I remember having a conversation with a friend a few years ago about her deciding not to move to Oak Cliff. She thought we lacked amenities like nearby grocery stores. “I can walk to three major grocery stores!” I protested.

With two of those stores gone, I now realize she might have meant we didn’t have a Whole Foods. I can’t help fantasizing about a Whole Foods in the space Albertson’s has left behind, but rather than dwell on what we don’t have, I’ll tell you about two options I hadn’t considered in that conversation. Carnival and Fiesta weren’t even on my radar eight years ago. I have since visited both many times.

I recently gave the new Carnival Supermarket on Illinois a real-life test run by taking the whole family on a Sunday afternoon. The parking lot bulged with cars, but in spite of the crowds, we were determined to do a little foraging for dinner.

We entered the store and my preschooler danced to the lively music as we passed the sanitizing wipes to get a cart. In the produce section, we found plenty of choices and space, but not many of my favorite salad greens and no organically grown produce. We passed by displays of beautiful cakes and fresh bread, prepared foods from their kitchen, a tortilleria, a juice bar, and a small deli on our way to the dairy, which included several choices of organically-produced milk and non-dairy beverages.

Instead of offering endless choices of every type of product, Carnival’s middle isles carried a couple of choices for most common items. These isles were not as spacious as the produce section, but still fairly passable at this busy time of day. We stocked up on beans and canned tomatoes at great prices.

We had planned a vegetarian meal, so we avoided the huge and crowded meat department. But just as in the other departments, it seemed to offer just about everything you’d want.

The check-out process was surprisingly quick, considering the crowds. A dozen expedient checkers were scanning customers’ groceries, and we had paid for our goods and walked out the doors
before we knew it.

My trips to the newly-remodeled Carnival on Twelfth street have been similar, but cozier shopping experiences. This location is not a “super” market, so there were fewer extras and less space, but it had more of a neighborhood grocer feel to it.

Whenever I visit the Fiesta on Jefferson, it’s a bit of a cultural adventure. I’ve discovered specialty treats like young coconuts there and some wonderful non-food finds. Fiesta seems to only dabble in organic offerings, such as fresh herbs, canned tomatoes, and milk. As with Carnival, all the basic foods and goods are present, (though they might not have the one brand your family prefers) and the checkers are quick and friendly.

I admit that grocery shopping in the Cliff doesn’t always meet my needs. We have a variety of unusual diets in our home: I am vegan and eat primarily raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds; I prefer my children to stay wheat- and dairy-free; and my spouse would rather stick to more mainstream faire. To suit everyone’s tastes, we regularly drive across town to Whole Foods for specialty products and organically-grown produce.

Maybe the fantasy of an Oak Cliff Whole Foods will materialize with enough encouragement. But for real-life shopping here in the Cliff, you don’t have to wait in line (or pay the high prices) at the regular haunts. Try Carnival and Fiesta