the place we never even got near. Did you know that?"
No, I didn't. But I do want to return soon and see them. And soon again after that. To scour every inch of space for things yet to be seen: TVs, appliances, the clothes and books. To try every sample--and get my ultimate fill of our South Loop Costco.
We can walk there and back, eat tons of samples (which by the way are way bigger than those meager little samples you get at Trader Joe's
) and call it a day by buying some bananas (even the bananas at Costco are the biggest ones that I have ever seen), big delicious loaves of bread and an oversized shrimp ring or something. Even the prepared take out lunchtime salads only come in a size that feeds two. So bring a friend.
It's wonderful having a South Loop Costco. Even if it really isn't in the South Loop, the name sure has a ring to it.