Growing The Granola Bar

What started as a homemade granola hobby has grown into two busy restaurants in Fairfield County. 

Julie Mountain and Dana Noorily launched a new location of The Granola Bar in Greenwich in May, following up on the restaurant’s Westport success.

The Greenwich location features tables up front and a coffee bar and to-go counter in the back. The menu offers mostly items made in-house, plus all-day breakfast.

Mountain says the name can at times create confusion, as the restaurant does serve more than granola. But that’s part of the fun.

“I thought the whimsy of going to a bar and ordering breakfast was kind of cool,” Mountain says, adding that at times people do come in expecting “the Chipotle of granola.”

Excitement for the Greenwich place likely carried over from the popular Westport spot that Noorily and Mountain launched in 2013. The two met three years earlier at a children’s birthday party. They hit it off, talking about food and what their children were eating. They were both stay-at-home moms at the time, but Noorily says, “definitely looking for something else.” She had worked in finance in Manhattan, while Mountain was a marketer in the music industry.

They stayed in touch and discovered that next opportunity after Mountain returned home from a trip on which she had “the most yummy granola.” She wondered why they couldn’t buy high quality granola in a store.

So they started producing their own and eventually took that product to market. Their granola landed on the shelves of Whole Foods and Stew Leonard’s. But the wholesale food business was tough, Noorily says. The two found it difficult to maintain a quantity of the product without sacrificing quality.

They shifted away from wholesale to launch a physical location. They found a 2,000-square-foot space at 275 Post Road East in Westport. Initially, the plan was to use the location as a production kitchen, with a counter up front for baked goods. Noorily and Mountain eventually put together what they called their “dream menu” for the front of the store. Still, the plan was to focus mainly on selling the granola.

“We’d pay our rent with the granola and whatever happens in the front, happens in the front,” Noorily says.

Here’s what happened:  The baked goods and other foods in the front were so popular that The Granola Bar didn’t even have enough time to make granola in the back for several weeks.

Mountain thinks the vibe of the restaurant — which she describes as “modern but warm” — and the quality of food engaged people.

“You find this conceptually everywhere for dinner,” Mountain says of the locally sourced approach. “Restaurants pride themselves on making everything right there for dinner, but I think for breakfast and lunch, other than a diner, there isn’t anywhere you can go and get whatever you want.”
The menu is wide-ranging, from a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich to vegan-roasted cauliflower chowder. Pop culture references abound, from The Heisenberg breakfast (Fleisher’s sausage, two eggs, bacon, cheddar cheese and hot sauce on a grilled wheat wrap, a homage to “Breaking Bad”); to the BabaBooey sandwich (roasted turkey, Swiss, bacon, mixed greens, tomato and a signature sauce on grilled sourdough bread, and thank you, Howard Stern).

Head chef Neil Rohricht comes up with new dishes for the menu, then Noorily, Mountain and the restaurant’s creative director, Crissi Grimaldi, sit down to dream up the names.

Noorily’s favorite name is the Portobello Hadid, a portobello mushroom wrap named for the fashion model Bella Hadid.

“We’re very proud of ourselves,” Mountain says with a laugh. “But if Dana has to keep saying it is funny, it might not be —”

“No, it’s funny,” Noorily cuts in. “I’m declaring it.”

Two years after launching in Westport, Noorily came across an Instagram post for a restaurant space at 41 Greenwich Ave. in Greenwich that would soon be vacant. They decided to move on it, and the new location opened at the end of May.

“People are really excited about it, so far,” Mountain says. “Especially being at the top of (Greenwich Avenue) it allows people to get in and out quicker. There hasn’t been anything new up here in some time.”

The 2,700-square-foot space features a much smaller kitchen and has more than double the restaurant space of the Westport location. The Greenwich spot closes at 5 p.m., after which it can be rented as an event space. The Granola Bar also does catering.

Noorily and Mountain view the Greenwich location as opening the restaurant to the Westchester market. If they were to open another one, Westchester would be a likely landing spot, Noorily says.

For now, they’re happily getting acquainted with Greenwich.

“People eat a lot of granola in Greenwich,” Noorily says. “We’ve already noticed that.”

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