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Wrap Artists 

Roll with these tasty treats

Wraps have been around for centuries in various cuisines: zendy sushi, Greek gyros, Asian spring rolls, French crepes and Middle Eastern falafels. But the most popular wrap in the US is the burrito. 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.

One of the more unusual burritos in town is the popular lamb barbacoa at Taqueria Las Delicias on Central. Shredded lamb is mixed with rice and Mexican cheese and then wrapped in an extra large flour tortilla. Be prepared, though: The only language spoken at this authentic Mexican joint is Spanish.

Taqueria Las Delicias, 5111 Central Avenue. 704-537-5156.

For a more traditional burrito, hike over to Salsaritas. This is a local chain; I prefer the one in Cotswold. The burritos come in large and larger sizes and can be filled with chicken, beef, shrimp, vegetarian. These can be "bare" or "wet" and then piled with an assortment of fillings: rice, black beans, grilled vegetables, lettuce, tomato, onion, cheeses, jalapeño peppers, black olives, sour cream and flavored sour cream, guacamole, and cilantro. Accompanying these are some housemade salsas ranging from mild to hot, and freshly made spicy chips.

Salsarita's, Cotswold Village Shopping Center, 300 S. Sharon Amity Road. 704-442-0655. Other locations, too.

Charlotte doesn't have the abundance of falafel joints that some cities do, and there are times I miss watching those floating small balls of beans and spices frying in those oversized kettles found in the front of falafel joints in Cairo. The advantage in Charlotte, though, is that you don't have to worry about finding the host of insects which are also fried up in those open kettles.My favorite Middle Eastern wrap is the falafel Mary Ghali makes at her shop in Matthews. She mixes the spices to her taste — and mine — and fries these falafels perfectly: crispy, but not dry. Load that baby up with pickled turnips and tahini and you have a fine wrap.

Ghali's Deli & Grill, 10416 East Independence Blvd., Matthews. 704-845-5566.

Another Mediterranean wrap is the gyro served at newly opened The Little Village Grill in the Gateway. They offer both lamb and beef, and put French fries in the sandwich with tomatoes and a fabulous tzatziki sauce.

The Little Village Grill, 710 West Trade Street, 704-347-2184.

The most interactive wraps are the spring rolls at Vietnamese restaurants. Mai Cafe in Cornelius excels at these wraps and rolls. Their large wrap has food enough for two: mint, cilantro, lettuce, pickled carrot, slices of cucumbers, shredded pickled daikon radish, pineapple, soft rice noodles and crisp bean spouts. Add any combination of these to the freshly dunked and softened rice paper. Then add piquant char-grilled chicken with lemon grass and onions, which arrives on a sizzling fajita skillet.

Mai Café: Vietnamese Fine Dining, 8301 Magnolia Estates Drive. 704-892-9171.

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