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Insider's Guide

Local residents Share what they LOVE most about their Town

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Ask most locals what they love most about living here and they’ll wax poetic about the top-notch schools, the beaches or the arts. Sure, our selected insiders love these things, too, but today they’ve let us in on their personal favorites in Westport, Wilton and Weston. They’re talking about the greasy spoon that serves the juiciest burger, the scenic backcountry trails that offer a place to relax and reflect, the downtown shops that satisfy their need for a retail fix and the eateries they frequent for a killer meal served by people who know their names.

Julie Levitt & Dana Noorily

The Granola Bar/Westport

Although The Granola Bar has been packed since opening this past December, its “overnight success” is the result of a years-long partnership between Julie Levitt and Dana Noorily, two enterprising Westport women who saw a need for a truly delicious granola. Both were stay-at-home moms (with five kids between them) who were ready for a hobby, so they created Oats Granola and began selling it locally. It’s been a delicious success for the duo of taste.

Over a cup of coffee, Julie shares their story along with a few of their favorite local venues. She recalls, “One store led to another, led to another, and we were busy! We then realized that we wanted to bring the same passion for simple, healthy ingredients that we brought to granola to the restaurant world.”

Before opening The Granola Bar, they bought a food truck, painted it a shocking purple and tooled around Fairfield County, drumming up buzz for the brand and the coffee they pour before rolling out the restaurant. The Granola Bar, tucked into busy Playhouse Square (275 Post Road East), is a stylish little eatery serving coffee and a range of healthy breakfast items, as well as sandwiches, salads and other organic and simple fare with a twist.  

Did they envision how it would fill a void? Julie says, “We imagined a place where we could go, work, eat healthy, and sit in a chic, comfortable atmosphere. We’ve succeeded at that and feel we bring a new look/feel to breakfast and lunch. We offer takeout and table service all day, from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.”

She adds that she and Dana feel blessed and happy that others agree with them about what was missing in Westport. “It is exactly what we were hoping to create, and each day we strive to make the experience better and better,” she says. “We are thrilled to be a great meeting spot for businessmen/women in town. We really want to create a local, warm, friendly environment for everyone, and we feel the menu we’ve created serves mom, dad and the kids.”

When it comes to ferreting out other local eateries, Julie shares a few favorites that top the pair’s list: “We love Double L in Westport. He [owner Lloyd Allen] helped to launch Oats years ago and always has an eye on what is high quality and fresh. We love Bill Taibe’s restaurants, but especially The Whelk. The Westport Farmers’ Market always has amazing local ingredients for our chef to source —gorgeous cheeses and greens!”

She also rattles off a few of their favorite choices: “We eat lots of sushi and love Pink sumo. LeFarm. Yum. With kids, we love Tendga and Shake Shack.”

When it’s time to seek a respite from a busy day, Julie says that it’s all about a good workout. “While the beach is a beautiful site, we tend to find our oasis in our workouts. We both love personal fitness. We love that it keeps our stress levels in check—and we certainly taste our share of food during the day, so it’s a great way to stay fit. We have both just started at Pure Barre Westport in our shopping center, which is a great workout and fun,” Julie says. As for main workouts, Dana is a big fan of Joyride, and Julie works out at Fast Fitness on Post Road East, a personal training gym co-owned by her boyfriend, Jay. Julie exclaims, “The trainers are incredible!”

Since The Granola Bar is a stylish little venue, one wonders where do the gals shop for their home décor? “Thankfully, we have a fantastic designer from Westport: Lisa Friedman. She is our guru for all things décor. She shopped for our store locally at Bungalow and Lillian August [in Norwalk] and in the city on one of her décor-hunting sessions,” Julie says. To dress the part, they enjoy retail therapy close to home. Some of their go-to’s in Westport include Steven Alan, lululemon, She La La, J.Crew, Groove (for kids and themselves) and Dovecote (for home accessories and jewelry).

These days, the Granola Girls don’t have much time to shop!