Everyone loves a good Target run every now and then, right? Where else can you get ingredients for lunch or dinner, a cute new outfit to wear on a date, and an Instagrammable bottle of rosé all in one trip? But even the most loyal Target shoppers often miss out on one of the best parts of shopping at the budget-friendly-but-still-trendy chain: the food court. Okay, okay — we get it. The Target food court isn’t the best place to celebrate a promotion or an anniversary, nor will you get to do a Spanish wine tasting with tapas while you’re there. But if you’re looking for a snack while you shop (or even a small meal), the food court has you covered.
Some of what you’ll find at the Target food court is surprisingly delicious, and you may even come to look forward to snacking every time you visit your local Target. But not everything there is as good as your favorite Starbucks drink or the irresistible, freshly popped popcorn. Before you head to the Target food court, you should know in advance what’s worth your coin and what’s not. Just keep in mind that the cafe offerings at Targets can vary drastically, so your local store may not have everything on this list. With that in mind, here are the best and worst foods at the Target food court.
Best: Cinnamon sugar pretzel
If you’re in the midst of a Target run and you need something sweet to eat while you’re wandering the aisles, what are you going to reach for? If you want the best the Target food court has to offer, you should opt for the cinnamon sugar pretzel. Okay — let’s start out with what’s probably obvious. This definitely isn’t the healthiest item on the menu, considering one pretzel comes in at 520 calories and 34 percent of your daily salt intake.
But there’s a thing called a cheat day, and if you’re spending yours at the Target food court, you’re going to want to pick up this sweet snack. It’s everything you’d expect a soft pretzel to be: chewy but with plenty of give, big but not too big, piping hot and ready to be devoured. But then, it has a sweet and unexpected twist: cinnamon and sugar. Some say it’s the ultimate combo, and we can’t disagree.
If you’re looking for something to pair with your Starbucks coffee, this pretzel might just be your best bet. We aren’t telling you to eat it for breakfast, but if you do, we will tell you that you won’t be disappointed. It may not be something that you eat every day, but it will certainly be a treat when you do.
Worst: Pizza Hut pepperoni pizza
If you’re lucky enough to live by a Target that has a Pizza Hut Express inside, then you’ve probably eyed the hot pizzas more than once as you checked out and made your way out of the store. It’s true that this is an easy meal to grab when you’re hungry and in a hurry. But if you’re looking for something that actually tastes good, you can pass on this option.
Why? As YouTuber theendorsement claims, there just isn’t enough sauce on this pizza. While he said that there was a lot of cheese and that the crust had a nice buttery flavor, he just couldn’t totally get on board due to the lack of sauce. We have to agree. Of course, we all want our pizzas piled high with plenty of cheese. But at what cost? If we have to skimp on the sauce just to get the slice we deserve, we’d rather just go to a real Pizza Hut (or another pizza place entirely).
Unless you’re just dying for what’s essentially a meaty breadstick with extra oil, we’d suggest that you choose something else from the Target food court.
Best: Nathan’s all-beef hot dog
When you take a trip to your local Costco, there’s one thing you have to grab on your way out the door: a hot dog. Some would say that Costco’s hot dogs are the main reason for even stepping foot in the store. But did you know that you can actually grab a hot dog from Target as well? Nathan’s all-beef hot dogs are the perfect go-to snack for quick lunch while you’re on the go.
Okay, sure — the Target got dog may not be quite as good as the Costco version, but if you’re already at Target, it’s definitely worth a try. The actual dog is juicy, and the bun isn’t bad either. And if you’re lucky, your Target will have plenty of condiments for you to add to your hot dog. Of course, you need the classic ketchup and mustard. But if you’re waiting until you get home to eat it, we recommend upgrading your dog by adding onions (or chili, like you see in the picture) as well.
Worst: Chicken Alfredo Tuscani Pasta
If you live near a Super Target that sells groceries in addition to all the other fun stuff you expect from the chain, then you probably already realize that you can grab your dinner there. It’s easy to get a pack of pasta and a jar of sauce (and even some frozen chicken strips) that you can combine into a quick meal. But if you’re too lazy to do that, it’s always possible to grab the Chicken Alfredo Tuscani Pasta from Pizza Hut Express.
Let’s just say that this stuff looks more appetizing than it really is. While the slightly burnt cheese on top looks delicious, it falls flat as soon as you take a bite. The pasta is too soft, absent the al dente texture you might expect from a slightly higher-end Italian joint. There’s also just too much sauce, and the overall effect is bland and just not that appetizing.
We’re not alone in our assessment, either. YouTubers FUNG BROS. found the product just as lackluster as we did after they gave it a try on their Target food court review video. Still, you can try it out for yourself if you don’t trust our sources — just don’t blame us if you don’t end up liking it. We tried to warn you.
Unfortunately for those of us looking for a whole food snack, Target’s famous popcorn isn’t available everywhere. But where it is available, people go crazy for it — and it’s not hard to tell why. The popcorn comes in cute little bags that you can easily put in your card for convenient snacking as you make your way through the store. It’s a lighter option than some of the other choices you’ll find at the Target food court, which makes it a hit amongst slightly more health-conscious shoppers (though it is still salty and pretty buttery — you’ve been warned).
A few years back, it looked as if Target popcorn was on its way out for good, and Starbucks stores were picking up the snacking slack. Starbucks fans may have been happy, but Target cafe lovers? Not so much. There was even a Change.org petition to try to get Target to keep its popcorn in stores. At the moment, though, it looks like popcorn isn’t going to be leaving many stores anytime soon, especially with the advent of Target’s new grab-and-go snack bars. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that our local stores don’t discontinue their popcorn sales anytime soon.
Worst: Grilled cheese sandwich
Did you know that you can actually find a simple grilled cheese sandwich at many Target locations? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. The news probably hasn’t spread that far and wide because the sandwich just isn’t that good.
How do you mess up a grilled cheese sandwich, you ask? Well, it’s apparently easier than it seems. First, you start off with two pieces of bread without enough butter slathered onto them. Then, you use the smallest amount of cheese you could possibly justify putting on a sandwich. Finally, leave it in a drafty cafe for a few hours, and you’ve got your Target grilled cheese.
Are we saying you should never eat this piece of Target culinary glory? If you’re really hungry, go for it. Kids might like it, especially considering its conspicuous lack of flavor. But if you value yourself and your taste buds and can make it across the street to a different fast food joint, that’s probably going to be a better move. Of course, if you have time to make your own meal, you could always try a delicious grilled cheese recipe. You don’t have to stick with the basics — try something new and interesting in your grilled cheese if you want to find a way to switch things up. It’ll surely beat what Target offers.
Best: Pretzel bites
You already know you should try the soft pretzels at the Target cafe, but not everyone wants to juggle a giant pretzel when they’re trying to shop. And if you have young kids, you probably realize that giving them a whole soft pretzel to hold probably isn’t the best idea if you want to avoid tears and a tummy ache. But don’t worry: Target has a solution for you.
The pretzel bites are a favorite at Target because they offer the perfect sized snack for when you need to grab something on the go. They come in convenient six-packs, which is the ideal size for kids or adults who just need a few carbs to get through the rest of the day. However, 18-packs are also available, which may be ideal if you want to bring them home with you.
Luckily, you can get the pretzel bites in both the regular flavor (with plenty of salt, of course) and with the celebrated cinnamon sugar topping. Which one are you planning on ordering?
Worst: French fries
You’d think with all the fast food french fries you can choose from, you wouldn’t need to grab any from your local Target store. But clearly, there are people out there buying these soggy potato strings because Target continues to include them on its cafe menu. Why? We have no idea, as these may just be the least appetizing french fries we’ve ever tried.
Depending on your specific Target location, they’re liable to come out either too greasy or just dry, which makes us wonder how long they’re sitting there before a customer finally purchases them. The FUNG BROS. of YouTube can’t stand them, either. All three men gave the french fries low scores in their review of food from the Target food court. One of them even said he’d rate them a zero out of five.
That’s pretty harsh — but we can’t disagree. When it comes to the fries at Target, you can feel confident just skipping them (or picking up some frozen fries from the grocery aisle instead).
If you’re headed to Target on a sweltering hot day, the cold air conditioning is going to greet you the second you walk in the door. But if you’re still feeling hot even once you’re inside, you’re going to want to find the ICEEs. These things are the stuff of legends, and you’ll be amazed to find such fun, neon-hued culinary gems residing in an otherwise normal big-box store.
Target generally has all the typical flavors you’d expect from any ICEE stand at a music festival or gas station. Sure, those flavors are good, and you should definitely give them a try. But what Target is famous for is its seasonal ICEE flavors.
One of the most celebrated of these seasonal ICEEs was the mermaid ICEE, which arrived in stores the summer of 2019. It’s pastel blue hue was appealing, and it actually tasted great too. Fast forward to the holiday season of 2019, and you could try the oddly colored cherry lime elf ICEE, which, despite its summery flavor, was still celebrated amongst the ranks of Target fans. And before the coronavirus pandemic began in 2020, you could pick up a baby narwhal ICEE at your local Target cafe. You never know when a new flavor is going to drop, so don’t forget to take a trip past the ICEE machine on your next Target run.
Worst: Pizza Hut cheese pizza
It’s not just the pepperoni pizza at Target’s Pizza Hut Express that disappointed us … the cheese pizza isn’t much better. What else would you expect if the pepperoni’s not even that good? But this one is actually a step down from the pepperoni version because it doesn’t even have those zesty little meat discs to distract you from the otherwise utter lack of flavor.
You’re not going to find much sauce on this pizza, which would lend it the sweetness and acidity it definitely needs. But what you will find is heaps of low-quality cheese. Then there’s the crust that’s probably a little soggier than what you might expect (though we have to admit that it’s not terrible). And if you’re getting a dish that only has a few ingredients on it, you surely want them to be of a higher quality than what you’ll find on this cute albeit tasteless personal pizza.
If you’re looking for a pizza-shaped breadstick, this option may be appealing to you. Otherwise, graduate from the Target food court and go find a pizza somewhere else. You’ll be happy you did. With all the amazing pizza choices you have to choose from, you shouldn’t have too hard of a time getting something good.
Best: Starbucks coffee
You knew it had to be on the list, right? Target and Starbucks have a legendary partnership, and it’s turned out to be a successful venture if the numbers reflect reality: Back in 2016, there were more than 1,300 Starbucks locations in Target stores across the country. That means there’s a good chance there’s a Starbucks at your local Target. If there is, you should definitely take advantage of the convenient option.
Starbucks is known for its high-quality coffee, despite being a huge brand in a field of small, local coffee shops. And since it’s so accessible while you’re doing your shopping, it seems like there’s no reason not to stop there if you need an afternoon pick-me-up.
Our suggestion? Order whatever you usually get when you go to Starbucks. Whether that’s a cold brew or the sweetest, least caffeinated item on the menu, you know you’re going to be getting Starbucks quality. And if you want something to snack on too, that won’t be a problem. These Starbucks locations also sell many of the popular breakfast, lunch, and dessert items you pick up at the drive-thru.
Worst: Chicken tenders
Another Target food court offering you can probably skip is the chicken tenders. They come in packs of three, and if you’re looking for a whole meal, you’re probably going to order them with the fries, which we also wouldn’t recommend. Even on their own, though, these chicken tenders just don’t make the cut. The chicken is drier than you might expect, and unsurprisingly, this leads to a somewhat stale, less-than-fresh taste. Clearly something you want to avoid when it comes to chicken.
To top that off, the breading isn’t even that good. If the chicken is dry, you’d at least expect the breading to be plenty crispy, right? Well, you’d be wrong at Target’s food court. To make matters worse, the breading doesn’t have much flavor, so you’ll have to smother your tenders with condiments if you want them to be edible.
You can certainly find chicken nuggets that are better than these tenders from a variety of fast food restaurants — or possibly even Target’s frozen food aisle. So don’t waste your time at the Target food court on the chicken — it’ll just lead to disappointment.