Remember the Albertsons at the corner of Commercial Boulevard and Dixie? Well, it's gone, and in its place now sits a newly-renovated Safeway supermarket, the first of its kind in the area. Soon after Albertsons merged with Safeway in 2015, plans were put into action to flip some of the older Albertsons locations into fresh, new Safeways. The Oakland Park location is just that — $10 million dollars in improvements later.
One of only three Florida locations (Largo and Altamonte Springs being the other two), this new Oakland Park store also represents a bit of a shift in the current grocery invasion. Safeway isn't a niche grocer, catering to the crunchy organic, non-GMO crowd, nor is it a high end market offering rare meats or hard-to-find shaved truffles.
This is a supermarket. Period. In this case, a beautifully remodeled one, offering some nice amenities, but a supermarket nonetheless. In other words, it's the place you go to after you stop by the niche market for one or two items to get the rest of your groceries and maybe some stamps and lottos. The type of place your mom would bring her coupons. And, yes, the type of place for which your average shopper might actually, truly abandon their local Publix.
There's a Starbucks inside.
The first thing you'll notice when you walk into the Fort Lauderdale Safeway is that there is a Starbucks staring you right back in the face. Seeing a Starbucks inside of a grocery store is like seeing a huge flat screen TV when you walk in a stranger's house: It's a good sign these people get us. Unlike many of the Starbucks located in Targets that seem simplified, this Safeway Starbucks appeared to have all the bells and whistles you would expect to find at any standalone location. Having Starbucks available to sip on during your trip or on you're way out of the store is a sweet perk.
Safeway has a full-size pharmacy.
First caffeine, then drugs. Are they trying to get us addicted? (You had us at caffeine.) Once you get past the cashier stands and enter the store, one of the first things you'll find at Safeway is an oversized pharmacy, very similar to what you might find at a CVS. It's not tucked away in a corner or akin to some step-up-and-order, food-truck-looking hole in the wall, it's an actual pharmacy that's very well-staffed and organized. The OTC medicine section surrounding the pharmacy has everything you would expect to find with room to browse and more low-priced generic options.
Safeway takes to-go sushi very seriously.
So, this was a surprise. Many places have to-go sushi, but not like this. Safeway has an entire section — think Pub Sub line — dedicated to made-to-order or pick-up-and-go sushi. We aren't quite in a place where we feel great about picking up a package of sushi that was made a mysterious amount of time ago, but this makes us feel much better about it. At Safeway you can ask this guy if he has a certain combination you love, and if it isn't already out, he'll make it for you right then. Pretttttyyy cool.
Lets get to the booze.
We've beaten around the bush long enough: yes, Safeway has your alcoholic thirst needs taken care of. If your thing is wine, you're going to love Safeway even more. While some places — like Lucky Supermarket — concentrate on craft beer, it seems Safeway is catering more to your mom on her way home from work. While Publix has an aisle of wine, Safeway has walls of the stuff. We kept thinking it would end, but then we turned the corner and nope, more wine. There is so much wine at Safeway, it leaves you thinking maybe they have too much store square-footage dedicated to wine; but hey, they are the bosses.
The meat and seafood section is legit.
At the heart of every good grocery store is a quality meat and seafood section; without it, you're just wasting your time because you're going to have to make a separate trip elsewhere. Safeway's meat and seafood section seemed like a combination of Penn Dutch, Lucky Supermarket, and Doris Italian Market (that's good). While the prepackaged goods were very Walmart-like, the to-order stuff was plentiful and fresh-looking. You definitely can make a trip to Safeway and get everything you need for your barbecue.
The deli counter is all about shock and awe.
We were expecting to see your run-of-the-mill deli counter when we walked up, but holy-moly, did our eyes deceive us. Once you run up on the deli and get a closer gander at the selections, you find that not only do they have the usual Dietz & Watson brands many stores offer as an alternative to Boar's Head, but they also stock a wide range of other cured options and specialty brands, like Primo Taglio. Raw, uncut, beautiful-looking meats scored and ready to be sliced await you. This is the sort of meat you eat in your car on the way home, then throw the bag in the garbage and don't mention to your family.
Hot meat bars are our second favorite bar ever.
Salad bars are cool, but they need more meat; that's where meat bars come in! Safeway has a meat bar full of glowing, deliciously greasy, ready-to-eat meats — it's not called a meat bar for nothing. OK, so I made up the term meat bar. Safeway's calls it a "hot bar," but I feel like that's a little vague. If picking up a couple pounds of wings, egg rolls, and chicken tenders is something that sounds good to you, Safeway is going to make you a happy person. At $6.99 per pound, it's not the most expensive option out there — pretty comparable to Whole Foods or Winn-Dixie.
The cold deli options are insane.
If you have ever been to a Doris Market, this will seem familiar. The options Safeway has in its mostly-cold, precooked section go on for days, and they make you wonder why you even cook anymore. You could really ignore the rest of the store and come straight to this one section. You could eat meals off this bar for weeks and never duplicate the same meal combination. What makes this Safeway feature appealing, like the rest of the store, is that it seems clean and very well kept. Some stores will offer better selections, but they seem kicked around and dried out at any point past noon.
Yes, they make sandwiches too.
Listen, we know you're worried about the sandwiches. We know what Publix has done to you. There is literally a Publix across the street from this Safeway, so we know it's going to be tempting at first to go with what you know, but don't. Sandwich options at Safeway include chicken artichoke, smoked turkey chipotle, Philly cheesesteak, chicken bacon avocado, turkey pesto avocado, the "All Meat," and your classic Italian. Seriously, are you still in love with the Publix chicken tender sub? You can do better. Safeway also offers pizza they say can be cooked while you shop and ready to take on your way out the door.
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The Safeway Bakery makes Panera seem like a 7-Eleven.
Unlike Publix or Winn-Dixie, Safeway offers a huge selection of mix-and-match breads, rolls, bagels, and other baked products that you can take as few or as many of as you like. You don't need to buy a four-pack only to watch as that last roll turns into a mini-baseball bat throughout the week. Just buy what you need, and take only what interests you. They bake it all in store, and by the smell of things they are putting some love into it. There are also some off-the-wall options like jalapeño-cheddar biscuits, as well as your tried and true egg bagels.
The produce section caters to everyone.
The Safeway produce section was comparable to a Bravo, if you've ever visited one, with a much larger variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs incase you need to cook something other than meatloaf. South Florida is home to so many ethnicities and nationalities, with people who cook so many different types of cuisines, that making a single portion of one aisle in a store dedicated to your country's foodstuffs is almost offensive. At Safeway, there are so many types of fruits and vegetables you've either never heard of or can't believe you've found. Mixed with all that is the sort of fresh fruit and vegetables you would expect to find at a Whole Foods. The area is expansive, colorful, and extremely inviting.
Safeway is located at 950 E. Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park. Call 954-491-0551, or visit safeway.com.