News & Politics

Is There Really a “Sexy Safeway”?

Here's the real deal with all those Safeway nicknames.

Photo illustrations by Jason Schneider.

To read more about how grocery stores have shaped Washington, click here.

Many Safeways in DC are known by nicknames that have persisted for decades. But how accurate are they now?

Sexy Safeway

Location: Fifth and L sts., NW.

Origin: So named by former DC mayor Adrian Fenty in 2008 for being the city’s first new Safeway in more than ten years.

Today: The name holds up. The sprawling supermarket has a Starbucks, a Wells Fargo, and a nice salad bar. Of course, a nickname based on youthful good looks can be dangerous: A number of stores have opened or been remodeled since then, perhaps changing the definition of “sexy.”

Soviet Safeway

Location: 1701 Corcoran St., NW.

Origin: This Dupont Circle location reportedly earned its name because of long lines and bare shelves.

Today: When we visited on a Monday evening, the store was busy but the lines were short and the shelves stocked. We may have gotten lucky—recent Yelp reviewers still say this store can be picked-over and lack selection.

Senior Safeway

Location: 5545 Connecticut Ave., NW.

Origin: Almost 20 percent of the surrounding population is over age 65—nearly double the District breakdown as a whole.

Today: Not every shopper in this Chevy Chase DC Safeway during our visit was a senior, but shoppers were older, on average, than at other stores we visited. We did find two perks that seniors probably like: a parking lot and a pharmacy.

Spanish Safeway

Location: 1747 Columbia Rd., NW.

Origin: This Adams Morgan store earned its moniker due to the ward’s historically high Hispanic and Latino populations. Variations include El Safeway and Señor Safeway.

Today: As DC neighborhoods change, so do the residents. Adams Morgan’s was the only ward to see a decrease in its Hispanic population during the last census as people moved to other areas. It might be time for a new nickname.

Social Safeway

Location: 1855 Wisconsin Ave., NW.

Origin: This store used to be known as a place for Georgetowners to meet and mingle. The term appears to have come from Armistead Maupin’s novel Tales of the City, in which he described a San Francisco location as a “Social Safeway.”

Today: A recent visit saw many young professionals but not much socializing. Still, the re-modeled store is among the nicest we visited.

Swanky Safeway

Location: 1100 Fourth St., SW.

Origin: Newer than the Sexy Safeway by two years, the store is in the revitalized Waterfront area, which recently got even swankier with the opening of the Wharf development.

Today: The name checks out. This vast, sleek Safeway offers all the necessities plus better-than-average selections of gourmet cheeses and wine. However, it might deserve another nickname. (See Un-Safeway.)


Location: 415 14th St., SE.

Origin: All the monikers for this Capitol Hill store are negative: Un-Safeway, Not-So-Safeway, Scary Safeway. It’s more dated than other stores we visited, but dangerous?

Today: We looked at police records, and it turns out the Un-Safeway is one of the safest on this list. There were no violent crimes within 500 feet of the store last year and only 67 instances of crime, including shoplifting. The Swanky Safeway had nearly double that.

Stroller Safeway

Location: 3830 Georgia Ave., NW.

Origin: This Petworth store was once called Sixties Safeway and Stinky Safeway for being dated and odorous, but an overhaul resulted in a store nearly triple in size and more akin to its “sexy” sister. The neighborhood blog Popville redubbed it.

Today: On a recent Sunday, young families were easily navigating wide aisles with strollers.

This article appeared in the March 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

Editorial Fellow

Abbey joined Washingtonian in September 2017. A Miami University (Ohio, not Florida) alum, she called the Midwest home before moving to Vermont to report for the Burlington Free Press and to be closer to her one true love: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Her work has also appeared in Cincinnati Magazine and USA Today. Abbey lives in Falls Church.