3 Local Restaurants Taking Their Talents Across State Lines

Photographs: Adam Goldberg by Andrea Carson; Juile and Dana by Frances Denny; Bill Taibe, contributed

Gone are the days when suburbs in Fairfield County are longing for New York restaurants to make their way east. From inventive Pan-Asian flavors to bagels born during the pandemic and a brand which has gone from granola to glam, our culinary masterminds in Westport are taking their inspired ideas to New York, Colorado and, we hear, beyond….

POPUP BAGELS

ADAM GOLDBERG • FOUNDER/CEO

right: Manhattan store front

When did you launch Popup Bagels?
Our first official sale was in December of 2020.

How many Connecticut locations do you have?
We have four locations in Connecticut; Westport, Greenwich, Redding, Newtown, and our fifth location in Fairfield is under construction.

left: Everything Popup Bagel. middle: Hot and fluffy plain Popup Bagel. right: Freshly baked hot sesame bagel.

Describe your company’s ethos in a few words
It is OK to Dance.

What is Popup Bagels best known for?
We are known for no-frills, fresh-from-the-oven bagels paired with inventive schmears.

left: Popup Bagels signage outside of the Westport store location. right: Orders prepared for pickup/delivery, showcasing the company’s slogan, “Not famous but known.”

How has your business concept evolved since you launched?
As we moved into an urban environment, we made it possible for bagel lovers to buy smaller quantities than a dozen and without the need to pre-order.

Why New York, when you looked at brick-and-mortar expansion, first downtown then the Upper West Side and Upper East Side?
As they say, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere!! It was the obvious first major market launch for our brand and concept.

Employees of Popup Bagels work in the Westport location to craft batches of signature schmears.

Your Thompson Street shop in New York has notorious lines out the door. What’s the vibe of there?
Always great music playing and always a touch of chaos orchestrated in sync with the customer to give the best experience possible.  Even When waiting on lines, we make the experience memorable. There have been best friends made and relationships started, all on our line!   As many people would say, “It’s a vibe.”

What’s next for Popup Bagels?
We’re planning to have 12 locations by the end of 2024 with a goal to enter three additional new markets by early 2025. There is so much room for our bagel model in the United States that a national expansion plan is in the works.

left: Popup Bagels limited edition Ramp Butter Schmear. right: Popup Bagels dough setting on racks before being freshly baked for customers.
left: Award presented to Popup Bagels for winning the 2022 Brooklyn Bagel Fest. right: Stack of everything, poppy seed, sesame and salt bagels.

Photographs: Andrea Carson; everything, plain and sesame bagel courtesy of Popup Bagels

THE GRANOLA BAR

JULIE MOUNTAIN AND DANA NOORILY • FOUNDER/CEO’S

Upper West Side of Manhattan location

When did you start The Granola Bar?
Our first restaurant opened in December 2013 in Westport, but prior to that we had been selling granola to over 100 retailers, including Whole Foods and Stew Leonards.

How many Connecticut locations do you have now?
We have five: Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, Westport and Fairfield.

Describe your company’s ethos in a few words.
Fun, delicious, welcoming, unexpected and evolving.

left: Mack’s Old Fashioned, available in Rye and Darien. right: Mushroom Pappardelle with sautéed cremini mushrooms in a creamy mushroom sauce with black truffle and fresh parmesan.

What is The Granola Bar best known for?
Hospitality. People come initially for the food, but they stay for the welcoming vibe that goes beyond the food — every detail down to the music is meant to make our guests feel at home.

How has your business concept evolved since you launched?
Initially we were a daytime only concept with breakfast, brunch, and lunch. In early 2022, we expanded that concept to include dinner and alcohol in Rye, NY. That really resonated there, so now two additional locations, Darien and New York City, are open all day for a “Good Morning, Better Night.”

top left: The Bar Burger comes with their irresistible fries. bottom left: The Granola Bar Upper West Side’s to-go area is open daily for quick grab and go coffees, baked goods, parfaits, sandwiches and salads. right: The Granola Bar is known for both classic lattés and their signature Turkish and Nutella lattés.

Why New York when you looked at brick-and-mortar expansion, first Rye then the Upper West Side?
It’s all about location and where we believe our concept will resonate. Our customers are savvy, discerning and like to have a good time, so it makes sense that we’d head closer and closer to NYC, where we can serve masses of people who fit that profile.

Why the Upper West Side? What’s the vibe of the NYC location?
We love the UWS! We both lived there for years prior to moving to Westport.It feels like a homecoming and the UWS community has welcomed us with open arms.

What’s next for the brand?
More expansion in Manhattan and the greater NYC area — we have some exciting announcements coming soon!

left: Crispy Brussels Sprouts with mint, cashews and chili lime vinaigrette. right: The Bar Caesar Salad — Shaved Brussels and cauliflower with parmesan rosemary granola and lemon anchovy dressing.

Photographs: Liz Clayman; cocktail and cappuccino courtesy of The Granola Bar.

KAWA NI

BILL TAIBE • CHEF/OWNER

right: Denver location

When did you open your first Connecticut restaurant?
My first restaurant was named Relish in South Norwalk in 2004.  Our first Westport restaurant, LeFarm opened in 2009, followed by The Whelk in 2012, Kawa Ni in 2014 and Jesup Hall in 2017. During the pandemic we flipped Jesup Hall into our Mexican Cantina, Don Memo.

How many Connecticut locations do you have now?
We have four in total, including The Norwalk Art Space Café which I would argue is the best coffee shop/cafe in Fairfield County.

left: Front of Kawa Ni Denver. right: Rice Cakes, shiso chicken meatballs, napa cabbage and tan tan sauce.

When did Kawa Ni open, and what type of food is it?
In August 2014 our casual, lively Izakaya spot was born.

Describe the restaurant’s ethos in a few words.
Warm, relaxed, fun, high standard of service and food in an unpretentious atmosphere.

What is Kawa Ni best known for?
Being trustworthy, you can count on us to supply good food and drinks. With warm appreciative service. We love making people feel good.

Clockwise: Sumoki, Cool as a…, Sake-it-tumi, Karai me a river and Sense Negroni.

Why Denver when you looked at brick-and-mortar expansion?
In all honesty, the mountains. When it came time to choose the next location for Kawa Ni. It was important it be a space we wanted to spend time, and Colorado is just that.

What’s the vibe at the Denver locations?
Same as Westport, just a little bigger. Warm cedar walls, Japanese art, lots of beautiful thriving plants.  A super comfy space to help ease your daily stresses.

What’s next for the brand?
Hopefully a few more Kawa Ni’s. Most likely, another in Colorado, but and usual, we will never push it if it doesn’t feel right. Our eyes and ears are open.

left: Szechuan Dumplings with ponzu and garlic hot oil. right: Kawa Ni Denver dining room.
left: Spicy Kai Udon with crab, kani, cabbage, sesame and udon noodles. right: (bottom) Mushroom Dashi with apex mushrooms, leeks, mix seaweed and tokyo noodles (top) Crab Fried Rice with bacon, corn, kani and egg.

Photographs: courtesy of Kawa Ni and Connor Stehr.

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