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Restaurant: The Green Well -- Treats Foodies with Allergies Right


Off the Menu: Curried Quinoa Hash with Chicken

One of the Few Where Tenders Can Relax & Enjoy

There are only a few places in Grand Rapids where I . . . (a Tender Foodie with food allergies) can relax and simply enjoy my food.  

One of those is The Green Well Gastro Pub in Grand Rapids, MI.

I don't have to be embarrassed.  I don't have to do alot of explaining, checking, double-checking or excusing.  And my dining companions don't have to be embarrassed for me or have their patience sorely tested as I command our server's undivided attention.  I can simply tell my server that I have an allergy to gluten and to dairy.  I have a few other intolerances, too.  But I know that if I speak up, any server and any chef in the kitchen will know what to do. 

When I say I enjoy my food at the Green Well, I mean that.  Each visit has been consistently delicious.  Other restaurants, and there have been many, just remove those "offending ingredients" from the dish.  Or . . . they don't know how to do the simplest things like use oil instead of butter.  Or . . . they don't know that their spices or tenderizers contain gluten or dairy byproducts. You get the picture.

The Green Well chefs, however, really understand their ingredients.  You see, real chefs do.  They know where each ingredient comes from.  They also understand how to replace commonly used ingredients with "something else".  For instance, something that browns well, that adds the same depth of flavor, or that pops just the right amount of that somethin' somethin'. They don't simply follow the formula, they create your dish.


My Delish Dish(es)

So last Friday evenning, even though my friends "oohed" and "ahhed" over their Butternut Squash Ravioli with Candied Walnut Brown Butter, I could revel in my beautiful piece of Trout in a spicey sauce with olives and a vegetable ragout -- sans broccoli (because I hate broccoli and broccoli doesn't like me).   I was surprised that the sauce was as spicey as it was when paired with the trout, but the spice did not over power the fish in any way.  The fish was fresh.  The trout and spices played nicely together on my plate and with my palette.  In fact, I was so excited to dig in, I forgot to take a picture of this beautiful piece of fish for this post.  To my delight, however, the server asked the chef to take a quick shot of a similar plate before it made it to its lucky destination.  He did it.  The trout pictured below is how it was served normally that night.  My dish was made without the goat cheese croquettes and with a sauce that suited my particular allergies. 

 The Trout Special (as it normally appears). My order was prepared without the croquettes and with a sauce that suits my particular allergies.

I had also eaten lunch at the Green Well twice within the last couple of weeks.  You know, "just to be sure".  I asked if I could eat off the menu.  My server on both days said, "Absolutely" and made a suggestion.  So on each occasion I had different versions of a quinoa hash with braised pork.  The first version was nestled in a curry sauce.  It was the ultimate, alternative comfort food with lots of depth as well as protein.  (Who needs mac and cheese?)  The second version was in a milder, but equally delicious concoction with asparagus and snow peas (pictured top). It was lighter, but equally satisfying. 

The two things that have impressed me the most about The Green Well, is their consistency and their ability to work with me.   Prior to the onset of these fabulous food allergies, I was someone who would try pretty much anything.  Food allergies haven't just changed what's on my plate, they have changed my personality.  After becoming a Tender Foodie in 2003, any thoughts of venturing, "off the menu" had become a no-no of life saving proportions.   But now I can say,  "have the chef whip up something tasty" and this freedom makes me feel a little more like "me".  I have a sneaking suspicion that other Tender Foodies understand.

How to Work with the Green Well if you have Food Allergies

Part of my protocol for reviewing any restaurant is to dine there at least twice prior to forming an opinion.  As Member #20 of the restaurant's first customer group, The Green Well Cartel, I have been their guest on several occasions.  But I've watched, I've tested and have observed:  they don't reserve their Tender Hospitality just for "me". 

I spoke with Rob Tamburello, Green Well's General Manager about their standards and practices for Tender Foodies.  I also asked him how people with food allergies can help their kitchen serve these guests well.  He said:

We pride ourselves on being able to provide for any food allergy.  We also have many vegan diners, and will accomodate you even if you simply don't liking something, or have temporary restrictions.  For instance, we've pureed food someone who had a broken jaw.  We've made beef broth for the wife of a diner who was on a 3 month diet.   For special or restricted diets, it's actually easier for the chef to go off the menu and create something new.  You can feel confident that when you come in that we know what we are doing.

Here is a quicklist that summarizes our conversation.

 Green Well FAQ

  • Do they have standards for allergen-free cooking?  Yes.  The Green Well has created their own standard to accommodate different levels of allergies and to ensure that there is no mistake.  They do regular reviews with their staff; and each chef must sign off on their food allergy standards.
  • Do they have a gluten-free deep fryer?  No.  but the Green Well will pan fry or bake certain items that might normally be deep fried.
  • Do they serve gluten-free bread?  Not currently, but they are continually searching for new sources that meet their quality and allergy standards.
  • Is there a separate gluten- or dairy-free menu?  Nearly 90% of the menu can be made gluten- or dairy-free upon request.  Therefore, no separate menu is required.
  • What about nut allergies?  Make sure to call ahead to let the Green Well know you are coming and to discuss your options.  Nuts are a little tougher because so many products are produced with nuts at their processing facilities.

When is it necessary to call ahead?

  • If you are visiting for the first time, it is always a good idea to call a day or two ahead to speak to the manager.  To respect the manager's time and to make sure you can have a good converstaion, try to call when it isn't lunch or dinner hour.
  • If you have a life-threatening, high sensitivity allergy or several food allergies (such as a nut allergy).  The restaurant may need to make special preparations.
  • If you have several food alergies or severe diet restrctions.
  • If you would like something special that might not be on the menu, just to be sure the proper ingredients are in-house. 


The Green Well makes it clear that if you are on a special diet of any kind, that they will work with you to get it right and make it delicious.  They not only can handle it, they want to.  This makes them one of the few.  We like that.




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Reader Comments (1)

I use to eat at the Gaia House 2-3 times a week when I lived in Grand Rapids- This place is schitz

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