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‘Wraps’ Just Burritos Trying To Be Trendy, Upscale

Wed., April 1, 1998

Burritos are getting a bad wrap.

My favorite food package is being sold out, robbed of its cultural heritage by corporate America.

For several years now, restaurants have been trying to pawn off what is nothing more than a facsimile of a burrito by calling it a “wrap.” Now the trend has reached critical mass. Everyone from Long John Silver to KFC to the assembly-line burrito purveyor Taco Bell is jumping on the wrap bandwagon.

My suspicion is that the wrap is a clever but devious marketing ploy that probably is making some loafer-wearing executive a nice chunk of change. After all, “wrap” sounds healthier, hipper and, let’s admit it, less ethnic than a burrito.

But, in fact, they are the same thing. The wrap is simply the burrito’s evil twin brother. Taco Bell’s online menu describes its new wrap as a “soft flour tortilla filled with grilled steak (or chicken or veggies), roasted peppers and onions, seasoned rice, tomatoes, a blend of Cheddar, pepper jack and mozzarella cheeses and ‘fajita’ sauce.”

The definition of a burrito? Webster’s New World Dictionary says: “burrito (boo reto) n., pl. tos: a Mexican dish consisting of a flour tortilla wrapped around a filling of meat, cheese, fried beans, etc.”

It’s a wrap. But the burrito came first.

“A wrap is certainly derived from a burrito,” admits Thomas E. Metzger, president and CEO of the Florida-based restaurant company Wrapsters. “However, a burrito is traditionally a hot product and usually denotes a Mexican flair. Wraps are a little hot, a little cold, a little crunchy, a little soft and are more upscale in most cases.”

Aha! He said “upscale.” Proof that the time-honored burrito is a victim of classism.

Michael Bruns, manager of the El Pollo Loco in Lakewood, Calif., says the distinction between the wrap and the burrito is all about the filling: grilled chicken and romaine lettuce in a wrap instead of the burrito’s shredded chicken and iceberg lettuce. And, he says, wraps use tortillas that are flavored with tomato and spinach.

In my opinion, even if you put caviar between two pieces of bread, it’s still called a sandwich. And a tortilla filled with fancy grilled things is still a burrito.

I’m not alone. The motto of “The Anti-Wrap Page” on the World Wide Web (, launched by like-minded people dedicated to the preservation of the threatened burrito, is simple: “Death to Wraps, Burritos Forever.”

“If a friend asks, ‘Wanna go get a wrap?”’ the site advises, “tell them, ‘I’ll give you a rap,’ and strike them on the head with a wooden stick.”

As strongly as I feel about this matter, I can’t condone violence. Instead, I suggest burrito lovers reject the so-called wrappers by calling for a little truth in labeling.

When ordering anything stuffed in a cylindrical flour tortilla, call it what it is: a burrito.

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