Westport’s Hidden Gem: The Organic Market

By April Guilbault

The lunch counter is the place to grab a salad, order a smoothie or sandwich, and even with with a friend to share the meal.

Wedged in a row of unassuming stores in Playhouse Square in Westport is the Organic Market. Don’t fly by or you’ll miss it (despite it being there for more than 25 years) and if you don’t wander to the very back of the store, you’ll miss most of the food action. No bells or whistles, no big advertising, just a few small tables inside and outside on the sidewalk, but lots of good, wholesome food known to many.

The hot bar offers a selection of vegan, vegetarian and meat dishes. Serve yourself then head to the cashier at the front of the store to pay before you eat.

Fresh and made-for-the-day is how the Organic Market operates with its many juices, prepared foods and hot bar. The juices, sandwiches and dishes are made to order and the hot bar and prepared food items are made first thing in the morning. This food doesn’t even hang around for a second day…it gets gobbled up by locals and travelers alike and then the kitchen staff begins the process the next day. Fresh! Fresh! Fresh!

Refreshing summer salads await customers looking to "grab and go" at the lunch counter.

No butter (sorry, Julia Child) or dairy is used in any of their prepared foods and the three letters G-M-O are strictly forbidden in their realm. 95-98% of their hot bar is organic and a good 80% or so is vegan, or at least was on the day that I visited.  And for anyone with dietary restrictions, food allergies, gluten intolerance…this is the place for you.

In entering the store, you will come across their soup bar first. There were three soups on hand the day I went in for lunch- a corn chowder (dairy free, gluten free and organic), a chicken soup with brown rice and vegetables, and a tomato soup. Take your pick! Then, head straight back to the juice bar and choose a fresh glass of veggie or fruit juice, of which the combinations are endless. Mine was a mix of orange, apple, pear, parsley, spinach, kale, ginger and celery and was a fabulously intense green color. It just looked healthy (recommendation: ask for it with ice). A liquid lunch if ever there was a good one!

Calicous is a a unique vegan/vegetarian dish that's quite tasty and refreshing.

The prepared (to-go) food fridge was stocked high with fruit salads, green salads of all types (seaweed, kale), cold soups, slaws, items such as stuffed grape leaves and marinated tofu and even some desserts. Apple Brown Betty or rice pudding to go, anyone? One standout in this fridge was a unique dish called “Caulicous”, which caught my eye due to its rather interesting name. Looking much like a a rice pudding, this was a mix of couscous, cauliflower, peas, red onion, sunflower mayonnaise, lemon juice and salt. Sounds crazy but it was a total winner. Whether eating it by the spoonful as I did, or spread on grainy wheat bread or just piled on a bed of greens, it is not to be missed.

Certain items, like burritos, are packed to go on the hot bar.

Amble to the hot bar and you might find okra with tomatoes and chickpeas, tempeh, sauteed greens, shrimp paella, grain dishes, meat dishes (some organic, some all-natural)…all substantive and creative, just like you’d hope to see in your own kitchen. If the weather dictates a cooler meal, their sandwich list is extensive and you can choose your own toppings on many of the sandwiches. My marinated tofu sandwich had sprouts, tomatoes, avocado…a little bit of everything and served on a hearty wheat bread.

The owners strive to support local farmers, organic distributors and buy locally when they can. Organic and top-quality is of importance to them so that they may pass this goodness along to their customers, of which they have many.

Now, go get that Caulicous!

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