I have a fundamental issue with approximately 90 percent of the wraps in circulation.
For too long, these tortilla-rolled lunchables have been passed off as convenient, self-contained, even healthy alternatives to sandwiches. I disagree.
But Wraps & Crepes, just north of 114th Street and West Dodge Road, tested my preconceived notions.
My main problem with wraps is ingredient distribution. Too often, a wrap is prepared just like a sandwich, with stacked fillings. It's then rolled into a deceptively neat-looking cylinder that loses its structural integrity the moment you start eating. A good third of all wrap bites yield nothing more than tortilla and lettuce.
Wraps & Crepes avoids this problem. Specializing in Southern Indian food, this isn't your typical deli-meat-and-cheese joint. Instead, imagine a traditional Indian dish packaged into a wrap.
The restaurant is owner Rajesh Kotha's second in Omaha. He has operated Kurry Xpress near 108th and Q Streets with his business partner since 2010.
The work they've put into designing the new space, formerly a pharmacy, is obvious. The interior of Wraps & Crepes is bright, fresh and clean, though it also feels a little bit like walking into a beachside juice shop. The tables shine with science-fiction-level white tops, and a wide strip of mint-green paint lines the walls.
The presence of two flat-screen televisions did little for the atmosphere. Fortunately, the volume was turned down. Unfortunately, the sound was replaced with the notably strange choice of American club music, piped in through the restaurant's speakers. (If you've ever wondered why Indian restaurants don't play more Usher, this is your spot.)
When a couple of friends and I arrived for an early dinner, only one table was occupied, but business quickly picked up. Diners order at a counter, though sometimes the restaurant offers table service.
The Wraps & Crepes menu is divided into two main categories. Wraps come in six options, each served in a freshly made whole wheat roti, an Indian flatbread. Choices include yogurt-marinated chicken, curried chicken, malai (cream-marinated) chicken, curried lamb, cheesy paneer or spiced mashed potatoes. Diners pick from a variety of veggies and dressings to complete the wrap.
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Crepes come in 15 options and can be ordered either as a thin, crispy dosa or (for an additional $1) as a thicker, pancake-like uttapa. The dosa is prepared by spreading a thin layer of rice flour-based batter across a hot griddle.
Facing down my deep-seated issues, I ordered the Chutney Ritto wrap with curried lamb. It arrived cut in half and easily could have been two meals.
A rich, flavorful and slightly smoky tomato-based sauce worked well with the lamb and mixed greens. What the menu generically listed as "grilled vegetables" turned out to be almost exclusively peppers, which made for a hotter wrap than I was expecting, but the heat wasn't overwhelming.
I traded half of my wrap with a dining companion, who'd ordered the Continental Crave wrap with cheesy paneer, a soft but hearty Indian curd cheese texturally similar to tofu. The paneer dominated the wrap in a good way, with mixed greens, romaine lettuce and cucumber giving it a freshness that felt healthier than my wrap. It couldn't match the taste, though. Both of us kept turning to the curried lamb wrap. By the end, I was digging into mine with a knife and fork.
Our other dining partner went simple with an order of vegetable samosas that we all picked apart.
I enjoyed everything I tasted, including one of the restaurant's mango lassis (a thick, yogurt-based fruit drink made fresh each day), but the samosas were the highlight. A triangular pastry stuffed with spiced potatoes and peas and then deep-fried, they were just the right texture: crispy with a bit of a kick that suggested cumin and cayenne.
At just $2.99 for two, they're the cheapest thing on the menu.
Did I become a wrap convert? Close. I ate a wrap. I enjoyed a wrap. I can even say I'd recommend a wrap, especially for vegetarians who'll find decent options. But I wouldn't necessarily go back for a wrap.
I would, however, fly back for a dosa.
A Southern Indian staple, dosas are, in theory, similar to wraps. But with the dosa, the crepe itself is part of the experience.
On my second visit, I took the server's suggestion and ordered the No. 13 dosa: chicken cooked in a tomato sauce with creamy goat cheese and spinach. Served in a light sourdough crepe made from rice flour, it was huge, about as long as my forearm and twice as much as I needed (I took the other half home to my wife.)
It was delicious. If I had to quibble, I'd say the chicken was slightly dry, but nothing a dab more of sauce couldn't fix.
My dining companion ordered the Chutney Ritto wrap, but this time with curried chicken, and it was no less spicy than on the previous trip. Again, we split an order of samosas, this time to try the variety of vegetable- and spice-laden chutneys. The most unusual (and requested): an avocado chutney that tasted like a thin, somewhat zesty guacamole.
Despite my preference for the dosas, owner Kotha told me in an interview later that wraps were his restaurant's most popular selection. Part of that might be familiarity. His Indian diners, he said, usually opt for the dosas.
Judging from my two visits, the consistency at Wraps & Crepes will be rewarded with repeat visits, especially with the heavy lunch traffic around the Miracle Hills and Old Mill districts. Hopefully more customers will discover those delicious dosas.
The wraps worked on this skeptic, but when it came down to it, I still preferred the alternative.
Casey Logan is the communications coordinator at Film Streams, Omaha's art house theater in north downtown Omaha.