BY EMMA SLONINA, Staff Columnist

Public Service Announcement time: I have several friends who suffer from Celiac Disease, which prevents them from digesting gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other wheat subspecies. While they have plenty of food options, especially when preparing food for themselves, it is extremely difficult to go out to eat and find gluten-free options.

As more cases are being diagnosed and the general public is being made more aware of this disease, however, it is getting much easier to find gluten-free menus and even gluten-free restaurants. As a treat, I took my friend Paige to the only purely gluten-free restaurant in the area: Greengo’s in Grosse Pointe.

Sure, it was a trek, but the look on her face was priceless when the waitress told her that absolutely everything on the menu was gluten-free. Paige didn’t have to look through the ingredient list for every item to avoid a trip to the emergency room, just to figure out what she wanted to eat.

Even better, everything at Greengo’s is vegetarian, and most of it is vegan. Anyone who thinks this severely limits their gastronomic choices is sorely mistaken. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this makes for the most innovative, diverse food out there. When’s the last time you had a sandwich on raw bread?

For us, just a couple of weeks ago. Paige and I both went for the marinated portabella steak sandwich on raw flax bread, hers on the plain flax bread, mine on the spinach and parsley version. The “bread” was made of a tightly packed sheet of gluten-free grains and seasoning. It was similar to a whole-grain cracker on steroids, only softer and much better.

The portabellas were tender and savory, eliminating the need for any meat. They were chopped up, where I would rather have one large cap instead. Still delicious, though. The avocado spread, nut aioli, and sunflower sprouts added the creaminess and crunch that mayonnaise and lettuce usually add, but much more fun.

From their massive drinks menu, we decided on iced green chai tea (we’re tea fiends) but it was difficult to resist the dozens of raw juices, teas, and coffees they had to offer. We weakly succumbed to the simple syrup they gave us with the tea in case it was “too intense.” Maybe one day, bitterness will win out on my taste buds…

We sat at their counter for hours, looking out into the street and chatting while customers came in and out, grabbing lunch to go. We sat so long, Paige ended up getting a bowl of Burmese Mon Soup. It was a coconut curry-based soup with carrots, cauliflower, potatoes, and peas cooked into it, and spinach and cilantro just barely sweat off on top. It was definitely tasty but needed some salt. I’m always amazed at how creamy soups can be without the addition of dairy, but this was a perfect example.

We didn’t get any dessert, but the waitress handed us handmade, gluten-free granola bars on our way out. I had mine for breakfast the next morning and didn’t eat again until much later in the afternoon. I’ve made granola bars before, but I need this recipe. They held together tightly without being too dense or hard, full of plump, juicy raisins.

Pack money with you before you go, though – this place is cash-only, but doesn’t say so on their website and only inconspicuously on their Facebook page. If you forget cash, there are two ATMs within walking distance – less than a block away each – and the Greengo’s employees are very understanding.

Open every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Contact (313) 432-2373 or visit urbangreengos.com for more information.

Photos courtesy of Paige Hanson.