Wrap a Lot
If you've been perusing such culinary journals as Restaurant Business, then you already know that the people who spend their lives trying to read the pulse of the public have declared that the food trend of the late '90s can be summed up in one word: wraps.
It's the sandwich of the millennium, don't you know, a meal in a tube, and it's been designated hot stuff in both the Northeast and the Northwest. A couple of national chains have even picked up on the notion -- Wendy's has its stuffed pitas, which are wrap-ish, and Kentucky Fried Chicken has the Twister -- and others are starting to test-market their versions.

Texas has been a little slow to open its arms to wraps, but that may be because in Texas it's old news. Folks elsewhere may look at meat and vegetables enclosed in a circlet of flour and see a revelation, but we look at it and see a burrito -- which, basically, is all a wrap really is. Still, a few local entrepreneurs are trying to bring Houston on board the wraps train. The first was Mission Burritos on Alabama, which took a few baby steps in the wraps direction with its mix and match choice of burrito fillings. And now comes Wraps International Gourmet Burritos in Meyerland Plaza, which opened in April to declare its allegiance in both its name and in the multicultural mix of the food it puts inside its oversized tortillas.

Melting pot cuisine is the trend behind the wraps trend, and though Wraps offers the standard beans and rice burrito, what distinguishes the place is its more expansive offerings: chicken pesto, teriyaki steak, grilled vegetables and goat cheese, grilled ancho snapper. The Thai chicken ($4.95) comes with ginger slaw, cucumber and peanut sauce enclosed in a spinach tortilla, which isn't the sort of thing you'd expect to find in your average Tex-Mex joint. Sadly, most of the wraps read better than they taste. In the case of the fish offerings, particularly the grilled mango snapper ($5.50), the delicacy of the meat is lost in the rice, slaw and salsa that surround it. Though the chicken and steak wraps succeed better, they, too, often fail to exceed the sum of their parts.

A surprising exception is the chicken Caesar wrap ($4.75), which sounds terrible -- a Caesar salad rolled up in a tortilla? -- but tastes marvelous. The sharpness of the Caesar dressing gives it the bite many of its sister wraps sorely lack.

Though I doubt wraps will replace hamburgers anytime soon, as a civilized alternative, it's a trend I can live with. I can even, umm, wrap my arms around it.

-- Mitchell J. Shields

Wraps International Gourmet Burritos, 708 Meyerland Plaza, (281) 681-1100.

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