First it was Trader Joe's. Then it was Lucky Supermarket.
Now a third West Coast chain has its sights set on the lucrative and ever booming South Florida grocery dollar. Safeway has entered the fray.
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.