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Wrap Around 

2001-09-01
Does Charlotte's culinary future include a Spoon's Eastern Styled Barbecue Burrito wrapped in a slightly sweet white tortilla? Or perhaps a Price's Chicken Coop fried chicken wrap with tater rounds and cole slaw on a sundried tomato tortilla? I don't see why not, if pastrami can be served with pinto beans and rice in a wheat (not rye) tortilla. I suppose anything goes. In the last five years, wraps have become an increasingly popular meal item choice across the US and Charlotte has been no exception. A mere look at the proliferation of burrito and wrap shops is evidence enough. But the question remains: are wraps a trend in American cuisine or a fad? Time will tell. Wraps have been around for centuries in various cuisines: zendy sushi is a Japanese wrap, gyros are Greek, spring rolls are southeast Asian, and falafels are Middle Eastern. A few decades ago the French wrap, crepes, were popular and creperies blossomed throughout the US. Burritos have gained a strong West Coast presence in the past two decades. In California, gourmands argue as passionately about where to find the best burritos as Carolinians do about barbecue, Chicagoans about pizza, and New Yorkers about any food product. I use the word "wrap" as part of the technical description, so if you're a burrito aficionado, don't get your tortilla all twisted up. Basically, anything that can be wrapped in a flour tortilla can be a burrito which itself has come a long way from being Northern Mexican's cuisine's "little donkey," and I mean that literally. Just about anything can be put in a tortilla from a traditional scoop of beans and cheese to grilled Hawaiian Ahi Tuna with fresh mango salsa, ginger slaw, and jasmine and brown rice. With this in mind I visited two of Charlotte's wrap shops. The 95-seat Zazus, in Dilworth's Kenilworth Commons Shopping Center, opened May 15 and is owned by the DPS Corporation of Charlottesville, VA. This is the third Zazus location, although the second one in Raleigh closed recently. General Manager Bruce Duvall commented that all of Zazus' recipes were developed in Charlottesville by a food consultant. Zazus first opened in Charlottesville in June 1998 and became an immediate success. Commented Duvall, "Charlottesville had a C+ location, but broke a million dollars the first year. It has the appeal of an upscale restaurant, but also appeals to students and there is a constant replenishing of students. The food is quick and cheap." The menu at Zazus runs a global gamut of wraps and bowls. The wraps include Thai, Curry, Mediterranean, Pesto, Sante Fe, Southern BBQ, Fajita, Caesar, and Veggie. In addition to wraps there are salads, gourmet bowls, homemade soups and chili and smoothies. Beer and freshly brewed iced tea is available as well. One distinction here is that the menu suggests specific items for each wrap rather than the diner making a lot of choices. You can, however, modify any wrap by adding or subtracting ingredients. The combinations are well thought out, but without the guile of some new-fangled wraps. The Thai Chicken wrap features spiced chicken partnered with a basil-mint-spinach mix, carrots, and rice on a steamed tortilla. The Mediterranean is grilled chicken with balsamic tomatoes, olives, basil-mint-spinach, rice sprinkled with feta. Zazus excels in sauces. The raita on the Mediterranean wrap is coolingly refreshing with flecks of cucumbers, and the peanut sauce on the Thai wrap was nicely turned out. The chicken, however, was overcooked and dried out and the beef wrap was stringy. Although chewy steaks are common in many taquerias, it surprised me in a "gourmet" shop. Washing these burritos down with a smoothie improved things greatly. Overall the wraps were filling, just not thrilling. My biggest problem with Zazus, however, was the lack of protective gloves worn by the food servers. Bare hands, not even spoons, retrieved food. That was unsettling. Zazus 1225-A East Boulevard. 704-332-8611. Hours: 11am until 9:30pm daily. Closed on Christmas, New Year's, Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. MC, Visa.

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