New quick-service restaurant Breadless brings more than lettuce wraps to Detroit

Melody Baetens
The Detroit News

A new, healthy and fast-casual concept is making its debut in Detroit this week. Like the name implies, Breadless makes low-carb, healthy sandwiches wrapped in greens instead of between bread or on a bun. 

There's more to it, though. The greens are carefully chosen for their nutritional content and for being the right size and sturdiness to act as the case for the vegan and meaty sandwiches made at Breadless. The pastrami sandwich, for example, which has havarti cheese, shredded cabbage, pickles, red onions, spicy ground mustard and a house-made Reuben sauce is wrapped in a thick collard green leaf. 

A bowl from Breadless with collard greens, pastrami, havarti cheese, cabbage, pickle, red onion, spicy ground mustard and house-made Reuben sauce.

The "Chardi B" sandwich has a colorful frond of swiss chard engulfing sliced chicken breast, pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, pickles, onions and a cilantro-avocado sauce. 

All of Breadless' sandwiches can also be made into bowls. Different than a salad, these bowls are chopped and topped and then baked in an oven for a few minutes so that it's the ingredients of a warm, melt-y sandwich, but in a large container instead of on a bun. 

Breadless also makes their own bagged snacks: jicama chips, carrot chips and "caulipop," which is cauliflower, garlic, salt and olive oil. To drink there's house-made cactus matcha tea and pomegranate green tea, plus bottled cold press juices and boxed water. All of the packaging and straws are eco-friendly. The menu has options for those who eat vegan, keto, gluten-free and halal. 

The sandwiches at Breadless in Detroit are wrapped in sturdy kale, collard green or swiss chard.

Co-founder and CEO Marc Howland said he was inspired to start Breadless, which is off East Jefferson near the Rivertown-Warehouse District, because he wanted to bring healthy, fast food to more neighborhoods.

"I grew up with a single mom trying to raise two kids by herself. She really was a super mom but she really didn't have a lot of time to cook, so the options available were just a lot of fast foods so that's a lot of what we ate growing up," said Howland, who attended Brown University, has an MBA from Harvard Business School and worked on Wall Street before becoming an entrepreneur. 

As a student and an athlete, Howland said he struggled to find a healthy alternative to a traditional sandwich while keeping a busy schedule. 

"The options available were high-carb sandwiches and wraps which were full of calories and weighed me down or maybe if I was lucky, a salad, which wasn't very affordable," he said. "So I was looking for something that was an alternative. I was the guy going into every single restaurant asking for the lettuce wrap instead of bread and the options that I got were side eyes, or a sloppy lettuce wrap or just a protein on a plate."

Breadless founders Marc Howland, left, L.C. Howland and Ryan Sulter.

After business school, Howland said he got a $10-an-hour job at a sandwich shop to learn techniques while he conceptualized his own business. He teamed up with co-founders L.C. Howland (a Detroit native who has an MBA from University of Michigan) and chef and culinary entrepreneur Ryan Salter to launch Breadless.

They started in Detroit doing pop-up events at local gyms to gain feedback from potential customers. By December 2020 they raised $1.1M in venture capital. Breadless was also awarded a Motor City Match grant through the city of Detroit. 

The sleek, modern cafe has dark green tiles and a white neon sign that says "We're all made of something different." There is some seating inside and three umbrellaed tables outdoors on a patio

While the team is focused on this first location, they are excited about scaling and franchising Breadless in the future. 

"We want this to be a nationwide franchise, but we want it to be a story and a growth story for the city of Detroit and to build this community and its people up with us," said Howland. 

Breadless, 2761 E. Jefferson in Detroit, opened for soft service last month and will host a grand opening April 13-16, when hours will be 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. After that, regular hours will remain 10:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Mon.-Sat. Order online at eatbreadless.com for carryout, curbside pick up or delivery, or walk in and place an order. 

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mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens

Breadless fast-casual restaurant will hold grand openings April 13-15 in Detroit.